[englandfilter] what's so cool about cricket?
April 2, 2008 12:21 PM   Subscribe

[englandfilter] what's so cool about cricket?

I just moved to england and I'm spending a couple of weeks in an office with a bunch of guys from yorkshire. said guys talk about nothing but cricket and while I've tried my best to educate myself about this game via wikipedia, I have yet to grasp why this isn't a complete and utter waste of time (like baseball). I also keep on making an utter fool out of myself trying to follow any conversation these gents are having on this topic. that is a shame though - they know the best watering holes in a two-mile radius and I'm way too young to stop drinking.

so can anyone enlighten me what's so fascinating about cricket?
a primer on what's actually important to know (wiki launches an avalanche of information upon a casual reader) or what I should look for? bonus points for tidbids that I can use to blatantly show off. drunk men are so competitive.
posted by krautland to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I felt the same way when I was first spending time in India. Cricket is deeply ingrained in Indian culture. It's like (NFL+MLB+NBA+NASCAR) X 10. If you don't enjoy watching baseball, you probably won't enjoy watching cricket. One nice thing is that the games are generally slower paced, and therefore you don't have to pay strict attention to every play to keep up. This allows you to chat, order drinks, eat food, and occasionally come back to the game to see what's happening.

I was lost at first, but found someone who was happy to walk me through the terminology and rules. It's easier to do this while you're watching a game. I'm sure someone you know would love to show their superior cricket knowledge over a few pints.

It sounds like your coworkers are hardcore sports fans, which every country and every sport has.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:31 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I refer you to DM's explanation of cricket, the best resource, hands down, for explaining cricket to baseball literate North Americans.

My observations on enjoying cricket-
a) Fielding's important. Take note of how the captain repositions the field.
b) Get an idea of the different bowling styles.
c) Drink a lot.
posted by zamboni at 12:32 PM on April 2, 2008

If you think baseball is an utter waste of time, I can't imagine you'll find anything "fascinating" about another sport.

I learned most of what I know about the sport (which is not much) from searching "learn cricket" on YouTube.

Part of the reason I find it fascinating is because I don't understand it.
posted by nitsuj at 12:33 PM on April 2, 2008

You'd probably enjoy this post from the blue.
posted by Perplexity at 12:34 PM on April 2, 2008

OK well if you're in England, they're titbits now.

If you don't like baseball, I'm a loss as to how you'll ever like cricket. It's a very beautiful game, and it's quite competitive but like baseball, it's slow and cricket lasts about 27 times as long - a proper Test match is four days.

You get the fundamentals, right? An over is like an inning, the bowler is the pitcher, the batman is the batter, and the batsman is the batter?

Rather than trying to keep up on a subject you don't really know anything about or have an affection for, you might perhaps ask them to explain interesting cricket terms like "bowl a maiden over" and you should, of course, go to a one day match at your local or county cricket club.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:35 PM on April 2, 2008

many local resources - here are a couple that stand out for usefulness:
hadjiboy's FPP on cricket
nthdgex on cricket
recent baseball thread that turned into "baseball vs cricket"

Here's some general advice about learning about a complex and culturally important activity: don't go in with the idea that is may be a waste of time. Assume that it isn't a waste of time -- because the people you're trying to befriend think it isn't. Assume that you are at the beginning of a delightful learning curve where you get to find out all about its rich history and how to appreciate current controversies etc. I mean, maybe all sports and music and religions and all local customs are wastes of time in some sense, but it would be a pretty dull world without any of that. I felt this way before I started learning about baseball, and guess what, loving baseball has made my life richer and more exciting, I've learned great stories, I've connected with people I otherwise wouldn't know, etc. Cricket is interesting and baffling and gives the same excitement that any sport gives. You can choose to be open to that excitement or not.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:38 PM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Stop trying so hard. Its OK to not know anything about cricket (especially as a foreigner) any attempt to blag it will only make you look foolish.

Just FWIW cricket (and baseball) are just as/no more pointless than any other sport.
posted by missmagenta at 12:39 PM on April 2, 2008

Going to an actual game is a great excuse to pack a picnic and sit in the sun (On one of the 4 days a year we get some). Couple of bottles of good wine and an assortment of fine cheeses and who needs to understand it or even like it.

Just remember to clap politely when everyone else does.
posted by gergtreble at 12:41 PM on April 2, 2008

As someone born and bred in England and now living in the US, I honestly believe that even native Brits either love or hate cricket with very little middle ground. I am one of the latter and could never stand to watch something that lasted for four days and still ended in a draw. I enjoy soccer and rugby, and love baseball here, but can take or leave football (and I hate basketball as much as cricket).

I think it just boils down to something that you take to immediately or not. I think that it will be nearly impossible to learn to love cricket if you have no real interest in it (like anything else in life I suspect).
posted by worker_bee at 12:44 PM on April 2, 2008

If your goal is to learn some facts on wikipedia so that you can try to show up your drunk acquaintances then you will, very justifiably, not be very popular. This is because you will be acting like an asshole.

Why don't you say, "Hey guys, I don't get cricket! Can I watch a game with you sometime?" And then you can ask them questions and see what they like about it.

I know that if you tried that wikipedia thing with baseball on me, it would be exceedingly obvious and lame and you'd be made fun of for the remainder of your tenure as my temporary coworker.

Ah yeah, this one time I mentioned baseball in a conversation and this guy went "Oh yeah! I LOVE the Dodgers!" And I was all "is Nomar still on the team or did he get traded?" (I honestly wasn't sure and it's somethign any Dodgers fan would know) and he was all "uhhhh" and then I was all "Who's your favorite player?" and he was all "Uh, I like the whole team."

posted by 1 at 12:48 PM on April 2, 2008 [5 favorites]

Get into T20/Pro20 first. It's a short game where each side bats for 20 overs. Over in about 3 hours, lots of action, lots of 'slogging' (reckless hitting)

The get into one day matches and one day tests. This is a 50 over per side match and takes about 6 hours to play. Still fast paced but with a bit tactics thrown in.

3 day games are usually only played at the county level and are a precuror to....

The 5 day international test. The Rolls Royce of Cricket. Tactics, strategy and intense concentration (Ever seen a baseballer face two days of non-stop pitching?) are required to win.
posted by PenDevil at 12:50 PM on April 2, 2008

Try playing it once or twice. Maybe they play in a pickup league or something, if it's like softball here. It's a) the quickest way to learn and b) the only decent way to develop an appreciation for how hard it is to be good and an eye for what to look for on TV, etc.

Even if you're not that keen on it after playing a time or two, well at least you have some new friends/drinking buddies, you'll be able to follow a conversation, and you'll have a funny self-deprecating story to tell (or a dozen).

Watching baseball's boring, too, to everyone but a player. So's golf. So's tennis. So's every other sport. You have to play to get it.
posted by ctmf at 12:59 PM on April 2, 2008

When I was in England, visiting family, I had my cousin try to explain cricket to me- we were at a pub, and the glasses and salt shaker eventually got involved. Going into the conversation, my concept of cricket was "it's like baseball, only stupid." Strangely enough, my concept remained unchanged despite my cousin's best efforts. I think it's like learning a second language, best when learned as a toddler.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:05 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: okay, for the record: waste of time/show off was my attempt at being a bit funny in this post. obviously I'm interested in this, otherwise I wouldn't even have bothered. go easy on me here. I'm trying to be funny but I'm german.
posted by krautland at 1:11 PM on April 2, 2008 [8 favorites]

Honestly, if you think baseball is a waste of time, what makes you think you'd feel differently about cricket?

Sports are sports, may people enjoy them very much, some don't. Either way is fine.
posted by YoungAmerican at 1:13 PM on April 2, 2008

Sorry for the lecture. Your mistake was to dis baseball.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:13 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

In my experience, it's all about a nice day out. Green grass, sunshine, chirping birds... baseball is like that, too, at its best. At least, that's a lot of what I appreciate about baseball when I do appreciate it. I'm sure there are folks who get as adrenal over cricket as others do over more high-intensity sports, but I value its stately pace. If there's not already some almost inexcusably nostalgic RP-pip-pip-home-counties-between-the-wars type place in your soul, you may not arrive at the same affected love of it, though.
posted by mumkin at 1:20 PM on April 2, 2008

As an avid baseball fan who found himself interested in cricket after discussing it with a few South Africans at a pub one night, I can vouch for DM's explanation of cricket shedding a whole lot of light on the game for me. I still don't understand a lot of it, but I have a much better idea of what's going on.
posted by smitt at 1:40 PM on April 2, 2008

This is the traditional explanation:

There are two sides, one out in the field the other one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2008 [8 favorites]

It sounds like a combination of baseball and golf. Golfers say things about being outside on a nice day, in nature, etc... I guess it could be said to make more sense than hunting...

DarlingBri said it's a beautiful game. Can you explain the beauty part? No dis intended, but I think that may be the crux of this question.

And yes, I realize that "explain the beauty part" is not an easy thing. That's the challenge of Ask Metafilter!
posted by amtho at 2:32 PM on April 2, 2008

i'm not particularly into cricket at all. or golf. two particularly slow paced games.

I will tell you though, that i've found myself up at 2 in the morning, glued to the box and prepared to risk the wrath of whoever else was in the house at the time just to watch both of those. The two occasions were, that Ryder cup where Europe was ahead of America by more points than there had ever been in the competition, and last summer's ashes competition between Australia and England when England were winning for the first time in ages.

Europe lost the ryder cup as you may know, in extravagant fashion, and england won.

But maybe, as i was thinking later, you might find yourself suddenly interested through finding yourself willing an underdog to win.

I've not watched cricket or golf since either of those two occasions, but i was really fascinated then, and learned more about each sport than i've learned at any other time.

so my advice, is to be on the look out for a USA versus England world series of cricket. which, as i understand it, the US would have a good chance of winning too.
posted by galactain at 2:56 PM on April 2, 2008

Go to a match with some people who know something. You can just roll up to a village or town game and usually watch for free. You like beer, you like eating, you like sitting in the sun. You're on your way.

Oh, and ignore a lot of American 'sports' fans. They aren't actually fans of sport, they're just parochial fans of their sports.

As someone who is currently wrapped up in the chase for the Western conference in the NBA (let's face it, the Pistons might as well play the Cavs for the honour of who gets taken apart by the Celtics in the East), the culmination of the football season across competitions from the Southern League Midland Division (come on Brakes!!) to the Champions League and is glad that the Aussie Rules season is getting going with the English cricket season soon to start too and is also pissed off that he's having to write assignments tonight rather than play badminton...I find it baffling how these people are more interested in talking about how great 'their' sports are rather than the actual fun part of discussing the games themselves.

Anyhow. Enjoy cricket. It's the best beer garden in town and a cultural highlight whilst you're here. And never trust an Englishman who doesn't like it. :-)
posted by i_cola at 3:00 PM on April 2, 2008

Can you explain the beauty part?

There is beauty in an individual piece of action - a clean as you like cover drive, a perfect yorker that traps the batsman LBW.

There is beauty in the mini battles throughout the game. Quite often one bowler vs one batsmen, or the fielding teams captain vs a batsmen. These little dramas can be absorbing to figure out. The beauty is seeing a plan of attack come to fruition and the batsman getting out [or him avoiding the trap].

There is beauty in statistics - will he get the most ducks out of any English player? Will he pick up his 3rd ten wicket haul? Will he pull off the first hat-trick on this ground in a decade?

There is beauty in the subtlety of variation - if it becomes overcast the ball may swing,if its day four maybe the pitch is cracking up giving uneven bounce, when is the new ball due?

So the short answer to your question: not really, but I sure as hell can talk cricket.
posted by meech at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

As it was explained to me by a huge cricket fan:

It's a great excuse to spend an entire day outside in the sunshine drinking yourself silly with friends.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2008

During the test series in Australia, I went to a game with a group of friends at the Adelaide Oval. We sat on the grass with an esky full of food, we created a stack of plastic cups from the continual beer purchases, we laughed at the drunk bogans shouting at each other, we booed whenever a Barmy Army Englishman wandered past and gave us a bit of lip, we cheered when that Englishman was hit by a bread roll.

And in the distance, there some people hitting a little red ball around. Every now and then we'd have a look, but it certainly wasn't the focus of the day. That's why I like cricket.
posted by twirlypen at 3:40 PM on April 2, 2008

A cricket aficionado once explained to me that "all sports imitate a battle, except for cricket, which imitates a war".

That only applies to Test cricket, I suppose, and it didn't make me like it, but it might explain some of the appeal; there's not just one side versus the other, then it's over, there's a whole campaign which takes place over days.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:58 PM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I did as nitsuj said, and watched some of the youtube videos. The ones titled "This is cricket" seem decent. I'm pretty sure I now at least understand all the basic rules of the game, which I did not before.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:02 PM on April 2, 2008

meech - awesome! Thank you! An excellent and beautiful foray.
posted by amtho at 5:27 PM on April 2, 2008

Listen to a match you are watching (live, or on the TV) being broadcast on the radio.
The commentators must use many more words to describe the action to the radio audience, and effectively deliver an introductory course in the terminology etc. that you can immediately grasp as you watch the game.
I should also say that the radio commentary tends to be a bit more expert, not to mention entertaining.
For me, cricket is multi-faceted. My favourite is the 5-day test in the background during summer holidays. You can go to the beach, cook a BBQ, work on the car, have a snooze, read a book or whatever else you like to do in down time, lulled by the murmur of the cricket on the telly or radio. You can tune your mind in every now and then to keep abreast of play, and catch the action on the instant replays etc.
Another great way to experience it is with a few friends and beer at the ground, but this is a more absorbing experience.

A 5 day test match is an incredible strategic game, where the advantage can teeter from one side to the other many times in a day.
And rightly, this sometimes means neither team was good enough to win, even after five days play. Similarly, a draw can be a huge victory if the less skilled, or less lucky team manages to hold on for an unlikely draw, due to individual determination or heroics.
As I have learnt more about the game (30+ years so far), I am starting to be able to understand the strategy and tactics, but there remains such depth that I have no doubt I will still find it compelling as an old man. There is nuance and depth, but also brutishness and force.

The shorter forms of the game (fifty over per side "one day" matches and 20 over slog fests) can be a spectacle, and occasionally will have some great battles, but they are a 'dumbed down' form of the game.
Sadly, I think, people often try to interest newcomers to the sport via this shorter form, so they miss exposure to the bigger picture.
posted by bystander at 10:03 PM on April 2, 2008

I am an Australian. We're as bad as England, South Africa, India, and Pakistan when it comes to cricket.

I, personally, don't like cricket; but that's because I don't like sport. Cricket is the only game I've ever played where it's more boring to play than to watch. Seriously, sometimes you're standing around for an hour waiting for the ball to come anywhere close. I much prefer to watch it. Also because cricket is a really fast way to get sunburnt around here.

I understand a fair bit about cricket, as it's hard to get through school here without it. And I pay attention to the results of the Ashes, because That's Important. Oh, and great-grandad was on the australian cricket team (my brother inherited his bat).

Cricket is a Very Important sport in the Commonwealth. It involves a lot of skill, endurance, and intelligence to play. As a spectator sport, it's a very low-demand game, leaving plenty of time for drinking the piss, shooting the breeze, and firing up the barbie while having a grand old yarn.
posted by ysabet at 1:51 AM on April 3, 2008

The thing that I find most appealing about cricket, I think, as opposed to e.g. football (soccer) is the sheer amount of structure imposed on the game. Whereas a game of football looks, to me, like two episodes of 45 completely homogenous minutes, the action in cricket takes place on many different timescales (a single ball, an over, a batsman's innings, a batting partnership, a whole team's innings, a day, a match, a series).
posted by primer_dimer at 2:51 AM on April 3, 2008

I'm surprised no one seems to have mentioned the Yorkshire thing. More than any county in this country, Yorkshire is cricket. You should spend a day at Headingley in the sun with some beer and a picnic with your new colleagues, you probably won't enjoy the cricket, but you should enjoy the day! Also, seconding bystander - have a listen to Test Match Special, which is often as much about cake as it is about cricket.

And speaking as someone whose nuclear family and boyfriend are utterly obsessed by the game, the more you hear them talking about it the more you'll be able to contribute to the conversations - I take basically no interest at all in these things, but by now I can at least ask the occasional question so I look like I care!
posted by featherboa at 4:23 AM on April 3, 2008

I missed this question, because I was in New Zealand, umm, watching the cricket.

I used to hate it with a passion.

What made me change my mind was living with two knowledgeable people and watching a very close test match pretty much all they way through for 5 days. At first I was only in front of the TV because I was avoiding revision. But as the days wore on, my housemates' patient explanations of the finer bits of strategy eventually led me to do a complete about face about the game.

So, I suggest you watch a match or two with your new friends (I don't recommend taking 5 days out of your finals to watch a test though, it's not good for your grades).

And, as lots of other people have suggested, cricket matches are ideal opportunities to drink, and go to a twenty/20 match, because they're fun and even if you do get bored, it doesn't last that long.

Oh, and as a German, you're not expected to know about cricket, we know that most of the rest of the world has no idea what we're talking about.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:58 PM on April 23, 2008

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