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Cricket is like a woman

Published:Saturday | May 28, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal, Gleaner Writer

For my PAHO friend and colleague David Taylor, who was there that day with Mike Nathan Hugo Martinez from Cuba who was watching his first cricket match, and me. RIP David. The Almighty must have a cricket ground in Heaven - probably known as Lord's.

THOSE PEOPLE who, proud of their intestinal and testicular fortitude, cling steadfastly to the belief that it is not over until it's over, have ignored the strange lexicon, practices, customs, traditions and rituals of the game of cricket.

In cricket, even though it's over, and the officials in charge confirm that it is over, it is never really over since it is generally the start of another over which does not mean that when that over is over, the whole thing would really be over. Yet, it is not the same thing over and over again, although sometimes, like when the Indians batted slowly and painfully in Trinidad, or when Geoff Boycott is the commentator, it seems that way.

My American friend Jim, a great baseball fan, was befuddled. "Why are those guys in white? They look like ice cream salesmen," he commented. "That is the tradition," I responded. "Cricketers wear white for Test matches." "Why do you call it a Test match?" "Well," I said a trifle testily, my patience sorely tested, "that is the tradition. When two countries are playing each other, it is called a Test match."

"Why are those guys in white coats? Are they doctors?" he asked, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of a brawl. "I always thought that cricket was a sissy game." "No," I said. "Baseball is. It started from a game that girls play called rounders." He mused on this for a while. Holding started pacing out his run and began his long walk to his bowling marker. "Why is that guy leaving?" he asked. "The game hasn't even started." "He isn't leaving," I said. "He is just going to the point from which he starts his run-up to bowl." "Bowl?" he asked, again, puzzled. "I thought this was cricket. Are those three sticks the pins?"

I patiently explained that in cricket we call what he calls the 'pitcher' the 'bowler'. The latter, while it can also be a kind of hat, is not one, and in English a 'pitcher' is a large vessel or jug that is used to hold water or other refreshments. The sticks are the stumps and three stumps make a wicket. But unless there are bails on them, they're not really a wicket. "Hey! That's cool," he said in admiration. "It really isn't a sissy game if you need bails to play cricket. I suppose that's why there are so many policemen around the ground. And all the time I thought they were just loafing around." "That's right," I concurred. "It's a tough game. In addition to bails, you also need balls."

Holding delivered. The batsman, Boycott, played and missed. "What a pitch!" he exclaimed.

"That is not a pitch," I told him. "We call that a ball. The pitch is the bit of ground where the wickets are." He was mystified. "I thought that the ball was the red thing in his hand which he pitched at the guy with the funny bat." "Yes," I said. "But when he bowls it, we also say it is a good ball or bad ball depending on where it pitches." "But I thought you said the pitch is the ground where the wickets are?" I was stumped.


The slips went down for the next delivery. "Why do you need so many shortstops?" he asked.

"They're not shortstops," I explained. "They're slips." "Slips?" he asked, perplexed. "Yes," I said. "Cricket is like a woman. Centuries ago when cricket started, women dressed differently.

"They wore many garments. This is why we have first, second and third slip, cover, extra cover, mid on and long on. Because cricket is like a woman, it also explains why we have long leg and fine leg, square leg and short leg. It is also why it is a game of glorious uncertainties."

Holding bowled again. Again Boycott, nervously bobbing and weaving like a Trinidad pirogue being chased by a Venezuelan coastguard cutter, played and missed. "Three strikes," Jim said. "He's out." "No," I explained. "He's not out yet. To be out he must be caught, bowled, run out, hit wicket, stumped, or adjudged lbw." "What's that?" he asked. "That's leg before wicket. If the ball hits your leg when it would have hit the wicket, you're out." "What about if it hits some other part of your body, say like your head, is that hbw?" "No," I replied patiently. "It is still lbw."

"When a batter is hit in baseball, he walks," Jim said. "When a batsman is out in cricket, he walks," I said. At that point, Boycott walked and Jim, looking at him intently, said, "What a weird-looking guy." "That's what happens," I explained, "when you play too much cricket without a helmet." At that point the umpire said, "Over" and Jim got up to leave.

Tony Deyal was last seen collecting on a bet that he had seen snow fall in Trinidad. True! However, it was John Snow the English bowler and he fell diving to save a four during a Test match at the Oval.