"Was that a run?"
June 20, 2011 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I want to be able to understand and follow cricket. How does one go about really "following" a sport?

I like to watch cricket, but understand maybe 1% of what's happening. I also like to read the live running commentary on Cricinfo and scratch my head at sentences like "Swann to Bishoo, no run, round the wicket, leans forward and defends down just in front of Bopara at silly point." Basically I can get the gist but the finer points of the game are a mystery to me.

I don't know why I like it despite being totally at sea, but I'd like to stop being at sea now.

You know those people who know everything about a sport, can converse intelligently about sports personalities and how amazing they are or what always lets them down, understands the personalities of the different teams, is up on all the latest happenings? I want to be that person!

How do I get started, with cricket? Are there news-blogs which aren't all written in obscure cricket jargon? Is it just a matter of taking a week off work and watching ODIs nonstop? Should I buy the Young Wisden?

I feel like this is something that happens organically, I don't think people really set out to "follow" a sport, but I would like to be able to do it now and I have absolutely no idea where to start. Any pointers?
posted by Ziggy500 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's a nice previously here, including a link to this short but thorough introduction.

You're going to have trouble finding coverage that doesn't assume at least the kind of base knowledge that allows you to parse that sentence you quoted.

Listening to the radio streams, I think, will help most of all, because it conveys the rhythm and flow and love of anecdotes and the semi-distracted nature of following the game.
posted by holgate at 7:43 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Listen to Test Match Special, it's the most entertaining radio there is, whether you love cricket or not.
posted by joannemullen at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Watch the cricket with radio and cricinfo and the Guardian's commentary on. Have a list of the players in the match at hand (cricinfo again) and a diagram of fielding positions open. It'll come.

Swann (bowler, slowish, bowls with right hand, ball spins a little from left to right after it hits the ground) to Bishoo (batsman, had to look up that he's left-handed) no run, round the wicket (right armed bowler running in from the right hand side of the stumps) leans forward and defends (hits the ball or tries to - doesn't really attempt to score, just tries not to get out) down just in front of Bopara at silly point (ball gently to fielder standing close by at nearly 90 degrees to the side of the batsman on the side his bat is in his stance).

So what happened was not much - but it could be pivotal.
posted by hawthorne at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Any chance you could find a cricket friend? In my experience, sport - and especially cricket - enthusiasts loooove to explain the finer points of cricket (and it's much quicker to pick up the game if you can ask questions). Someone you work with? A friend? A friend of a friend? If you're willing to make a bit of an investment, you could offer to pay for drinks for an afternoon of test-cricket watching/tutoring. I know Mr. Brambory would definitely go for such a deal.

If you're even braver, I've found village cricket people to be generally welcoming and very happy to discuss cricket. If you have a local pitch and turn up on a Saturday or Sunday when it's not raining, you should be able to strike up a conversation with a spectator who is happy to talk cricket.

Crickety pubs are also generally chatty when Test matches are on - I've been in a few where commentary and discussions were a group activity among all of the patrons.
posted by brambory at 8:22 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Watch the cricket with radio and cricinfo and the Guardian's commentary on. Have a list of the players in the match at hand (cricinfo again) and a diagram of fielding positions open. It'll come.

This is great advice.

I would watch tests rather than ODIs - there's more complexity, so while the learning curve will be steeper, you'll learn more in the end.

Also: London MeFi cricket watching meetup?
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:24 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: I would SO be up for a London cricket meetup, IJ. Although, knowing London it'd be Rain Stopped Play.

I learned about cricket just from watching it (or maybe, because I was born in Australia, a love of cricket is inherent). Sometimes it's hard to understand how a game played over five days with breaks for lunch and afternoon tea can be exciting but it's a wonderful sport. The one-day matches have a totally different dynamic from the Test Matches.

I'd have to disagree with Infinite Jest and I'd suggest starting with the one-day games.
posted by essexjan at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: I found this Grantland piece surprisingly helpful at getting the gist.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:12 PM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: As a pointer, it'd be a good idea to learn how to recognise the dynamics of a (point in time of) a game, in terms of which team is being aggressive & which is being defensive.

The fielding positions of the team that's bowling are the best barometer - they will either try to control the tone of the batters, or adjust depending on how the batsmen respond.

An "aggressive" field will be putting pressure on the batters, to try & get them out. A more defensive field will be trying more to stop the flow of runs.

Aggressive field positions are mostly about catching, eg slips & gullies (these are the guys who stand alongside the wicketkeeper, hoping to catch an "edge" deflection from the bat, as the ball streaks through). Other aggressive positions (used more when the slower, spin bowlers are bowling) are anything that includes the word "silly", basically meaning that the fielder is stupid for standing so close, because the ball might clunk him on the head. So, "point" is a guy at 90 degree straight out in line with the batter, but silly point is the same angle, but maybe only a few metres away. If a spin bowler is right on top, you'll sometimes see up to half a dozen people crowding right around the batter - this makes him really nervous about the slightest error in defending a ball, and he'll try taking a massive swing out of desperation.

The problem is, if you put all your fielders into aggressive catching positions, that leaves a lot of empty space for the batters to hit the ball into & score runs. So, basically you're hoping that the conditions are good for the bowlers to bowl very fast (eg a new ball has been brought into play or the wicket is very dry & hard), or for the ball to move around a lot in the air (could be humidity, a breeze, or a ball rough on one side but polished on the other), or to bounce strangely off the wicket (usually, later in the game when the wicket becomes rougher & worn in spots).

Anyway, apart from aggressive catching positions, the captain might set a combination of:
- reasonably close-in fielders, trying to stop 1s or 2s, but maybe also make a catch or run-out
- deep fielders, trying to stop 4s, or maybe catch a mistimed hit

Once you've got that general idea, you can see how the fielding captain will try to set traps for the batsmen. One example is to have lots of fielders in to stop easy 1s & 2s, but have a guy or two in particular spots really deep. The idea is to frustrate the batters so they try to hit over the top of the nearby fielders, but then they guy out deep might catch the ball instead. Then the bowlers have a strategy to bowl a ball once in a while that tempts the batter to smash the ball over the top, but towards the guy waiting for it. Bowling a bouncer (high bouncing ball) to the leg side of the batter, to be hooked & caught by a guy standing at deep backward square (say, 7 or 8 o'clock) is a good example.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

(eg a new ball has been brought into play or the wicket pitch is very dry & hard), or for the ball to move around a lot in the air (could be humidity, a breeze, or a ball rough on one side but polished on the other), or to bounce strangely off the wicket pitch (usually, later in the game when the wicket pitch becomes rougher & worn in spots).

Corrected for less confusing terminology. "Wicket" is often used interchangeably with "pitch" to describe the hardened grassy strip that the bowlers bounce the ball off, but "pitch" is less ambiguous, because "wicket" refers to at least 2 other completely different things.

posted by UbuRoivas at 3:37 PM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: i started following cricket randomly this year. For most sports, they're alot more understandable/interesting if you've actually played the game before. So i would recommend finding a local league to start playing in, for most indepth knowledge. And who knows, it might be a new hobby/passion. There's not much cricket where I live, so as a good alternative, I found that playing a cricket videogame (iphone app actually, Big Cup Cricket) really helped me understand the strategy and most of all, the structure (innings, overs) of the game. I'd read a lot on cricket, but never could put two and two together until I was actually trying to calculate how many runs I needed to win when it was my turn to bad.
posted by wayofthedodo at 4:57 PM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: If you enjoy watching it without knowing exactly what's going on at all times, I'd just continuing doing that. It won't be long before you can make sense of the basics and are starting to piece together strategy. I know that feeling of having the commentators gush about something and not having any clue why it was remarkable, but that goes away pretty quickly.

Reading about cricket is also a good way to get more out of watching it. Cricket has a long, rich and interesting history. Some good books:

-Beyond a Boundary, CLR James. Widely acknowledged as the indispensable cricket book. It's about cricket and race relations in the West Indies. It's a really great book, and even if you don't quite get what he's talking about all the time, it will give you a sense of the greater import of cricket to a lot of people.

-The Willow Wand, Derek Birley. Careful reexamination of cricket's folklore. A lot about English county cricket and the history of the tension between the professional and the amateur.

-Anyone But England, Mike Marqusee. Written by an American, so easy for the English to ignore. It's a great look at double standards in cricket. The section on racism and the 1992 Pakistani tour of England is particularly good.

-John Major's More Than a Game is great if you want to ignore the complex or troubling parts of English cricket history.
posted by MarkAnd at 7:17 AM on July 14, 2011

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