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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Let's talk cricket

Went to the cricket last week. India vs. Australia (day 3). I'm a little proud to say that, at this point in my life, I know as much about baseball as I do about cricket. This is a rare achievment for an American. And that achievment has now been recognized by my Australian and Indian co-workers by a series of eyebrow liftings.

One of the major impediments to understanding cricket is the language of the game. What's a Yorker? Who is silly mid-on?
But what I'd never realized, and I'm sure I'm in good company here, that some cricket jabber has jumped the pond and is familiar in the US:

Did you know the term "stumped" as in "uh, I don't know, you got me stumped" is from cricket? ( I'd always assumed it had something to do with running into a tree stump with your plow). Stumped is when you're run out, similar to getting tagged out in baseball.

Did you know "pulling up stumps" is from cricket? (I'd always assumed this had to do with the circus pulling up their tent stakes and leaving town) This is the end of the game in cricket, you pull the stumps out of the ground from either side of the pitch.

And did you know to have somebody "on the back foot" is cricket too? ( I was sure this was from fencing (?!)) Similar to fencing, this is a somewhat defensive position for a batter in cricket. On the front foot the batter is seen to be attacking.

To a lesser extent letting something "through to the keeper" is heard in the US. The wicket keeper serves something of the same purpose as a catcher in baseball. I'm sure there are others. It's like reading Shakespear, the more you get into it, the more you see the roots of common sayings.


Ah, but what about the test itself? I'm not much for the India vs. Australia rivalry. It doesn't hold my attention. I've come to cricket via The Ashes Tour. Australia vs. England. Now that's a proper rivalry. And Australia has been pwning England for while now, so it's a schadenfreude extravaganza every time (regardless of which side wins).

But India came to the party this time with a reason to at least pay attention to this test. One of the Indian players called one of the Australian players a monkey (or so goes the story). And that player is of afro-carribean decent. And this happened last time Australia was in India too. And it was much more public. So the stink is on the game now.

The Indian team has counter charged that one of the Australians has called one of the Indian players a "bastard". And there's raging debate now as to how culturally sensitive each term is in their respective home countries.

All of this is happening in the background of what was a seriously flawed game from the officials. The calls were heavily biased in favour of Australia (and it's not the first time). And to top it off, we all know there were some bad calls that the Aussy players knew were bad calls, but didn't see fit to walk.

So, as with soccer, it comes down to the question; what is the game? Is it a game of rules? Or is it a game to test the rules? Is it "fair" to win by breaking the rules? Or is it only OK to win by sticking to the rules? Is name-calling part of cricket? And if so, why are tickets $80/seat? I could pay a lot less to watch school boys call each other names.

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