The next time you are talking sport with an American and they tell you that Indian cricket is, “Just like, you know, the British version of baseball.” Don’t believe them. While it’s true both sports require bats, balls, runs, and outs, the similarities pretty much stop there. Allow me to explain:
A few days ago a colleague asked if I’d like to join a box-cricket tournament at school. As a life-long baseball fan and daughter of an avid-lifelong baseball fan, I quickly accepted the offer believing these two activities to be fairly similar.
“No sweat.” I thought. “How different can they be?”
Our team, Wheale’s Warriors, was comprised of two Kiwi’s, one Aussie, five Indian nationals, and two Americans. We were inexperienced women, but we didn’t care. We were pumped and ready to show the Tech Team what we were made of. After a few practice bats and several practice bowls, I was ready to play. I thought.
We were on field first so I volunteered to take the outfield. I believed that this outfield experience would mirror my little-league days of daydreaming and picking dandelions. Just as I was about to drift into a daydream, a lithe tennis ball came hurtling toward my head. Whipping me back into reality, I hastily reached out, missed the ball my several meters, fumbled to catch the “rebound” and eventually hurled the ball to the pitcher. Uh, bowler. While I was sqwaking and flailing around like a headless chicken the other team managed to score 6 runs.
“Six runs?” I bellowed, “How is that even possible? There’s only one bloody batter! And no bases! And where’s home? Isn’t that guy at home?”
“No darling, there are two batsmen. They run between the wickets when the ball is in play,” cooed my team captain.
“Oh. Do they get a run when they touch a wicket?” I asked.
“No dear, the other team has to touch the wicket with the ball before the batsman reaches the other end of the pitch. That’s an out. Batsmen score runs when they reach the other end of the pitch before the bowler or wicket keeper can touch the wicket with the ball.”
“Now back up because Kush hits it hard.”
Kush hit it hard. Really hard. He and his fellow batsman managed to score another 6 runs while I brilliantly miscalculated the angle at which the soaring sphere would bounce off the wall. Damn. We were already 12 runs behind and only two balls had been pitched. I mean bowled. This pattern continued until it was my team’s turn to bat. I am a dismal batter in baseball and an even more pathetic defender of the wicket. These bats are massive and you don’t hold them above your head, you kind of golf-like hold them close to the ground and scoop the ball away from the wicket. With force. Thank God there are no strikes in cricket, else my batting career would be short lived. When I did manage to whack the ball, it was immediately caught. An out.
I have absolutely no idea how we scored any runs that day, or how we managed to finish all of our “overs,” but I do know that that half-hour of play was the most fun I’ve had all year in India. We lost both the games we played and my working knowledge of the game leaves a lot of room for improvement, but seeing how excited my colleagues got over this game was worth every minute. Indians, Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, teachers, marshals, techies, cleaners, and cooks cheering each other on. Celebrating runs and outs and fumbles and pitfalls. It’s the best way to spend an afternoon.
So I guess the differences between baseball and cricket aren’t really so grand. Both games bring together community, fulfill a sense of tradition, and guarantee the supreme satisfaction of poling a ball into the outfield.