July 25, 2006


I present, for your enjoyment, an excerpt from Bill Bryson's In A Sunburned Country.

"Eventually, the random dial presented only an uninterrupted cat's hiss of static but for one clear spot near the end of the dial. At first I thought that's all it was - just an empty clear spot - but then I realized I could hear the faint shiftings and stirrings of seated people, and after quite a pause, a voice, calm and reflective, said:

"Pilchard begins his long run in from short stump. He bowls and ... oh, he's out! Yes, he's got him. Longwilly is caught leg-before in middle slops by Grattan. Well, now what do you make of that, Neville?"

"That's definitely one for the books, Bruce. I don't think I've seen offside medium-slow fast-pace bowling to match it since Baden-Powell took Rangachangabanga for a maiden ovary at Bangaldore in 1948."

I had stumbled into the surreal and rewarding world of Cricket on the radio.

After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport where spectators burn as many calories as players - more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.

Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it out to center field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to handle radioactive isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if the batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattresses strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and everyone retireshappily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket."

In a Sunburned Country, pgs. 105-106


Priscilla said...

Hmmmm....sounds real entertaining! By the way...baking can be quite messy at times!

shawna said...

Oooohhhh, I must protest. I actually enjoy cricket -- usually the last 20 min are the best, and admittedly it is a very long game, especially Test cricket that lasts 5 days. As far as the padding goes, those balls are very hard and they are thrown very fast... ouch, and come on, they dont "waddle" they actually run quite well for being so padded up. And the ability of the players and the plays they make are quite impressive if you sit down and watch. I would say its more a matter of a game is boring until you learn the rules and can appreciate the skill that is involved. Ok I've had my winge :)