Thursday, April 13, 2006

An American's view of cricket

The Australia-Bangladesh Test is beautifully poised for the final day.

Having just moved to the country myself, i have just finished Bill Bryson's rather mediocre book on Australia, originally titled "Down Under". Its one redeeming feature is his delightful American eye's view of cricket;

"The English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavours look interesting and lively...i dont wish to denigrate a game that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport in which the spectators burn as many calories as the players. And it is the only sport, other than baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning...

Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it out to centre field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt towards the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to handle radioactive isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg.

Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle sixty feet with mattresses strapped to his legs he is under no formal compulsion to run; he may stand there all day, and as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time that match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket."

And with particular reference to Australia,

"The mystery of cricket is not that Australians play it well, but that they play it at all. It has always seemed to me a game much too restrained for the rough-and-tunble Australian temperament. Australians much prefer games in which brawny men in scanty clothing bloody each other's noses. I am quite certain that if the rest of the world vanished overnight and the development of cricket was left in Australian's hands, within a generation the players would be wearing shorts and using the bats to hit each other."