Cricket (not the bug): An exploratory essay from the Spring 2007 issue

To begin with, I don’t really know all that much about cricket.

The field of play is a near-circular donut-shaped structure with a bunch of green in the middle, referred to as the “grounds.” As for the gameplay, the only place you could find a sport more willy-nilly about its own trajectories is on a park district field full of non-athletes playing ultimate Frisbee. And that statement isn’t even true; I just dislike Frisbees—stealing greenspace from formerly carefree middle-schoolers, who instead must trudge home to basements designed to fill their hearts and minds with a dense gruel of mediocrity and unfulfillable dreams as the X-Box whirrs to life.

There are two vaguely popular cricket video games available. One features Brian Lara, star of the West Indies club (the Windies). The reviews I’ve read make Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 sound like the more exciting game, although it apparently lacks in realism. I think the other game might be named after some English chap, or something equally bland, like “EA Cricket 2004.” Anyway, this one apparently pays a little more attention to the details and general feel of cricket. I imagine they were more thoughtful about things like the grass, and the color of the opposing team’s socks.

When I started asking questions about cricket (I wanted to learn, you see) a certain movie kept coming up. The movie came from a faraway land (India) and is called Lagaan. Lagaan is from an early period of “the British problem” in India. A British-appointed governor demands, in a time of severe drought, that the people he governs pay a double lagaan, or protection tax.

This Brit is a bit of a ramblin’ gamblin’ man, and, thus, the lagaan will be lifted if the Indians can beat the British in a game they have never played before: Cricket! This inspires much singing and dancing for the Indians—pretty much everything does in Bollywood—as they decide to take up the challenge and learn how to play the game that will determine their future security.

Lagaan is nearly identical to the Mighty Ducks movies, all of them, except that the stakes include famine in addition to utter humiliation and loss of the respect of your loved ones and even the respect your whole country has for you, and also, cricket matches are much longer than hockey games. Here’s a sad note: While the punky young Ducks live in a free society, it is the hard-luck farmers living under perilous oppression who engage in the most singing and dancing. The frequency with which the farmers would sing and dance their way through relatively simple expressions was quite excessive, even irresponsible. One big number took up perhaps fifteen minutes of Lagaan and had nothing at all to do with cricket, lagaan, or the drought. (I will say that while the Mighty Ducks exhibited rare choreographic instinct on the ice, it was elsewhere sorely missed.) 

The farmers, of course, end up winning the match after it dragged on into the third or fourth day. Rainclouds appear on the horizon, Emilio Estevez is taken off death row, and the Brit soils himself. There was much rejoicing.

Alas, pick up any newspaper sports section and you will see, after reading the cricket news, that this is not the current mood of the sport. A few of the articles will actually contain coverage of cricket matches, and the rest of them will either be about injuries or contract disputes. They will all be highly speculative—Lister may or may not be playing in the upcoming one day internationals, the West Indies Cricket Board may or may not survive financially, and so on. These concerns make up the bulk of cricket coverage.

I am mildly compelled to continue learning about cricket.

-Brien Fennell

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