Understanding cricket
October 19, 2009 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Trying to understand issues around cricket as compared to baseball -- player drafting, financing, culture/conduct, etc. -- hoping an enthusiast can help me.

Okay, I've been searching for a while (Wikipedia, Dangermouse, and ABCs of Cricket), and I think I get the basics, but I still have a few unanswered questions.

1) How do drafting/contracts/free agency work? How important are statistics in determining the value of a player to a particular team and does the previous year's performance of a team help determine the availability of their draft picks? Is this similar in each country?

1ai) According to Wikipedia, most of the financing behind cricket is international? So then does a nation pay for fielding its cricket team or does most of the money come from private backing?

1bii) What role does nationalism play? Are there rules or merely customs that limit the number of foreign players on each team?

2) I understand this diagram mostly, but what if I were batting and I did a quick 180 degree turn and popped up the ball right behind me OVER the stumps and past the long stop player? Illegal? Based on the position of my feet or the rules?

3) Wickets and bails. Do they ever get tampered with? Hidden magnets? Glue? Who checks?

4) I understand distractions by fielders (except "sledging") are discouraged. What about fan distractions? How rigidly is this enforced?

4a) What about unnecessary roughness in tagging the batter? Depends on the team and the venue?

Thanks so much for your help.
posted by jfwlucy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1a. My understanding is that most money comes from sponsorship, and international broadcasting rights to the matches. The sponsors pay the country's cricket board who in turn pick the players, and pay them a salary. At least in India, the players make a lot more on their own from ad revenue than from the team salary. This can lead to disputes like in the last world cup.

1b. National teams do not have foreign players. Now there is are a few cricket leagues like IPL which is more in line with the professional baseball, football, and basketball teams that you are thinking of. This is organized more along the lines of soccer with its national teams, and clubs.

2. There is no illegal shot that I am aware of. What you are thinking of is a scoop over the wicketkeeper.

3. The umpires check them. Balls get tampered with bottle caps, vaseline, and even candy. I have never heard of wicket tampering; maybe because it benefits the batting team, and it is the fielding team in a position of tampering. Worse than tampering was the match-fixing that was rampant a few years ago.

4. Crowd behavior during the 1996 world cup semifinals of India vs Sri Lanka in Calcutta was so bad that the match was awarded by default to Sri Lanka. That was the first time ever in an international tournament. Sri Lanka went on to win the cup.

4a. The batter is not tagged as in baseball. The wickets are, so there is usually no unnecessary roughness. The batsman could get in trouble for obstructing the field, and then there may be shoving. Bad behavior usually results in match fees being docked for the players and sometimes the captain of the offending team.
posted by hariya at 11:37 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

re#3 balls do get tampered with from time to time. Mostly this involves rubbing a grit or abrasive on one side or other to hinder/improve spin in the air.

If you google 'WISDEN' you'll find out everything there is to know.

RE sledging: my personal favourite is when the English wicket keeper asks the Australian batsmen why he is so fat, and is told "because every time I shag your wife she gives me a biscuit"

Mostly all you need to know that cricket is a fine game, played in the most by gentlemen, that can be played over a 5 day match and still not produce a winner. Probably not a great thing in the north American culture.

Oh, you get to stop regularly for tea and cakes too! Marvellous.
posted by cameronfromedinburgh at 11:37 AM on October 19, 2009

Wow, that's quite a range of questions. Here are some initial thoughts...

1. As a preliminary point, the underlying administrative structure of cricket is vastly different from baseball, and in fact the underlying structure of cricket adminstration varies widely between countries where it is played.

There is no mechanism anywhere for teams to draft players. The concept of a centralised talent-pool from which players must be drafted doesn't exist. It is a complete free for all.
Players come to their teams through a variety of routes. For junior players this will most likely be via playing for a club/county's youth team while at school (=high school) and/or university, then progressing up to play for a reserve team (or second XI) and finally playing for the first XI of the club/county. Teams are able to recruit whoever they like, and talented young players can be spotted/recruited at any time. Frequently in England counties will have links to local schools and will let them use their facilities, which help the talent spotting.

For established players moving mid-contract is relatively rare, but is normally through mutual consent.

The slight exception to the rule is that the Indian Premier League (the IPL) holds an auction to determine who plays for which team. However, most players in the IPL have another "home" team that they regularly play for.

1ai) No. Most financing comes through television rights. These accrue mainly to international matches and to the IPL. How national cricket administrations distribute this money to individual teams is up to them (and is frequently a source of tension).

1bii) Rules restricting the number of "foreign" players allowed in a domestic team are common. Obviously, a national team must consist solely of players eligible to play for that country (though like other sports this includes residence qualifications , meaning that many people have played for countries other than where they were born - England has a long history of fielding South African born players).

2) Legal. This shot has recently become associated with Tillakaratne Dilshan.

3) No. I think once in the 60s (?) the varnish on the bails melted in particularly strong sun and effectively glued themselves to the wcket (though that may be apocryphal). There is very little opportunity to tamper with the wicket given constant TV coverage and the presence of both batsman, umpire and wicketkeeper in close proximity.

4) The prevalence of distractions from fans completely varies from ground to ground and country to country. It is generally uncommon for fans to deliberately distract a batsman as the bowler is coming in to bowl and the batsman can walk away from the wicket as the bowler is coming in to bowl, without any particular reason. This generally happens if he is distracted, most often by someone moving behind the bowler's arm where he would looking for the ball when it is released. Other shouting etc is widespread during play. Banter between fielders on the boundary and the section of the crowd they are close to is also common.

4a) There is no concept of tagging a batsman.
posted by patricio at 11:43 AM on October 19, 2009

1bii. For English cricket (and for English, read English and Welsh), look up the Kolpak ruling. Used to be the case that county sides, which feed the national squad, could only have 1 overseas player. The Kolpak ruling opened up the floodgates for county sides to now field pretty much as many South Africans and West Indians as they can get their hands on. It has not been popular, and steps are being taken to offer incentives to counties to play more home-grown talent.

2. The whole field is fair game. You can hit it anywhere. The only related controversy has been over Kevin Pietersen's use of the switch hit (having an initial right handed stance, then switching while the bowler is in his/her delivery stride to have a left handed stance (or vice versa)), which is not so much about where on the field the ball ends up, but more to do with fairness, since the bowler must declare beforehand which hand he/she will bowl with (and from which side of the wicket he/she will deliver). So, why not the bastman too. But switch-hitting, despite being grumbled about by some, was declared legal.

3. For international matches, there are stump cameras and stump microphones. No-one would be able to tamper with them during play and not get caught. The umpires remove the bails when the players are not playing (during lunch/tea intervals, during rain/bad light stoppages) and store them in their pockets.

4. Fans are generally well behaved. cameron, that was apparently between Eddo Brandes, the Zimbabwe #11 and Glen McGrath, although it's in danger of becoming an urban myth because it's so often misquoted. Don't go dragging English wicket keepers into this.

4a. There is no tagging of batters.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 11:59 AM on October 19, 2009

4a. While there is no tagging of batters, check out Bodyline Bowling for a close equivalent of baseball's throwing at the hitter.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2009

appendix to 1bii: Yorkshire, one of the 18 first class counties in English cricket, had a rule in place until as recently as 1992 that only those born within the county boundary were eligible to play for them. They expanded this to allow anyone educated within the county, and eventually they relented and Sachin Tendulkar, an Indian batsman, one of the greatest of the modern age (or arguably any age), took to the field.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 12:20 PM on October 19, 2009

Fan behaviour varies depending on the era, the country and the ground. Heckling has a long history, while other forms of stadium wildlife are of more recent vintage.
posted by zamboni at 12:35 PM on October 19, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone. That helps a lot.

***But if there is no draft-type organization, what prevents the wealthiest team from the wealthiest country always being the best because it can hire the best players?

And I'd like to make sure I understand the ways to get a batsman out:

1) Catch the ball on the fly/full.

2) Have him swing and miss so that the ball knocks down the wicket.

3) Batsman stands/moves deliberately in front of the wicket and takes a body shot and gets called out by umpire for LBW.

***Do pitchers/bowlers often deliberately throw beanballs/brushbacks? Is this a legal way to intimidate batsman?

4) Batsman steps out of the batting box and any fielder gets the ball to either wicket before batsman can get back within crease/batting box.

5) Batsman knocks over his own wicket.

***I don't get the second wicket. Is it more than just an equivalent of second base already loaded with a runner? What if non-striking batsman/second base runner hits the non-striking wicket while ball is not in play?

5a) Are there duos of good batsman/fast runner that tend to get paired up a lot in batting lineup or is it always spur-of-the-moment?

***I love that you can change batting order any time you want.***

6) Batsman hits ball with non batting hand or gets in the way of fielders or hits the ball a second time accidentally-on-purpose.

***Is there a lot of accidentally-on-purpose?

7) Batsman is too slow getting on the field (what impatient person dreamed that up? But then I guess you could get quite a psychological edge on the other team if they had to wait for you for ten minutes or so.)

Does that about sum it up?

Sorry to be profuse, I am just interested!
posted by jfwlucy at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2009

Well in response to your last set of questions,

At least in Australia, the cricket heirarchy goes like this

[1] Local cricket - these are clubs based on suburbs/towns. You work throough the "grades" of cricket until you are playing "First Grade". These are pretty much all amatuer players.

The best First Grade players get picked for

[2] State cricket - as the name implies this is state vs state, e.g. New South Wales vs. Victoria (equivalent to say California vs Nevada). These players would all be offered a contract by the state, and be full time professionals. At this level you would usually play for your home state - i.e. the state you played grade cricket. However as one state gets say too many opening batsmen, they might release a player, who can then try to negotiate a contract with another state. There is no draft, no signing fee, no transfer fee.

The best State cricket players get picked for

[3] National team - these players are the elite, and are contracted to the national body in addition to their state. There is no trading between countries - you have to be an eligible citizen of that country to be selected. There have been a very small number of players playing for two countries, usually when they are dual-citizens.

I'm not across other countries. In the UK state cricket is called "County cricket".

Note that this system is not in place for the newest form of the game, called Twenty20 or T20. This form of the game is changing, but basically there is one (OK maybe two) proffesional league, held over a small time period in India. This league is run more like US pro sports, with a player draft and salary cap. The players can come from any country.

Ok in regards to batting order, it is usually well defined - the speciallist opening batsmen, followed by the middle order, then the bowlers. The opening batsmen are skilled at facing the "new" ball, which means they are batting while the ball (one ball is used continuously for a minimum of 80 overs) is newer and therefore harder, and is facing the most skilled bowlers. The middle order batsmen typically bat for the longest time, while the bowlers are considered to be typically less skilled batsmen and not expected to last a long time. Pairings are not made based on particular attributes. of course there are exceptions, such as when a new batsmen is required late in the day, a captain may send out a lower-order batsman, such as a bowler, instead of a (presumably more valuable) higher order batsman. The new batsman is called a "Night Watchman". Another example is where a batsman is injured during play, and calls for a "runner". A runner is another player in the team, normally a batsman who has already been dismissed, who comes out and runs between the wicket in place of the injured batsmen, who still must do the actual hitting of the ball. The chosen runner is normally the fastest of the available options.

Hit ball twice is very uncommon. "Timed Out" is even less common - there have only been four occurances across all First class cricket in all countries. First class cricket is both national + state level.

There is another method of dismissal that is very similar to number 4) above - if the wicketkeeper (the defending fieldsman that wears gloves and fields balls that the batman missed, equivalent to the catcher in baseball) breaks the wickets while in possesion of the ball and with the fieldsman outside the crease, it is called being "stumped". It is different to a "run out" for a number of technical reasons, such as the batsman may not be necessarily attempting a run, and in some cases may be a deliberate ploy by the bowler and wicketkeeper. A stumping contributes to a bowlers statistics, whereas a run out does not.

The second wicket is the target for the fielding team when attempting a run out. To run out the batsman who was facing the bowler (called the batsman "on strike") the fielding team would try to hit the wicket at the bowling end when the batsmen was trying to complete a run. Either batsman can be run out at the second wicket if that was the end they were attempting to get back to.

Hitting the second wicket by the non-striking batsman is cause for a dismissal, however the ball must be in play. There was a famous case where Australian Steve Waugh accidentily hit the wicket, but was correctly given not out as the ball was not in play at the time.

Did you realise that the "second" wicket, known as the wicket at the bowling end, actaully changes every over? At the completion of every over, the two batsmen stay at the wicket they finished at, while the entire fielding team (and umpires) changes which way they are facing, i.e. the wicketkeeper moves behind the set of stumps from which the bowler bowled from the previous over. The television coverage also swaps, making it appear the actiion always happens from the same direction. Swapping over means the pitch wears out more evenly, and reduces sun effects.
posted by trialex at 2:52 PM on October 19, 2009

You probably need to work on your terminology a bit, but:

1) provided it's not a no-ball

2) swing and miss is largely irrelevant - if the ball dislodges the bails, he's out full stop. Mike Hussey, the Australian, has recently been getting out by offering no stroke to balls that moved in off the seam (subtly changed direction when they hit the ground) and took his off stump out. Bear in mind that balls are travelling towards you at around 90mph, starting from a distance of around 22 metres, so there's very little time to adjust if a ball does move off the pitch. Offering no stroke means assuming it's safe to leave alone, and lifting the bat out of the way. A pretty embarassing way to get out. Similarly, plenty of people get out playing on, which means they deflect the ball onto the stumps off the edge of the bat. So they're hitting it, but it goes on to hit the wicket and dislodge the bails. The ball must actually dislodge at least one bail - balls have hit wickets before where the bails have stayed intact and therefore it's not out. And again, all this is dependent on it not being a no-ball.

3) lbw is LEG before wicket, so bodyshot isn't quite correct. It's has to be the leg. There are other subtle rules about lbw - the ball must, with all reasonable expectation, be going on to hit the stumps, it must not pitch outside the line of leg stump before it hits the batsman's leg regardless of whether it would go on to hit the stumps (this then opens the door for an interesting tactic against certain spin bowlers - deliberately kick/pad it away to avoid contact with bat), it must not hit the batsman outside the line of off stump if he's offering a shot, it must not have hit his bat first. Plenty of places online will explain this at length with the aid of diagrams. But although there are strict rules, it's ultimately up to the umpire's split second discretion, without the benefit of replays, and the fielding side must appeal in order for the umpire to respond - i.e. he won't spontanously give a batsman out lbw, he has to be asked the question first. The question is spelled 'howzat', but it's pronounced in any number of absurd and tortured gut-wrenching, imploring, desperate and pleading ways.

deliberately throw beanballs/brushbacks
I have no idea what a beanball or brushback is, but bowlers never throw - if they do, it's a no-ball and they'll likely be banned from playing. This is a specific term - throwing involves a bent elbow (beyond 13 degrees, as I remember), bowling (not pitching!) involves a straight, unbent arm.

4) There is no 'batting box' - there is a line beyond which he's 'out of his crease', and before which he's 'in'. If the ball dislodges the bails while he's out of his crease, he's out. Be sure to look up the difference between stumped and run out. An unfortunate, but surprisingly common, way to run your batting partner out is to hit the ball straight back at the bowler, who either just happens to get his fingertips to the ball, or has it graze his arm or something, and then goes on to hit the non-striker's stumps while he's out of his crease, which he often is in preparation for a run.

5) Kevin Pietersen was out not too long ago when he was hit on the helmet with such force that it came clean off his head and landed on the stumps.

I don't get the second wicket.
It's where the second bowler bowls after the first one has bowled the first over. Every six balls, they alternate ends.

duos of good batsman/fast runner
?? No-one plays cricket just because they're a fast runner. Besides, a run can only take place as fast as the slowest partner. You can't overtake someone...

What if non-striking batsman/second base runner hits the non-striking wicket while ball is not in play?
Nothing. Presumably, if he dislodges the bails, he'll just put them back.

6) There is no 'non-batting hand'. Batsmen hold the bat with both hands. You're referring to 'handled the ball', which means they either pick the ball up while it's in play, swat it away to stop it hitting the wicket, or otherwise deliberately handle it. I remember Graham Gooch once getting out by swatting a ball that he'd hit straight into the ground - it popped up, was going to land on his stumps, he panicked and knocked it out of the way. If he'd kicked it, he'd have been fine, but as it was he was out.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2009

Best answer: In regards to point 1) - some countries (including England) have central contracts for their top players. This means that the country's governing body pays the player a direct retainer and has first call on them for the national team over their county/state. So, for example, the England captain Andrew Strauss in theory plays county cricket for Middlesex, but because he's centrally contracted to the England team he may only play a handful of games for Middlesex a season.

The closest equivalent of the beanball would be illegal in cricket - it's called a beamer and is automatically a no-ball. No bowler would ever do that deliberately and admit to it. A brushback sounds in intent more like a bouncer - a very fast ball pitched very short to intimidate the batsman - that is, it bounces halfway down the pitch with the idea that it rears up to the height of the batsman and they either have to take evasive action or fend the ball away to give a catch at short leg. The number of bouncers that can be aimed at a batsman is limited by the Laws to 1 or 2 per over. (Please note I'm not very familiar with baseball.)

If the batsmen run an odd number of runs during an over, the non-striking batsman becomes the striking one and vice versa. At the end of the over the bowling changes ends (this must be a different bowler - unlike baseball there are always two bowlers operating at any one time) and the "strike" changes anyway. This is why the distinction between "good hitters" and "good runners" is not so relevant. Of course, some players are notorious either for their inability to run well or their disinclination to do so.
posted by Electric Dragon at 4:48 PM on October 19, 2009

Response by poster: This. Is. Awesome. Thanks, everyone.

LAST question.

So if the international teams don't have a lot of/have no foreign players, doesn't that permanently advantage the larger/wealthier countries? Does the romance of the possibility of a poor nation's Cinderella team beating the big guys still charm everyone? Or does everyone just think this is the way it is and deal with it?
posted by jfwlucy at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2009

Wealth makes no difference to individuals, because you can't play for another country anyway no matter how rich they are.

The relative wealths of the nation would make a difference in the spending to develop players, for example starting academies.

Second-tier countries, like Kenya, Holland, Canada are often supported by first tier countries in terms of money and coaching. These countries to not play regularly, typically only for one-day international world cups which are every few years.

The population of India is obviously a whole lot bigger than New Zealand or even Australia, but I guess you are only talking the top 11-ish players, so maybe that doesn't make too much of a difference.
posted by trialex at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2009

***Do pitchers/bowlers often deliberately throw beanballs/brushbacks? Is this a legal way to intimidate batsman?

Not since the 1930s. It was called Bodyline, and is one of the pivotal moments in cricketing history. It's not very often a sport causes an international diplomatic incident.
posted by zamboni at 9:07 PM on October 19, 2009

Australia has been dominant in world cricket for a long time, perhaps less so recently. This is largely credited to the Sheffield Shield state based competition being just the right level of feeder competiton, and the creation of specialist cricket academies to identify and nurture talent. Of course this is partly a function of being a rich country. But do we care about the injustice? No not at all. Does Bangladesh? Dunno, don't think so.

The World Cup (which is one day cricket) has had it's share of upsets, Ireland most recently, but only a handful of countries have won or ever will win it.

Test cricket, which for the purist is the ultimate exposition of the game, is only judged, and then poorly, by relative ICC rankings: http://icc-cricket.yahoo.net/match_zone/team_ranking.php

There are only 9 test playing nations. Bangladesh only gained that status a few years ago, and it seems that Zimbabwe has lost it.

By the way, I kinda think the whole intellectual premise of you line of questions has been wrong. Cricket isn't very comparable to baseball, few of the concepts translate. if you're interested in cricket, I don't think you should start by conceptualising it as baseball, but different. It's really a whole different ball game.

For instance, you haven't mentioned the pitch. The fact that the ball strikes the ground and rises from an irregular surface is fundamental to the game.
posted by wilful at 9:18 PM on October 19, 2009

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