|More Than a Game|
|The Aussies - World Champions|
|My Heroes - Captains All|
Cricket is another of these games that the British spread to the colonies who thank them by beating them on a regular basis! Its also pretty hard to describe to the uninitiated, being in some ways more an art form than a sport. I guess in this way the mystique of cricket is similar to that surrounding baseball - for the countries where it is king it is more than a game - its a way of life.
The most interesting thing about cricket in Australia is that it is the only major team sport that brings the whole country together. A strong domestic competition exists but this pales into insignificance every summer when the international season begins. Of course being a world game our boys (and girls) play it pretty much all year round however for us the highlight is every summer when one or two other teams journey down under to take on our best.
The game is played on an oval or ground and there are eleven players on each team. Everyone gets to bat and anyone can bowl except the wicketkeeper who stands behind the wickets as a catcher would in baseball. Usually individuals specialise in one skill or the other, i.e. batting or bowling, however some do both and are known as all-rounders.
There are eleven players on each side and the usual team make up is about 6 batsmen (including one or two that can bowl), a wicketkeeper and 4 bowlers. However this may vary according to the talent available and also depending upon the type of game (test or one day) and the condition of the pitch (batsmen's wicket, favours spin, favours fast bowling etc).
The batsmen are classified by where they bat in the order. For example the two that go in first are known as the openers, the next in (i.e. number 3 on the list) is often said to be going in at "first drop", those that follow are middle order batsmen. Different skills are required in each position and also of course depending on the situation of the game.
The bowlers are classified by the way they bowl. There are fast bowlers, medium pacers (and fast medium), swing bowlers (swing the ball through the air), and spinners or slow bowlers. There are also sub classifications for spinners depending on the way they spin the ball - leg spinners (spins from leg to off), off spinners (opposite) and left arm spinners.
Batsmen bat in pairs but only one gets out at a time. Therefore "all out" (end of the innings) means that 10 batsmen have been dismissed. Batsmen stand in front of three sticks called 'wickets' or 'stumps' with two 'bails' on top. They score runs by hitting the ball and running to the other end of the pitch, or by hitting the ball to (4 runs) or over (6 runs) the fence.
Bowlers bowl 'overs' of 6 balls each and cannot bowl more than one over at a time. The bowling (and therefore batting) end is changed after each over. Their object is to get the bowler out or to restrict their runs. When not bowling, players of the non-batting team are on the field and are referred to as fielders.
There are many ways to be dismissed (i.e. to get out) including:
|bowled - the ball hits the stumps|
|caught - by bowler, fielder or wicketkeeper|
|stumped - batsmen is out of his 'crease' (batting area) when the wicket keeper hits the stumps with the ball.|
|run out - similar to above but occurs when attempting a run and the wicket is usually hit by a fielder.|
|hit wicket - the batsman hits the wicket with his bat or body|
For more detailed rules you can check out the Cricinfo site.
There are two forms of cricket, test cricket and one day. Test cricket lasts for five days and each side bats twice. There is no time limit to each innings - each lasts until 10 batsmen are out. In one day cricket, which is often played at night (pictured) each side gets 50 overs in which to make as many runs as possible. If 10 batsmen are dismissed before the 50 overs are up that's the end of their innings. There are differences in tactics between the two games and Australia and many other nations often pick different teams for each form of the day.
One day cricket is perhaps the most popular form of the game for the average spectator. Runs flow more freely and the game is over much more quickly which suits the attention span of today's youth and those who are not pure cricket aficionados.
The Aussies are world champions in one day cricket for both men (1999) and women (2001). Unfortunately the girls as usual did not get the recognition they deserved but the men became national heroes.
The victory by the Aussie men in the last World Cup was one of the most exciting moments in Australian cricket history. The team came from behind after a poor start to the tournament and endured immense pressure, particularly from the South Africans to take out the big one. The semi-final against SA was one of the most exciting games I have ever seen with the balance shifting continuously. The game fittingly ended in a draw (see celebrations at the top of the page) but the Aussies went into the final as they had won a previous game against SA. In the final they quickly polished off Pakistan to earn the right to hoist the cup (pictured - photos from Cricinfo).
Although there is no official world championship of test cricket, the Aussies would go pretty close to holding that honour too. Over the past few years they set the biggest winning streak ever in Test cricket. They are still No.1 in the rankings and were named Laureus World Sports "Team of the Year" for 2002 - an amazing honour.
It is said that the position of Australian Cricket Captain is second only to the Prime Minister as the most important office in the land. Is it any wonder then that all of my cricket heroes have captained our country.
Ian 'Chappelli' Chappell was the captain of Australia during my formative years and being also the South Australian captain it was natural that he became my first cricket hero. He nearly lost me as a fan when he refused to sign his book for me one year when I was a cricket groupie but I concluded that he must have been busy. An outspoken, larger than life character he had a pretty decent career batting average of 42.2 coming in at first drop and also bowled some leg spin. His greatest skill was his leadership abilities. He was an aggressive captain who took Australia through some very competitive years in the mid 70s and kept us up near the top of the world. Chappelli is now a commentator with Channel 9.
Allan 'AB' Border is one of Australian cricket's legends and already a Hall of Famer. He is the greatest run maker in test cricket history with a total of 11, 174 runs from 156 tests. He captained Australia in 93 of these tests, also a record. He took over the captaincy when Australian cricket was at an all time low and gradually brought us up to the top, winning us back the Ashes (v England) in 1989 and we haven't lost them since. He was a tenacious fighter and always seemed to be the player making the last stand when Australia was in trouble.
Steve 'I want to have his babies but someone got in before me' Waugh is the current Aussie captain and took over my affections when AB retired. He is an excellent middle order batsman and is also a rather effective medium pace bowler. He has been rated as the best batsman in the world on a number of occasions and has a average of around the 50 mark (50.43 at present). He took over the captaincy last year upon the retirement of Mark 'Tubby' Taylor and continued the good work of his predecessor. Steve also appears to be an excellent leader and is also a man who respects the tradition of the game. You never see him take the field for a test match in anything but the famous Australian baggy green cap. I admire him greatly for all of these qualities and also because he DID sign my book for me this past summer even though he was busy.
This is a pic of Steve during his record breaking century v India, December 1999. He became the first man to register centuries against all test playing nations, pipping his twin brother Mark at the post.
I couldn't have a cricket page and not mention 'The Don', Sir Donald Bradman. He is an absolute, bona fide legend in world cricket and we claim him as "South Australia's own" even though he was born in NSW. No-one, not even Wisdens the cricket bible, can put together a list of all time great crickets without him being at the very top of the list. Most good batsmen have an average of around 50. Sir Don's average was 99.94. The legend goes that he only needed 4 more runs in his last innings to make his average 100 however he was out before scoring. I guess no-one could be that perfect! The Don also captained Australia in the 1940s, including the 1948 'Invincibles' team - perhaps still the best team ever to come out of this country. He was the ultimate cricketer. Sir Don passed away in 2001 aged 92.
For more on Sir Donald Bradman, check out the following sites:
|BBC Tribute - includes footage of his exemplary technique|
|The Cricinfo Bradman Page - facts and figures of this remarkable career.|
|Cricinfo - the ultimate cricket site|
|International Cricket Hall of Fame|
|Baggy Green.com - the online home of Australian Cricket|
|Women's cricket - official Australian site. Other information can be found at the Cricinfo section on Women|
|The Greg Chappell Cricket Centre - has a great links section|
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