English | Dutch
Cricket for dummies … like us!
Colombo (Sri Lanka), March 6th 2011

The Indian Subcontinent is mad about cricket and we happen to visit Sri Lanka at the moment that they are co-hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Regularly, we are complimented about the accomplishments of our Dutch team in the match against England. Apparently, we have only lost by a few “runs” and our star player Ryan van Doeschate is said to be a good bowler and a good batter. During this kind of conversations, we normally just nod and smile sheepishly. Cricket isn’t popular in The Netherlands, and until we came to Sri Lanka we had never heard of Ryan van Doeschate. In our country there are around 5000 people who play the game and the others aren’t interested in “wickets”, “runs” or “overs”. We like soccer better and with the slogan of Johan Cruijff in our minds: “If you want to win, you have to score one more goal than your opponent”, it is also a lot easier to understand.

Until the day before yesterday, we belonged to people who couldn’t be bothered by the game of cricket. We have cursed the sport programs of the BBC World Service more than once, because they are almost entirely about cricket. “Who wants to see that?” was our thought. When we heard that we had to wait three days to get the permit to go to Jaffna, our thoughts about cricket changed a bit. Because of these extra days in Colombo, we have the opportunity to see the World Cup game between Pakistan and Canada in the Premadase International Cricket Stadium. The ticket prices are very reasonable; it only sets us back 250 LKR (EUR 1,70) per person and for this amount you get good seats. The game between Pakistan and Canada is the only one we can see in Colombo during these days. The World Cup is hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka which means that the cities where the games are played rotate. Pakistan is said to be a good team, so we hope that this is a nice game to catch the cricket virus.

A moment from the game between Canada and Pakistan

After we got the tickets, the first thing we did was a marathon session in an internet café to learn the rules of cricket. In the end, the team that makes most runs during its batting period will be the winner. The team that bats sends two batters in the field. Both men stand in front of three poles that are 20 meters away from each other. After one of the batters has hit the ball, both batters cross over to the other side (one run) and if the ball is still far away they attempt another run. They have to be careful, however, to reach the poles before the fielding team can bowl the poles over that they try to reach. If the fielding team does this, the batter is “out” and this is called a wicket. There are several ways to cause a wicket, but the most usual one is when bowler bowls the poles down because the batter misses the ball that he is trying to hit (or when the batter prevents the poles from falling, by blocking the ball with his legs). These wickets are important, because a batting period takes a maximum of 50 “overs” (6 correctly thrown balls) OR until there are 10 wickets. Hence, a team has eleven players and with ten players out of the game, there is no couple of batters left to make runs. For a more complete overview of the rules of the game, see: here.

On March 3rd the moment is there. We are going to our first real cricket match and we have already taken sides; we cheer for Pakistan! The Pakistani people have made a very friendly and hospitable impression when we visited Pakistan in 2008 and we hope that they win the World Cup. We have bought a real Pakistan Cricket cap for Edwin and Ivonne has two flags on her cheeks. After receiving a flag of one of the sponsors, our outfit is complete. Because of the colour of our skin, most other spectators find it strange that we back Pakistan but as soon as they hear our reasons for choosing the Pakistani they are convinced. The game starts at 14:30 hours. Pakistan wins the toss and chooses to bat first. It doesn’t go well for our team as they seldom can hit the ball far away. When supporting the batting team, you hope for “boundaries”. If the ball reaches the boundary of the field, the batters get four runs without running and if the ball gets there without bouncing, they even get six runs. The Pakistanis don’t hit many boundaries this game and the wickets are also falling quickly. The other Pakistan fans aren’t looking as worried as we do, probably because they know that their hero is still waiting to come in action. They are going wild when the captain “Afridi” gets into the field. While many cricketers are specialized in batting or bowling, Afridi is a master in both. This man is clearly the reason why the Sri Lankans are backing Pakistan. Certainly it isn’t a Sri Lankan and he has had an important role in beating Sri Lanka a few days ago, but for the crowds this is a living cricket hero. Unfortunately for Pakistan (and also for us), Afridi isn’t lucky batting today. He does hit some nice balls, but his wicket falls fairly quick. When the tenth wickets falls, Pakistan has 184 runs. We aren’t experts, but we expect the worst as we have seen on television that some teams reach 300 runs.

Dark clouds above the Cricket stadium in Colombo
The batting period of Pakistan has taken three and a half hours. Cricket is definitely no sport for when you are in a hurry. The stadium fills up a bit more when Canada starts batting. This final period is more thrilling to watch. Canada is chasing 185 runs before they lose all their “overs” and wickets. Pakistan is still confident that they can prevent Canada’s team from doing so. Every “over” they are obliged to change their bowler and it is nice to see the different styles that these men have. Some throw the ball hard (147 km/hour) while others throw soft and with lots of effect. They all prevent Canada from making a lot of runs, but the ultimate star of this evening is Afridi. He doesn’t throw the ball very hard, but he throws very precise. He sends five batters home and with every wicket, his status rises. To become a cricket hero you have to be an extreme good batter OR a very good bowler; Afridi is both. He is a kind of Ryan van Doeschate but then times 100!

After seven hours, we leave the stadium with big smiles on our faces. Pakistan won with 43 runs and we have experienced that cricket doesn’t only takes a very long time, but that it can also be an exciting sport. We keep our opinion that the BBC should invest more in the television rights of the international soccer games but we can now finally understand what people attracts to cricket. The combination of ball technique and team tactics is important and as a spectator you are constantly calculating whether everything is going well for your team. As a neutral spectator it still seems a bit dull to us, but once you have taken sides it is an exciting way of spending many hours.


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