Cricket is the most popular sport in India, and while the game requires physical agility and pinpoint accuracy at the highest level, it is a pastime that can be played anywhere with just a bat, a ball and a set of stumps.
The origins of cricket can be traced back to the 16th century. A team sport, a game of cricket is usually played between two opposing sides comprising 11 players with a ’12th man’ providing cover in case one of the players suffers an injury. Both teams take turns batting and fielding with the batting side pitting two players armed with a wooden bat at each end of the wicket.
The wickets are spaced 22 yards apart and comprise a set of three stumps on which a bail is laid horizontally. The stumps are three wooden posts beaten into the ground.
The rules of cricket are governed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) which is the game’s governing body formed in 1909. A match begins with a toss of a coin with the team winning the toss electing either to bat or bowl first.
Batting and scoring runs
The aim of the game is simple – to hit the ball as far as possible and score more runs than your opponents. Runs are scored by the batsmen running between the wickets after striking the ball and aiming to get back into either ‘crease’ – the marked areas 1.22 metres in front of the stumps at either end. Runs can also be scored by hitting the ball to the perimeter of the pitch – the ‘boundary’. Four runs are scored if the ball bounces before reaching the boundary or six if it doesn’t.
The fielding team bowl ‘overs’ which consist of six deliveries which must be deemed legal by the umpire. If the bowler delivers a ‘no-ball’ – be it wide or infringing the rules in other ways – an ‘extra’ must be re-bowled. The aim of the bowling team is to get wickets in order to get each batsman ‘out’.
Ways a batsman can be out
There are 10 ways a batsman can be ‘out’ or ‘dismissed’. The most obvious is to be ‘bowled’ which means knocking the bails off the stumps with a direct delivery of the ball.
A batsman can also be dismissed if he or she hits a ball which is caught by the fielders without it first touching the ground. The batting players can be ‘run out’ if a fielder hits the stumps with the ball following a strike before either batsman completes their run by making it safely back to the crease.
Of the other main ways to be ‘out’, a batsman can be dismissed if he or she misses the ball and the wicketkeeper – who will position themselves directly behind the stumps – removes the bail.
If the bowled ball hits any part of the defending batsman’s legs – and it is pitched in line and within the width of the stumps, he or she will be declared out virtue of a Leg Before Wicket (LBW) ruling.
There are other less common ways to be declared out such as the batsman accidentally dislodging the bail, if the batting player hits the ball twice, if they handle the ball, retire hurt or be ‘timed out’ by not taking their place at the crease within three minutes of their partner.
There are many more nuances and sequences of play which make cricket a fascinating game. But, remember, this is a gentleman’s game and the umpire’s decision remains final!