Cricket conundrum

Before you laugh yourself silly, let me slip away to something more mystifying.

Right off the top, let me admit something candidly, I feel like a fish out of water amidst cricket loving people because I am an ignoramus when it comes to knowledge about this hugely popular sport.  Someone, perhaps in jest, even remarked I am not a “gentleman” only because I don’t play and know little of the game.  After all, isn’t it perceived to be a gentleman’s game?

To make matters worse, I am baffled by the terminology used in cricket, something that has often left me wondering how and why such terms came to be used in the first place.  I also find them funny and bizarre as some of them defy logic.  Let me elaborate.

For starters, for the uninitiated, it may seem cricket is a silly game where you hear of ‘silly mid-on’ and ‘silly mid-off’ or even a slippery game with many slips – first slip, second slip, third slip, even a leg slip.  Before you laugh yourself silly, let me slip away to something more mystifying.

It does appear strange when one hears of certain men and creatures associated with the game. We know the Chinese have very little to do with cricket, so why on earth is a ‘Chinaman’ on the field and why do a ‘night watchman’ and ‘bouncer’ neglect their duties to bat and bowl?  What of a ‘third man’ playing as if two batsmen are not enough?  And to think of a ‘Twelfth man’ in a game played by eleven players! It is even more perplexing when one hears of a ‘duck’ and ‘cow corner’.

Did I say funny and bizarre?  Indeed it must be even quite magical with hat-tricks, spins, flicks, popping creases, tail-enders, sticky wickets, extras and dolly catches.  Nothing can be more amusing than bowling a maiden over or coming across an odd variety of legs – short leg, long leg, deep fine leg or even a deep square leg.

Equally, one could be forgiven to assume it is a dangerous game.  With hooks, square cuts and leg breaks, dead ball, in-swingers and out-swingers, injuries must be regular affairs where players walk away ‘retired hurt’.  When I once read in a newspaper that a West Indies bowler was nicknamed ‘whispering death’ it only confirmed doubts about the perilous nature of the game.

Cricket, which G B Shaw described as “a game played by 22 flannelled fools and watched by 22,000 fools”, may also be construed as something about wrapping and concealing with ‘covers’, ‘extra-covers’ and ‘deep extra-covers’ giving it a mysterious aura.  And going by the latest happenings in our country where cricket is almost a religion, generating mass hysteria, one could perhaps add a few more similar sounding terms – cover-up, under-cover, take cover and cover your back, although such unfair and underhanded behaviour is just not cricket.

Finally, whether it makes sense or not, let me sign off in the true spirit of the game and say a ‘bye’.

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