miller's musings

    Of all the things that America has appropriated as its own — from Guevarra to Pele — it has never made an effort to take cricket.

    Many other sports like cricket have become popular in the states and then retained a following. Rugby has a loyal fan-base here, as does soccer. One of my friends’ dad belongs to a curling team, and if that can happen, why not cricket?

    It’s not as if it doesn’t have the makings of a good sporting event.

    Matches last for upward of five days, batsmen drive in 100 runs on a good day, and it is not unprecedented for teams to score over 700 runs if they are swinging the bats well and keeping the ball away from the stumps.

    On the reverse side, some bowlers can fire it in faster than Randy Johnson and they are allowed and are supposed to bounce the ball into and away from the batsmen. There is almost three feet of horizontal movement on some pitches, and anywhere from six inches to six feet of vertical movement.

    There are two types of bowlers: thieves and bloodhounds.

    Some throw the ball with such a spin that I have seen men wrap around themselves with the swing and then get hit in the back with the ball — those are thieves, or properly, spin bowlers.

    Others bring it in so fast and accurately on the bounce that they can fit the ball in a half-inch crack between the batsmen’s hands and his body to take the wicket — those are bloodhounds, or pace bowlers.

    There are no gloves, and the ball is harder than a baseball. Men will play three feet from the batsmen to get on top of the play. The wicket keeper gets no pads or little old-school mitts for protection, and the bowler can legally throw at the head of the batsmen three times — on the bounce, of course.

    While a baseball player has about a 90 degree angle to work with, a batsmen can take the ball anywhere on the field he wants to. The best batsman in cricket today is a man little more than five feet tall: Sachin Tendulkar. There are very few things as satisfying in sports as watching this little bit of a man snap those lightning quick wrists for a boundary.

    Runs are scored on almost every bowl in cricket — a far cry from the drawn-out opus that is a Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball game.

    With all this going for it, why has cricket not become a sport that people attempt in America? There are probably many problems with cricket’s assimilation into the mainstream, but the main problem with cricket is the Englishness of it. It reeks of private school V-neck sweaters with stripes on them, people with titles and persnickety little boys named Laurence and Charles.

    Let me you give you a personal example to illustrate what I mean. I played cricket for a while when I lived in South Africa. I have a decent arm and caught on with a team as a pace bowler. It was a faculty team, filled with a bunch of British South Africans, but faculty means anyone who wants to play cricket at the university can play. It’s like a club team here.

    I was practicing batting one day. It is all about edges and angles in cricket versus solid contact in baseball. I had been humming the balls out of the cage when one of the guys told me it was against cricket protocol, hitting the balls out like that. I stopped doing it.

    After my turn was done, I approached the guy and said, “”No offense meant by hitting balls out of the cage like that.”” I was trying to be polite, seeing that this was their field and their sport.

    In the driest voice possible he said, “”All right, and I won’t take offense to you calling it a cage.””

    Only a person with that Brit persona can crack one like that so deadpan and make it so on the money. The thing was, even though the guy was trying to make a joke out of it, there was an undertone of hardness to his jest, of obeying what is proper: the rules of conduct that govern the game.

    George Orwell — who was English — said in “”Raffles and Miss Blandish,”” that cricket “”gives expression to a well-marked trait in the English character, the tendency to value ‘form’ or ‘style’ more highly than success.””

    Now, Orwell was saying this to make a point about the criminal values of the protagonist of a book he was writing about, but all the same, I think the point lends itself to my argument.

    Cricket doesn’t sound American. Style over success? How could cricket ever work here?

    Look at our sports: football, baseball and basketball — all riddled with individual stars. Style is created through success for America’s sports heroes; it is not a precursor to success. Do you think Ben Wallace’s style was hopping around the country before he was the Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA?

    So until something changes, cricket shall always remain a two-cylinder Fiat on America’s eight-lane sporting interstate.

    And for crying out loud, they take tea breaks in this sport.

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