Cricket and Baseball: Two Cousins
Do you know both?
- Gaurav Marwah
March 2003

    Are you one among many people passing by the drill field for a nice evening stroll; watching some folks playing baseball in a very strange fashion. You might have wondered what sort of baseball is this; well if you dont already know, the game you probably watched is cricket.

    Cricket is a sport that is played in over 60 countries, most of which are British Commonwealth nations. It has a fan following of over a billion people that is matched only by soccer. Cricket is fast gaining popularity in America. As a matter of fact, Canada qualified and participated in the recently held world cup in South Africa during February-March 2003. United states is also emerging as a strong cricketing nation in American continent, which is evident from the fact that US won the Americas Championship held in Argentina during March 2002, and included teams from Canada and Argentina among others. Going by the progress of cricket in US (which is an associate member of International Cricket Council), my guess is that it will soon qualify for the world cup in coming years.

    It should not come as a surprise; if I tell you that cricket shares a common ancestry with baseball, which dates back to the advent of English immigrants in New York area during the early part of eighteenth century. These immigrants most of whom were elite businessman and high ranking officers brought with them the tradition of cricket which was considered a gentlemans game at that time and still is in some sense of the term.

    In fact, the first cricket clubs in the US were formed during the early 1700s not long after their first appearance in England. The tradition of cricket thrived in US for over 150 years. We must be proud to know that US participated in the first international cricket match that was played between USA and Canada in 1845 at Bloomingdale Park in New York and was attended by nearly 10,000 spectators. It was the first international sporting event of the modern world, predating the first Olympic games by almost 50 years.

    Sadly though, cricket in the US remained an elite amateur sport, while other countries such as England and Australia were developing as professional cricketing nations. At that time US was a strong cricketing nation, in fact top players from US could have competed with the best in the world, however the progress of cricket in USA was slow as compared to some of the other cricketing nations and this led to decline in its popularity in the late nineteenth and most of twentieth century.

    Urbanization also had a role to play in it. It brought with it the limitation of space and time. This led to simpler version of cricket called the townball and the rounders, which became very popular with the urban crowds in the US and latter formed the basis for the development of modern day baseball.

    That should explain the similarity between baseball and cricket, both of which have the same concept of hitters and pitchers and their similar roles. Both these games require similar skills such as good hand-eye coordination, strong arms, and speed of judgment. However, at a finer level these are two very different games, requiring additional set of skills. Baseball requires more strength on part of the players; on the other hand cricket is a game that requires more of patience and strategy development abilities.

    You might be wondering, what then is the biggest difference that sets the two games apart? The answer to this is that cricket is a varied game that provides a lot of options to the players. Imagine the fun as a hitter if you were allowed to hit in any direction you wanted to hit and that too with a flat bat, I bet you would be thinking of making life very difficult for pitchers. But, what if you are a pitcher and are allowed to pitch the ball in air or on ground. That will provide a third dimension of bounce to your armory in addition to the swing. Well life after all, does not seem that difficult for pitchers now. As a runner wont you enjoy the option of running at your own discretion and not every time the ball is hit.

A few lines from a 1772 poem here appropriately depict the game:

Ye bowlers take heed, to my precepts attend,
On you the whole state of the game must depend,
Spare your vigour at first nor exert all your strength,
But measure each step, and be sure pitch a length.
Ye strikers observe when the foe shall draw nigh,
Mark the bowler advance with a vigilant eye;
Your skill all depends upon distance and sight,
Stand firm to your scratch, let your bat be upright.

    Surely, by now some of you might be eager to try a hand at this game. Well here are your opportunities now. The recently formed MSU cricket club (MSUCC) is planning to organize a special cricket clinic on Thursday, the 10th of April at the Drill field from 1:00 pm till 5:00 pm. In addition, the club will organize an introductory session on Saturday April the 5th, at FIESTA 2003 where some of the cricketing equipment will be displayed. The club also has plans for holding intramural tournaments and home and away series with other universities. The Universitys landscape department will be preparing a pitch for the MSUCC at old intramural ground. As a matter of interest, MSUCC recently won a home series against University of Alabama at Huntsville. The club also organized an intramural tournament in spring in which over 50 players participated from six different teams.

    I would say, that if you know one of these two games, chances are you would enjoy the variations provided by the other game. I know cricket pretty well, and am certainly looking forward to try a hand at baseball sometime soon. If you are interested in knowing more about cricket at MSU, then watch for MSUCC at Fiesta 2003.