After only a few months, the Ashes are back! Starting in Brisbane on Thursday, Australia will try to win again in what feels like decades, and there will be many sleep-deprived people in England, dealing with a time difference that means play starts at midnight in the U.K. But we’re not quite there yet, so let’s use this spot to get into the mood and learn all about cricket’s charming oddities.
Here’s a privately educated man showing us how to do it, because of course he would:
And now for something much nicer. Here’s Muralitharan again, bowling properly this time:
There’s a lot to talk about in this clip. First of all, nobody bowls just like Muralitharan. Watch his wrist, it’s amazing how he spins the ball. Secondly, there’s a lot of lbw here. The instant gratification of seeing the ball hit the wicket is missing, but it’s one of the things that make cricket so charming (or weird, if you’re still to be convinced). Because of course there are ten different ways of getting a batsman out. Straightforward is boring! And lbw is really not as complicated as they would have you believe. If a bowler is good (and Murali here is more than that!), all his balls are killers. They might not hit the stumps, but they’ll go towards them, and only your bat is allowed to stop them.
I learned something new this week. There’s yet another form of dismissal. File it under “might come in useful one day.”
This is cricket, too: Creating a sport dictionary for the newly initiated Afghan cricket public.
I love how cricket worms itself into languages and cultures; it really is so much more than a game. I guess you can say that about football too, but cricket brings us the feel-good story of the year: Surely these guys are the most deserving cricket team ever. The World Cup’s in 2015, and I’ll be keeping you updated on the progress of cricket in Afghanistan. They have a women’s team that has yet to play internationally, having had to withdraw from a tournament in 2011 after strong opposition at home. Makes you want to tear your hair out…
As for the U.S., here are a few links for you:
The United States of America Cricket Association has a fancy website, with sections about women’s and youth cricket. Check for events near you, go and see a game, and enthuse your kids. You can make this work!
This book looks interesting: Somehow, cricket never took off in the USA. Tom Melville will tell you why.
Maybe you’ve heard of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. It tells the story of the search for an identity post-9/11, with added cricket. Wahey!
This close to the Ashes, interest in cricket soars. So you’re more likely to spend some time catching up on stories like this one. Sachin Tendulkar, India’s God of cricket, has retired after 24 years. A lot of people cried, and I had something in my eye when I heard his farewell speech. He is a national hero, to an extent that is quite unbelievable until you see the masses paying tribute to his career. Read this if you want to know what it’s like being just a normal cricket obsessive in India. It’s funny.
The Spin is a weekly Guardian newsletter about all things cricket. Some of the stories are quite incredible. Again, there’s more to cricket than just the action on the pitch.
Look at that, Australia: Ellyse Perry is your most marketable athlete! A woman! Imagine that! So, of course, it’s not all good news. The women’s Ashes start January 10th, 2014, and will be broadcast in Australia.
But first, the men. I’ll try to sleep as little as possible over the next few days, all in the name of journalism. Something will happen, and I’ll tell you all about it next week.