Expat Ramblings: Cricket! Let’s Talk About Cricket!

Ah, cricket, my unlikely love affair”¦I never liked gym lessons in school, and my teenage sports obsessions with football (the soccer kind) and tennis were strictly non-participating. There were good-looking players in those, and that would do. Playing those sports demanded too much stamina and talent. I did show an unhealthy interest in scores, rankings and statistics though, and maybe that was a first sign of things to come.

Studying translation involved a lot of cultural studies, and cricket was one of the famous stumbling blocks when it came to reading English newspapers and understanding certain idioms. It was a given that cricket was not only incredibly complicated, but every foreigner’s natural enemy. As a result, nobody even tried to understand it, since a translation of anything cricket-related would most likely never even be commissioned due to a distinct lack of interest. I lived by this rule until I moved to England and lived with a group of Australians during the famous Ashes summer of 2005 (if you have too much time, feel free to watch this). The guys started disappearing into the TV room, and one day, walking past, I thought I might test the god-given rules of the uselessness of cricket. I stopped and said:

“Is this cricket? How can you watch it when it’s so boring? Can you explain how it works?”

To his eternal credit, my mate Tim said the magic words:

“The first thing you need to know about cricket is that Australia always wins.”

In retrospect this was hysterical, because Australia lost, and it’s been downhill ever since, but he got me there. Australia was exotic enough to be interested in, and I sat down – and had an epiphany. It was really quite easy.

Everyone is dressed in white. Only one team scores points at a time, and after their points are accumulated, it’s the other team’s turn. This is weird and all kinds of different, so deal with it. Everything else then makes perfect sense. Educate yourself with the help of these two wise men:

That’s it.

We went out and played that very same day. That’s how easy it is. Of course there are things that are potentially confusing: Almost everything is called wicket. Everyone looks the same. There’s LBW. The scorecard gives every detail of who bowled to whom at what point in the game, resulting in what exactly. It looks frightening, but have someone explain it to you, and it will all make sense. For many, including me, this obsession with detail is part of the beauty of cricket. Assuming every player is more or less equally skilled, it all boils down to tactics. And contrary to popular belief, this makes it more, not less exciting. Eight hours can fly by. (Did I mention some games last eight hours? If you have the time, and a drink or two, those eight hours can be the best day you ever wasted watching television.)

And, of course, it’s all gloriously English. There is a tea break. There are big books full of rules, and we know the English love their rules. It’s all so very civilized, with muted applause between overs and the occasional loud appeal which is immediately silenced by a mere shake of the umpire’s head. Taking a picnic to the cricket on a sunny Sunday is hands down the best, most relaxing way to spend a day in England. Even if you don’t watch the game. Most people probably drift away at some point, but for those playing, it’s worth missing out on their family lunch once again.

For me, it’s all of the above, and the feeling that finally I have found a sport that I not only love watching, but love playing too. Of course I’m beyond bad at it, but it doesn’t matter. It feels good. I love cricket. I love watching it, I love thinking about it, and I loooove talking about it. When I had my first child and started freaking out about the impending emergency c-section, I asked the anesthetist to talk about cricket with me. It calmed me down and cheered him up no end. (The child that eventually interrupted our talk is now ready to start playing. She’ll be the only girl and the only German in the team. My work here is done.)

There’s another bonus in the form of countless books written about the subject. Most of the ones I’ve read are quite humourous, and all of them are a bit worrying in their tunnel vision of the women-free, male-bonding culture of cricket that is still very much alive today. Angus Bell, the man from the video above, wrote my favourite book of the lot, the once questionably named Slogging the Slavs, which has now been renamed Batting on the Bosphorus. It tells the story of how one cricket fanatic tries to educate Eastern Europeans about the game, with amazing and heartwarming results. Even though in this case the Germans are the only ones who don’t turn up for their game, I have made it my life’s goal to translate the book into German and find an audience for it – and maybe change those cultural studies lectures forever.

By Karo

Schnazzy East German translator and cricket obsessive residing in England. I have other qualities, too.

16 replies on “Expat Ramblings: Cricket! Let’s Talk About Cricket!”

As a New Zealander, I have no interest in cricket because our team sucks. However I did once get a wet bum sitting on an embankment attempting to watch a Twenty/20 match because there was a possibility the dude I liked (now Mr Cesy) would be there. He wasn’t, it was a waste of $10 because it got rained off.

However, I will listen to a humourous cricketing podcast that is out at the moment, called The Greatest Test, as it has one of my favourite comedians hosting it and it’s actually funny, not just cricketing funny.

I should also probably point you in the direction of The Twelth Man if you haven’t already been sent there. Beige, off-white, bone (these are all the colours of Richie Bernaud’s suits)

If you like stats, give baseball a try sometime. It is truly the statistician’s own sport.

I suspect I would enjoy cricket, because it seems to have a lot of what enjoy about baseball. Long games, picnic atmosphere, strategies, and so on. I’m kind of a noisy fan though so sometimes I wonder if cricket would like me.

I found it!

It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don’t wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game….

‘So here comes Stovepipe to bowl on this glorious summer’s afternoon at the MCG,’ one of the commentators was saying now. ‘I wonder if he’ll chance an offside drop scone here or go for the quick legover. Stovepipe has an unusual delivery in that he actually leaves the grounds and starts his run just outside the Carlton & United Brewery at Kooyong.’

‘That’s right Clive. I haven’t known anyone start his delivery that far back since Stopcock caught his sleeve on the reversing mirror of a number 11 bus during the third test at Brisbane in 1957 and ended up at Goondiwindi four hours later owing to a changed timetable at Toowoomba Junction.’

Hahaha. Ah, yes. It’s just like that. I love the boring commentary bits, mainly because you can feel them waking up and panicking about not having said anything for about 75 minutes, then desperately trying to find something even remotely interesting and/or funny to say. It’s genius. Embrace the boredom!!!

I’m in looooove. Funny how the strangest thing can make complete sense to you. That’s how I feel about cricket. It’s like being in love with someone and watching them talk, thinking “I know all about you, no need to explain anything. I GET you.”

I understand the sentiment. :p
I played with an expat team in Germany for a while, and every now and then some German passers-by would stop and ask about the confusing things they saw. One of us would helpfully explain the game, which took a while, and the people would ALWAYS leave with a hastily mumbled “goodbye” and a look of utter bewilderment on their faces. It was fun. Cricket is a bit like Marmite, I think.

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