Manfriend’s Mumblings | Sports Chat: Cricket

Ever heard people describe sports as boring, or say that nothing happens? It kind of frustrates an avid sports lover such as myself. Especially when those aforementioned people will happily waste hours playing useless phone games or watching pointless TV shows for the sake of entertainment.

So, why defend sports off the “bat”? The simple reason is, most people who hear the word cricket will immediately say:

“It’s so boring!”
“Some of the players don’t do anything!”
“Five days?!”

All, very educated responses, obviously, especially as they are given after a gargantuan two minutes of hearing about the sport. (All that is needed for a valuable opinion nowadays.) Yet, for over two billion people – a number taken from a very creditable source: Manfriend’s mind – it’s a huge deal. Of course, Indians do make up the majority of that number.

If you are from one of the Commonwealth countries – India, Australia, South Africa etc. –  then you are familiar with the sport. It was designed by the British in the late 16th century – another sport we created and then allowed others to be better at. Yet cricket is an unknown in Russia, China and the U.S.

Now, there are three versions of the game: test match; one-day; Twenty20 (T20). I’ve always dreamed of explaining the test match to Americans and seeing their facial expressions when they find out that it takes five days and can still finish as a draw. Telling Americans that a sporting event can finish as a draw is worse than insulting them, or on par, at least. Of course, the test match is the true form of the game, but let’s begin with baby steps.

I appreciate that many people will compare cricket to baseball, but that would be silly. So, let’s look at the basics first, fielding positions.

Cricketfieldingpositions
(Via WikiCommons)

There are two positions that never change: the wicket keeper (similar to a catcher,) who is the only player that wears gloves; the bowler, who delivers the ball. Even though the two positions never change, the bowling personnel does after every six legal deliveries. This is known as an over. The types of bowlers available throughout the world of cricket are as follows:

 

  • Fast bowler
  • Swing bowler
  • Medium pace bowler
  • Off-spin bowler
  • Leg spinner
  • Wrist spinner

Do remember that every one of these bowlers have different variations of what they do, making some of them almost impossible to hit. Also, most of the spinners have a bowling action that is very difficult to read, which causes problems for the batsmen, as they don’t really know which way the ball is going to spin.

The remaining nine players are controlled by the captain. In no other sport is the captain more important than in cricket. He needs to select the next bowler and advise on what he wants from him, as well as arrange the field in order to get the batsman out.

cricketbatter1
(Via Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Flickr page) “Royal Challengers Bangalore player AB De Villiers plays a shot during match 57 of the Indian Premier League 2012 between The Pune Warriors India and the Royal Challengers Bangalore.” https://www.flickr.com/photos/royalchallengers/8009082874

So, how do you score runs? Well, there are quite a few ways. A batsman can hit the ball and then run. A run is scored when the two batsman, one of them facing the bowler and the other at the non-striker’s end, run to other end. If both batsman get to the ‘popping crease’ at the other end, then it constitutes a run. You must remember that there’s a fielding team that’s retrieving the ball, so you better make it quick. You can also score a run if the bowler sends down a wide delivery, oversteps the popping crease (no ball) or if the bowler bowls it so short that the ball bounces over the head of the batsman by a considerable margin.

cricketball
(Via WikiCommons)

If that’s not exciting enough, then you can smack the ball out of the field. All around the playing field there is a boundary rope. If the batsman hits the small leather ball that’s stuffed with cork, and it bounces inside the field before going out of bounds, then that’s four runs. If it goes out without bouncing, then it’s six. The batsman will continue to accumulate runs until he is out.

So, how do you get a player out?

  • He can be bowled out, when the ball is delivered and it hits the wickets.
  • The ball is caught. Self explanatory.
  • He’s stumped. If a batsman misses the ball and happens to be outside of the popping crease, then the wicketkeeper can catch the ball and hit the wickets immediately, resulting in a stumping.
  • They’re run out. A fielder will hit the wickets with a throw before the batsman completes a run.
  • A hit wicket. The unfortunate time when a batsman hits his own wickets with his bat or body part.
  • LBW (leg before wicket). If you decide to stop the ball from hitting your wickets by using your legs as an obstacle, then you can also be out.
Cricketpitchmswd
(Via WikiCommons)

Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s move on.

Despite the lore and magnitude of international cricket, I want to introduce a domestic competition to you instead: the IPL (Indian Premier League). As previously mentioned the Indians are crazy about their cricket. In a country of over 1.5 billion people, it’s their No. 1 sport, and they know how to put on a show.

 

To begin with, there’s the player auction. I realise this sounds like something from the Dark Ages, with people being auctioned off to the highest bidder. In this case, though, the money goes to the player and not to his agent. So how does this work? Any player who wants to take part in the IPL puts their name into a pool and waits to find out if any of the eight franchise owners are willing to put in a bid.

The kind of bids that are going around are mind-boggling. Basically, it’s a group of rich people who buy their favorite players for their own team. I bet you’re wondering how much the top bid was. Well, it was for the English all-rounder – a term used to describe someone who can bat and bowl – Ben Stokes. He fetched a whopping 125,000,000 Indian Rupees (£1,364,748 €1,560,938 $1,837,833, as of 20.05.2018). That’s a lot of money for a player who I never expected to be a leading star at the tournament (and I can confirm that I was very much correct). I hope the Rajasthan Royals kept the receipt.

Once all of that is over, the tournament begins. Eight franchises, located all across India, play home and away, totaling 14 games per team, with the top four advancing to the knockout stages. No other competition, in any sport, is as hotly contested as the IPL. This year, the pre-tournament favorite, Royal Challengers Bangalore, ended up finishing 6th.

Check out the final table.

After numerous tight games, amazing displays of batting, bowling, incredible fielding and catches that leave you open-mouthed, you’re left with just four teams. This year, those include: my favourites, Sunrisers Hyderabad; Chennai Super Kings, captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a man who is a legend in India – think Lebron James, David Beckham and Stephen Hawking all in one; Kolkata Knight Riders; Rajasthan Royals, who are going to be without the aforementioned Ben Stokes and fellow Englishman Jos Buttler. Both had to return to join up with the English National team.

So how does the knockout work? Well, this year, the top two in the group stage play on May 22nd at 9 p.m. IST (Indian Summer Time). This is Qualifier 1. The winner goes straight to the final. May 23rd sees Eliminator 1 between the teams who have finished 3rd and 4th respectively. The loser is out, and the winner goes through to Qualifier 2, played on May 25th, against the team who lost in Qualifier 1, for a chance to make it to the final on May 27th.

If all of this doesn’t help get your interest, then maybe you would be interested in knowing: during the matches, there are dancers performing around the field; the commentators are hilarious; there are some amazing names on show. Unfortunately, Jasprit Bumrah and Mandeep Singh and Ankit Rajpoot are out, but Apporv Wankhade (pronounced: wank-ha-day) could still feature. *insert immature giggles at players’ names*

This sport is full of skill, power hitting, clever bowling and magnificent banter. Nothing beats the sound of a ball coming off the middle of the bat, and being followed by an excited middle aged man shouting, “Woooooah, what a shot that is … ” Still not convinced? Then why not watch a few highlights and see what you think? It will take less of your time than it took to read this article.

Highlights from the IPL.

Magic Moments from the IPL.


A huge thanks to Manfriend for walking us through cricket. Keep your eye out for more sports updates. Have other sports you’d like to hear more about? Write us, and we’ll set Manfriend on it!

Manfriend’s Mumblings | Sports Chat: Snooker

Fifteen balls. One cue. Six pockets.

No, not what you’re thinking …

I’m talking about pool.

Pool’s a great game to play with friends while having a few libations, and then giggling at the detrimental effect those drinks have on you both. Your ability to see straight, make the right choices and actually make a shot become more of a feat. It’s okay, as you are having fun. Though that’s not what can be said for the two people sat waiting for you to finish, as they have the table next. If you’re not sure who those waiting are, just take a look around; it’s easy to spot them. They (probably) look very annoyed, on the verge of killing you after every easy shot you miss.

Fifteen minutes later, the black is somehow potted and your game is over. You look around and shout, “Who’s next?” only to realize that everybody has died waiting, or, more likely, got sick of waiting and left. So you look back at your partner with a smile. “Fancy another?”

And the game starts all over again …

Now, imagine if: the table was much bigger; there were more balls; you had to follow a certain order when potting some of the balls. If this sounds great to you – and there’s no reason it shouldn’t – then you should take up the awesome sport of snooker!

snooker table set up
The most “standard” pool table size is 9 feet by 4.5 feet. A full size snooker table is 12 feet by 6 feet. (via WikiCommons)

 

I presume some of you are doubting the gargantuan size of this table, while others are wondering how it’s possible to reach some of the shots that need to be played. Don’t worry, we have additional equipment.

I am aware pool has a rest, too. However, in pool, it’s very rarely used and many people actively avoid using it. In snooker, you have no choice but to use it. I also realize that none of these are long enough to reach shots at the other end of the table, which is why there are also a variety of cue extensions that can be used, and also a long rest.

That’s enough about the table.

So, how do you win? Well, you need to score more points than your opponent. Easy, right? Not really. Basic rules: Different-colour balls equate to different point values.

Red = 1
Yellow = 2
Green = 3
Brown = 4
Blue = 5
Pink = 6
Black = 7

There are 15 reds in total, as you can see from the image provided above. The idea of the game is to pot a red, followed by a color and keep doing this for as long as possible. This is referred to as a “break.” WHEN a player misses, the returning player will attempt to pot a red, even if their opponent missed a “color” ball. Once all the reds are cleared off the table, the players must pot the balls in order of ascending value, finishing with the black ball.

It is very rare that a frame – the name given to each game – will ever get to the black ball, because one of the players will usually concede once it is mathematically impossible to catch up. Yes, I did write usually, because it is possible to “snooker” a player. This means you hit a strategic shot that results in the cue ball having no clear path to the object ball.  The reason for doing this? Well, if the snookered player misses the object ball, then the snookering player is awarded 4 points (5, 6 or 7 points if the foul is committed while attempting the blue, pink or black, or if one of those high-scoring balls are hit by accident). Why? You’ve got it! They are now mathematically able to catch the leading player.

For example: If you are going for red, but you hit pink: that’s 6 points to your opponent. If you’re going for red and you miss every ball? That’s 4 points. What happens if the cue ball goes into the pocket? That’s 4 points to them, and they get ball in hand. However, “ball in hand” in snooker means you can put it anywhere within the confines of the “D” at the far end of the table, leaving you with a tough shot at the reds that are waiting at the other end of the world. 

It can be a frustrating game for mere mortals like myself. However, watching the gods of snooker break-build is truly mesmerising. The highest break you can amass is 147 – accomplished by potting all 15 reds with blacks, then potting all of the colors in the correct sequence. It may sound impossible to do, yet in this video, you’ll see a snooker god in action. Pure genius.

 

You’re probably thinking that you could sink every one of those pots. That may be true, but would you be able to get the ball in the correct position every time? Or break up the cluster the way he does? Or play as quickly as he does? Could you do all three at the same time during the World Championships?

Unless Ronnie O’Sullivan is reading this article, which he might be, then I don’t believe you! He is a player that others have stopped mid-play so they can watch him compile a 147 break. Don’t believe me? Watch his 147 break at the U.K. Championships. Want to see his other 147’s? No problem – he has 14 and counting. That’s three more than the retired Stephen Hendry, and six more than John Higgins. (Obviously you all know who they are … )

If you are still not convinced by the difficulty of this sport, then go try it. My highest break is 53, which is not great for snooker, yet I can clear up a pool table effortlessly.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of snooker is not the break-building but the safety play. Playing a shot that puts your opponent in a spot of bother, forcing them to have to take on a risky pot, or trying an outlandish safety shot fascinates me. Seeing their opponent sweat, knowing that hitting the object ball is not good enough. You have to hit the ball, and get it safe.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, it happens to be the latter stages of the Snooker World Championship. Unfortunately, Ronnie got beat in the quarters by Ali Carter, who I met in person at Beijing Capital Airport at the beginning of April. He was in town for the China Open. Despite Ronnie’s absence, there are a very talented group of cue handlers left to entertain the snooker fans around the world.

This sport is hugely relaxing to watch, doesn’t require your full attention, and is much more interesting than pool. Just be aware that a single frame lasts around 15 minutes on average – 45 minutes when Alexandra and I play – and the final is first to 18 frames. Don’t worry, it’s played over four sessions, split over two days, and unlike the players, you’re allowed to head to the bathroom whenever you want. (It’s always funny to see a grown man look at the referee and ask to go to the toilet, and then watch as the referee asks the other player if it’s okay, all while the initial player is close to wetting himself. That’s why they are told to go between frames and not during.)

Snooker really is a true test of mental strength, hand-eye coordination, stamina and bladder control. You never know – you or your family member might become the next world champion!

P.S. If you fancy a game, then do learn the:

  • “Foul and a Miss” rule. It’s more frustrating than the offside rule in football. (You know what what football I’m talking about).
  • Free-ball rule.
  • Re-rack rule.

As we’re all experts now, I expect snooker halls around the world to surge with players in the next few weeks. … OK, perhaps I’ve taken it too far. But as a true novice myself (this is Alexandra speaking … erm, typing) I can attest to the addictive nature of this incredibly difficult sport.

By the way, this is just the start of Manfriend’s regular appearances on this blog. Keep your eye out for more than (brilliant) sports explainers – though there will be a fair share of those, too!