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Episode
161

A Short History of Cricket

May 25, 2021
How Stuff Works
-
22
minutes
Sports
England
Life in the UK
Great Britain
The British Empire
India
Weird history

It's a quintessentially English game with an army of devoted fans across the globe.

But where does it come from? How does cricket actually work? How did it become India's favourite sport? And are cricketers really as well behaved as you might think?

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about cricket.

[00:00:28] Now, because you are most likely not from the UK, the sport of cricket might seem a little strange.

[00:00:36] Perhaps you have no idea what it is.

[00:00:39] Or perhaps you have seen clips on TV or YouTube of people dressed in white on a large grass field running up and down after a ball, but you don’t really know what’s going on.

[00:00:53] In either case, in today’s episode we will learn about, and try to demystify this weird and wonderful game.

[00:01:02] It’s hard to think of a sport that is more quintessentially English than cricket, and I hope that in 20 minutes' time you’ll have a much better understanding of where it comes from, how cricket actually is played, some of the controversies that have surrounded the sport, and this will all help you understand why it is such a culturally important part of life in the UK.

[00:01:30] Right, we have a lot to learn about today, so let's get started.

[00:01:36] Let me start by telling the story of perhaps the most famous cricket match in recent English history, which gives you an idea about quite how strange this game is.

[00:01:49] On the 12th of September, 2005, 11 Englishmen stood in a very large green field.

[00:01:57] In the middle of the field were two Australians, each holding a large piece of wood.

[00:02:05] These men had been standing in 5 different fields across England for 21 days, watched by thousands of people in the crowds, and millions of people on TVs around the world, but mainly in England and Australia.

[00:02:21] A tall Englishman held a hard red ball in his hand, then ran fast towards one of the Australians, and threw the ball as fast as he could. 

[00:02:35] The ball flew towards the Australian at 145 km per hour. The Australian swung his bat, hit the ball slightly, lifting it up a little bit.

[00:02:48] Behind him stood an Englishman with very large gloves, who dived down to the ground to catch the ball. 

[00:02:57] He caught it, a man dressed in a white shirt and tie put up his finger, and the crowds went wild.

[00:03:06] Finally, the England team had won the game. 

[00:03:10] And what was their prize for this victory? 

[00:03:13] A very small wooden trophy, just 15cm high, containing some ash, the remains of some burnt wood.

[00:03:24] Now, when described like this the game of cricket doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

[00:03:31] But the beauty of cricket is that a lot of it doesn’t make much sense, and intentionally so, it doesn’t try to make much sense.

[00:03:41] This doesn’t stop it being one of the most popular sports in the UK, the most popular sport in the world’s second largest country, India, and a sport with hundreds of millions of devoted fans all over the world.

[00:03:56] I should say that I am not one of those massively devoted fans. I played cricket when I was younger, but was never very good at it. 

[00:04:05] I also started playing cricket in Scotland. 

[00:04:09] Cricket involves a lot of standing around waiting for things to happen, and if you are standing around for hours at a time wearing not very much in Scotland, well, you’ll get quite cold and probably not have a huge amount of fun.

[00:04:26] But this doesn’t stop one from admiring the sport, and it certainly should not stop you from understanding where it comes from, and why it is such a culturally significant part of life in the UK.

[00:04:41] So, where did it all begin?

[00:04:45] Its origins are obscure, but it seems that it was well underway in southern England by the second half of the 17th century. 

[00:04:54] Like theatre, dancing and gambling, it re-emerged with the Restoration of Charles II, the king nicknamed the Merry Monarch, in 1660.

[00:05:07] Before the return of Charles II, Britain had experienced two decades of rule by the Puritans, a group with hardline religious views who basically outlawed anything that was too much fun.

[00:05:23] Having too much fun was considered sinful, and therefore bright clothing, theatre, and enjoyable sports were off the menu.

[00:05:34] At this time, cricket involved the ball being rolled along the ground and hit with a rounded stick which would’ve looked a bit more like a modern hockey stick, a stick with a rounded end.

[00:05:49] The game was played by village teams in the south of England - villages would play each other, and as travel became easier, through developments like an improved railway network, cricket teams would be able to travel further to play against each other.

[00:06:08] From its early days, it was a game that attracted gambling, with people betting large amounts of money on the result of a game. 

[00:06:18] Indeed, in 1664 parliament had to pass a law limiting the amount that could be bet on a single cricket match. 

[00:06:28] The amount was £100, which is about €2,500 in today’s money. 

[00:06:35] It might not sound like a massive amount of money, but it was more than the annual wage of 99% of the country’s population at the time.

[00:06:46] This gives us a bit of an indication about who was playing the sport, or at least who was gambling on it. The wealthier people in society.

[00:06:57] Now, you might say, “obviously - the poorest people in society didn't have the time or money to play sport". 

[00:07:05] But it wasn’t only the rich who were playing.

[00:07:09] In the early days, there were actually two different categories of players. There was the so-called ‘amateur’ cricket player, and the ‘professional’ player.

[00:07:20] The ‘amateurs’ were the rich, the noble, players.

[00:07:25] The ‘professionals’ were the poorer, working-class players.

[00:07:30] The richer players realised that they needed the best quality players on their teams in order to have the best chance of winning their matches, and would therefore recruit cricket players from the lower social classes.

[00:07:46] But they would make sure that there was a clear distinction between the two. The amateurs wouldn’t be paid to play, they could only claim expenses, in theory at least.

[00:07:59] And the two different classes of players would even have separate changing rooms and dining facilities.

[00:08:08] This really gives you an idea about the strangeness of the game, and its relationship with the British social class system.

[00:08:18] Moving on to the development of cricket, it spread from the villages of southern England further north, and some of the most passionate cricketing regions can now be found in the north of the country.

[00:08:33] And, of course, with the British empire, it spread abroad, to the countries that Britain had colonised.

[00:08:41] The British soldiers and diplomats living in these countries often didn’t have a huge amount to do.

[00:08:49] The weather was good, and cricket was a leisurely sport, an activity that would take up quite a long time and not require a huge amount of physical effort. 

[00:09:02] It was no doubt quite a lot of fun to be outside in the sun for a few days at a time, only breaking for a large lunch, tea, and plenty of drinking when it was all over in the evening.

[00:09:16] Naturally, it became popular almost everywhere it was played.

[00:09:21] Indeed, the list of the top cricketing countries in the world has a large overlap with a list of ex-British colonies.

[00:09:30] It’s currently New Zealand, Australia, India, England, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, The West Indies, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

[00:09:41] It might sound like a strange game to have become so popular. 

[00:09:45] You do need a large space to play it, it takes quite a long time in general, and you need several people.

[00:09:53] If you contrast it to football, for example, with football you can have some fun playing it on your own or just with a few people, you only really need one ball, and you don’t need much space to do it.

[00:10:08] It is in many ways unlikely that cricket became so popular.

[00:10:14] But, you only need to go to a small Indian village to see how popular it really is. 

[00:10:21] Culturally, it is now incredibly important in countries such as India, and the sporting idol of a young Indian boy, the person who they would look up to the most, that person is more likely to be the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar than a footballer like Lionel Messi.

[00:10:42] Now, let’s briefly pause to discuss how cricket actually works. 

[00:10:48] It is a complicated game, and there are numerous rules, but I’ll provide you with an outline here.

[00:10:56] There are two teams, two sides.

[00:10:58] Each side has 11 players, so there are 22 players in total, but no more than 13 players are on the pitch at any one time.

[00:11:10] 11 from one side, which is doing what’s called ‘fielding’, and two from the other side, which is doing what’s called ‘batting’, they are trying to hit the ball.

[00:11:22] The remaining nine are sitting on the side, waiting their turn.

[00:11:27] Back on the pitch, which is technically called a cricket field, there is a piece of ground in the middle where all the action takes place.

[00:11:37] Long story short, one person from the fielding side runs up and throws the ball at one of the people on the batting side.

[00:11:48] That person tries to hit the ball as far as they can, away from all of the other players who are standing around trying to stop it.

[00:11:57] If they manage to hit it, they can choose to run up and down, and this is how they score points.

[00:12:05] They also have another objective, another goal, which is to stop the ball hitting three wooden sticks behind them.

[00:12:15] The aim of the person throwing the ball is to throw it so fast, or in such a complicated way that the person batting can’t hit it properly, and the ball either hits the sticks behind them, or they hit the ball into the air and one of the players on the other side catches it. 

[00:12:36] If the ball is caught by the other team, or if it hits the sticks behind them, the batsman is ‘out’, and is replaced by another player.

[00:12:47] Now, the rules are more complicated than that, but this is the general idea.

[00:12:53] What you may have noticed is that there are only a few people who are actively involved in every part of it, the rest are watching from a distance. 

[00:13:04] If you are on the team that is fielding, that is stopping the ball, yes you need to pay attention, but there is a lot of standing around until the ball comes your way.

[00:13:16] You could say that this is one of the reasons that cricket never became quite so popular in Scotland as it is in England, as anyone standing around waiting for something to happen is likely to get pretty cold.

[00:13:30] Another peculiarity about cricket is that it can take a very long time for anything to actually happen, for a team to win.

[00:13:41] There are different types of cricket matches, but the classic one is something called a ‘test’ match. 

[00:13:48] Now, with this type of cricket match it is possible to play for 5 days in a row and for there still to be no winner.

[00:13:58] And with some cricket matches they are really extended competitions. 

[00:14:04] With the one I mentioned at the start of the episode, which is called the Ashes, that can go on for 25 days in total and it’s possible for there still to be no winner.

[00:14:17] So, being a cricket fan does require some patience!

[00:14:22] Now, in terms of cricket today, and how things have developed since the early days of it being a sort of ‘two-tiered’ sport, it has retained a lot of its reputation of being a gentleman’s game.

[00:14:37] Unlike something like football, where some players might fall over to try to trick the referee and win a penalty, there was an unwritten rule that cricketers weren’t like this. 

[00:14:51] There was a code of honour, an unwritten law between players not to cheat, and to always remain honorable. 

[00:14:59] But, although cricket may have the reputation of being a ‘gentleman’s game’, there are numerous instances where it doesn’t live up to the name.

[00:15:11] Firstly, like in many sports, there have been multiple occasions of bribery and match-fixing, or players accepting money to change the outcome, the result of a match. 

[00:15:25] For some supposed gentlemen, the temptation of being paid large amounts of money to accidentally miss the ball proved too much.

[00:15:36] Secondly, it’s possible to cheat during the game. The most common way of doing this is by intentionally damaging the ball so that it moves in the air. 

[00:15:49] Back in 2018 two Australian cricketers received lengthy bans, they were forbidden of playing the sport for a long time, for using sandpaper to make one side of the ball rougher than the other.

[00:16:07] The explanation of what they were doing, and why, is that if there is one side of the ball that is a different texture to the other, as it moves through the air the resistance on one side of it is different to the other, meaning it will move in an unpredictable way, making it harder for the batsman to understand where it will finish.

[00:16:32] And the final not-so-gentlemanly act, which is really an ongoing thing, is something that hasn't stopped, is something called sledging.

[00:16:43] Now, if you look up the word ‘sledging’ in a dictionary, the first definition will probably be something like ‘go on a sledge’, which is the mode of transport most commonly associated with Father Christmas and winter sports.

[00:17:00] But in cricket sledging is something very different.

[00:17:05] It means to insult other players, to say rude things to them to try to distract them, to put them off, and cause them to make mistakes.

[00:17:16] Of course, this is something that happens in many sports, but in cricket it does tend to have a certain style to it, there is often something a little more witty and intelligent about it compared to straight-forward insults.

[00:17:33] But, I should add, it is against the rules of the sport, it is banned, and it does detract from the sportsmanship of the game.

[00:17:42] So, that is a brief history of the sport, and how it works.

[00:17:47] From a cultural perspective, you can find traces of cricket throughout British, and especially English, culture.

[00:17:55] Many English villages will have a cricket pitch, and the tradition of village cricket continues to this day, in fact it normally starts about when this podcast will be released in May.

[00:18:08] The Cricketers is a common name for a pub, and the pub in a village I used to live in was called The Cricketers.

[00:18:16] And for many people, even those who might not be avid cricket fans themselves, there is something slightly timeless about cricket, something about the sport that makes you imagine that its essence hasn’t changed so much from the days of The Restoration.

[00:18:34] Now, our final point to add is on its linguistic legacy, because cricket has also left its impression on the English language.

[00:18:45] Firstly, you might hear someone say that something is “just not cricket”. This means that it’s dishonest, or it’s unfair.

[00:18:55] This comes, of course, from cricket’s reputation as being a gentleman’s, honest sport.

[00:19:02] Secondly, you might hear the phrase “he had a good innings”. 

[00:19:07] An “innings” is the period of time where a cricket team plays, and so this means that “he had a good period of time doing something”. 

[00:19:16] It’s often used to describe someone’s life, so “my grandmother lived until she was 109 years old - she had a great innings”.

[00:19:26] And our final gift from cricket to the English language, which is probably the most common of the three, and most people wouldn’t know comes from cricket, is to say that someone did something “off their own bat”.

[00:19:41] “Off your own bat” means on your own, without someone telling you that you needed to do it.

[00:19:48] So, there you go, that is cricket. 

[00:19:52] A sport that, on one level, makes absolutely no sense, and is confusing to almost anyone who hasn’t been brought up in a country where it is popular.

[00:20:03] Nevertheless, it is a sport that has a devoted army of passionate fans. 

[00:20:09] Fans so passionate, in England’s case, that they are called The Barmy Army, the mad army.

[00:20:17] I have no expectation that the past 20 minutes will have turned you into a passionate cricket fan, and that you will be signing up for the Barmy Army, but I certainly hope that you now have a better idea of the weird and wonderful story of this quintessentially English sport.

[00:20:38] OK then, that is it for today's episode on cricket.

[00:20:44] I imagine that you might not yet be a cricket fan, but I would still love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:20:51] Have you ever watched even part of a game of cricket? Did you understand what was going on? Have you ever heard of anyone from your country playing cricket?

[00:21:01] I would love to know. 

[00:21:03] You can head right into our community forum, which is over at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away with other curious minds.

[00:21:12] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:21:18] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode


[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about cricket.

[00:00:28] Now, because you are most likely not from the UK, the sport of cricket might seem a little strange.

[00:00:36] Perhaps you have no idea what it is.

[00:00:39] Or perhaps you have seen clips on TV or YouTube of people dressed in white on a large grass field running up and down after a ball, but you don’t really know what’s going on.

[00:00:53] In either case, in today’s episode we will learn about, and try to demystify this weird and wonderful game.

[00:01:02] It’s hard to think of a sport that is more quintessentially English than cricket, and I hope that in 20 minutes' time you’ll have a much better understanding of where it comes from, how cricket actually is played, some of the controversies that have surrounded the sport, and this will all help you understand why it is such a culturally important part of life in the UK.

[00:01:30] Right, we have a lot to learn about today, so let's get started.

[00:01:36] Let me start by telling the story of perhaps the most famous cricket match in recent English history, which gives you an idea about quite how strange this game is.

[00:01:49] On the 12th of September, 2005, 11 Englishmen stood in a very large green field.

[00:01:57] In the middle of the field were two Australians, each holding a large piece of wood.

[00:02:05] These men had been standing in 5 different fields across England for 21 days, watched by thousands of people in the crowds, and millions of people on TVs around the world, but mainly in England and Australia.

[00:02:21] A tall Englishman held a hard red ball in his hand, then ran fast towards one of the Australians, and threw the ball as fast as he could. 

[00:02:35] The ball flew towards the Australian at 145 km per hour. The Australian swung his bat, hit the ball slightly, lifting it up a little bit.

[00:02:48] Behind him stood an Englishman with very large gloves, who dived down to the ground to catch the ball. 

[00:02:57] He caught it, a man dressed in a white shirt and tie put up his finger, and the crowds went wild.

[00:03:06] Finally, the England team had won the game. 

[00:03:10] And what was their prize for this victory? 

[00:03:13] A very small wooden trophy, just 15cm high, containing some ash, the remains of some burnt wood.

[00:03:24] Now, when described like this the game of cricket doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

[00:03:31] But the beauty of cricket is that a lot of it doesn’t make much sense, and intentionally so, it doesn’t try to make much sense.

[00:03:41] This doesn’t stop it being one of the most popular sports in the UK, the most popular sport in the world’s second largest country, India, and a sport with hundreds of millions of devoted fans all over the world.

[00:03:56] I should say that I am not one of those massively devoted fans. I played cricket when I was younger, but was never very good at it. 

[00:04:05] I also started playing cricket in Scotland. 

[00:04:09] Cricket involves a lot of standing around waiting for things to happen, and if you are standing around for hours at a time wearing not very much in Scotland, well, you’ll get quite cold and probably not have a huge amount of fun.

[00:04:26] But this doesn’t stop one from admiring the sport, and it certainly should not stop you from understanding where it comes from, and why it is such a culturally significant part of life in the UK.

[00:04:41] So, where did it all begin?

[00:04:45] Its origins are obscure, but it seems that it was well underway in southern England by the second half of the 17th century. 

[00:04:54] Like theatre, dancing and gambling, it re-emerged with the Restoration of Charles II, the king nicknamed the Merry Monarch, in 1660.

[00:05:07] Before the return of Charles II, Britain had experienced two decades of rule by the Puritans, a group with hardline religious views who basically outlawed anything that was too much fun.

[00:05:23] Having too much fun was considered sinful, and therefore bright clothing, theatre, and enjoyable sports were off the menu.

[00:05:34] At this time, cricket involved the ball being rolled along the ground and hit with a rounded stick which would’ve looked a bit more like a modern hockey stick, a stick with a rounded end.

[00:05:49] The game was played by village teams in the south of England - villages would play each other, and as travel became easier, through developments like an improved railway network, cricket teams would be able to travel further to play against each other.

[00:06:08] From its early days, it was a game that attracted gambling, with people betting large amounts of money on the result of a game. 

[00:06:18] Indeed, in 1664 parliament had to pass a law limiting the amount that could be bet on a single cricket match. 

[00:06:28] The amount was £100, which is about €2,500 in today’s money. 

[00:06:35] It might not sound like a massive amount of money, but it was more than the annual wage of 99% of the country’s population at the time.

[00:06:46] This gives us a bit of an indication about who was playing the sport, or at least who was gambling on it. The wealthier people in society.

[00:06:57] Now, you might say, “obviously - the poorest people in society didn't have the time or money to play sport". 

[00:07:05] But it wasn’t only the rich who were playing.

[00:07:09] In the early days, there were actually two different categories of players. There was the so-called ‘amateur’ cricket player, and the ‘professional’ player.

[00:07:20] The ‘amateurs’ were the rich, the noble, players.

[00:07:25] The ‘professionals’ were the poorer, working-class players.

[00:07:30] The richer players realised that they needed the best quality players on their teams in order to have the best chance of winning their matches, and would therefore recruit cricket players from the lower social classes.

[00:07:46] But they would make sure that there was a clear distinction between the two. The amateurs wouldn’t be paid to play, they could only claim expenses, in theory at least.

[00:07:59] And the two different classes of players would even have separate changing rooms and dining facilities.

[00:08:08] This really gives you an idea about the strangeness of the game, and its relationship with the British social class system.

[00:08:18] Moving on to the development of cricket, it spread from the villages of southern England further north, and some of the most passionate cricketing regions can now be found in the north of the country.

[00:08:33] And, of course, with the British empire, it spread abroad, to the countries that Britain had colonised.

[00:08:41] The British soldiers and diplomats living in these countries often didn’t have a huge amount to do.

[00:08:49] The weather was good, and cricket was a leisurely sport, an activity that would take up quite a long time and not require a huge amount of physical effort. 

[00:09:02] It was no doubt quite a lot of fun to be outside in the sun for a few days at a time, only breaking for a large lunch, tea, and plenty of drinking when it was all over in the evening.

[00:09:16] Naturally, it became popular almost everywhere it was played.

[00:09:21] Indeed, the list of the top cricketing countries in the world has a large overlap with a list of ex-British colonies.

[00:09:30] It’s currently New Zealand, Australia, India, England, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, The West Indies, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

[00:09:41] It might sound like a strange game to have become so popular. 

[00:09:45] You do need a large space to play it, it takes quite a long time in general, and you need several people.

[00:09:53] If you contrast it to football, for example, with football you can have some fun playing it on your own or just with a few people, you only really need one ball, and you don’t need much space to do it.

[00:10:08] It is in many ways unlikely that cricket became so popular.

[00:10:14] But, you only need to go to a small Indian village to see how popular it really is. 

[00:10:21] Culturally, it is now incredibly important in countries such as India, and the sporting idol of a young Indian boy, the person who they would look up to the most, that person is more likely to be the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar than a footballer like Lionel Messi.

[00:10:42] Now, let’s briefly pause to discuss how cricket actually works. 

[00:10:48] It is a complicated game, and there are numerous rules, but I’ll provide you with an outline here.

[00:10:56] There are two teams, two sides.

[00:10:58] Each side has 11 players, so there are 22 players in total, but no more than 13 players are on the pitch at any one time.

[00:11:10] 11 from one side, which is doing what’s called ‘fielding’, and two from the other side, which is doing what’s called ‘batting’, they are trying to hit the ball.

[00:11:22] The remaining nine are sitting on the side, waiting their turn.

[00:11:27] Back on the pitch, which is technically called a cricket field, there is a piece of ground in the middle where all the action takes place.

[00:11:37] Long story short, one person from the fielding side runs up and throws the ball at one of the people on the batting side.

[00:11:48] That person tries to hit the ball as far as they can, away from all of the other players who are standing around trying to stop it.

[00:11:57] If they manage to hit it, they can choose to run up and down, and this is how they score points.

[00:12:05] They also have another objective, another goal, which is to stop the ball hitting three wooden sticks behind them.

[00:12:15] The aim of the person throwing the ball is to throw it so fast, or in such a complicated way that the person batting can’t hit it properly, and the ball either hits the sticks behind them, or they hit the ball into the air and one of the players on the other side catches it. 

[00:12:36] If the ball is caught by the other team, or if it hits the sticks behind them, the batsman is ‘out’, and is replaced by another player.

[00:12:47] Now, the rules are more complicated than that, but this is the general idea.

[00:12:53] What you may have noticed is that there are only a few people who are actively involved in every part of it, the rest are watching from a distance. 

[00:13:04] If you are on the team that is fielding, that is stopping the ball, yes you need to pay attention, but there is a lot of standing around until the ball comes your way.

[00:13:16] You could say that this is one of the reasons that cricket never became quite so popular in Scotland as it is in England, as anyone standing around waiting for something to happen is likely to get pretty cold.

[00:13:30] Another peculiarity about cricket is that it can take a very long time for anything to actually happen, for a team to win.

[00:13:41] There are different types of cricket matches, but the classic one is something called a ‘test’ match. 

[00:13:48] Now, with this type of cricket match it is possible to play for 5 days in a row and for there still to be no winner.

[00:13:58] And with some cricket matches they are really extended competitions. 

[00:14:04] With the one I mentioned at the start of the episode, which is called the Ashes, that can go on for 25 days in total and it’s possible for there still to be no winner.

[00:14:17] So, being a cricket fan does require some patience!

[00:14:22] Now, in terms of cricket today, and how things have developed since the early days of it being a sort of ‘two-tiered’ sport, it has retained a lot of its reputation of being a gentleman’s game.

[00:14:37] Unlike something like football, where some players might fall over to try to trick the referee and win a penalty, there was an unwritten rule that cricketers weren’t like this. 

[00:14:51] There was a code of honour, an unwritten law between players not to cheat, and to always remain honorable. 

[00:14:59] But, although cricket may have the reputation of being a ‘gentleman’s game’, there are numerous instances where it doesn’t live up to the name.

[00:15:11] Firstly, like in many sports, there have been multiple occasions of bribery and match-fixing, or players accepting money to change the outcome, the result of a match. 

[00:15:25] For some supposed gentlemen, the temptation of being paid large amounts of money to accidentally miss the ball proved too much.

[00:15:36] Secondly, it’s possible to cheat during the game. The most common way of doing this is by intentionally damaging the ball so that it moves in the air. 

[00:15:49] Back in 2018 two Australian cricketers received lengthy bans, they were forbidden of playing the sport for a long time, for using sandpaper to make one side of the ball rougher than the other.

[00:16:07] The explanation of what they were doing, and why, is that if there is one side of the ball that is a different texture to the other, as it moves through the air the resistance on one side of it is different to the other, meaning it will move in an unpredictable way, making it harder for the batsman to understand where it will finish.

[00:16:32] And the final not-so-gentlemanly act, which is really an ongoing thing, is something that hasn't stopped, is something called sledging.

[00:16:43] Now, if you look up the word ‘sledging’ in a dictionary, the first definition will probably be something like ‘go on a sledge’, which is the mode of transport most commonly associated with Father Christmas and winter sports.

[00:17:00] But in cricket sledging is something very different.

[00:17:05] It means to insult other players, to say rude things to them to try to distract them, to put them off, and cause them to make mistakes.

[00:17:16] Of course, this is something that happens in many sports, but in cricket it does tend to have a certain style to it, there is often something a little more witty and intelligent about it compared to straight-forward insults.

[00:17:33] But, I should add, it is against the rules of the sport, it is banned, and it does detract from the sportsmanship of the game.

[00:17:42] So, that is a brief history of the sport, and how it works.

[00:17:47] From a cultural perspective, you can find traces of cricket throughout British, and especially English, culture.

[00:17:55] Many English villages will have a cricket pitch, and the tradition of village cricket continues to this day, in fact it normally starts about when this podcast will be released in May.

[00:18:08] The Cricketers is a common name for a pub, and the pub in a village I used to live in was called The Cricketers.

[00:18:16] And for many people, even those who might not be avid cricket fans themselves, there is something slightly timeless about cricket, something about the sport that makes you imagine that its essence hasn’t changed so much from the days of The Restoration.

[00:18:34] Now, our final point to add is on its linguistic legacy, because cricket has also left its impression on the English language.

[00:18:45] Firstly, you might hear someone say that something is “just not cricket”. This means that it’s dishonest, or it’s unfair.

[00:18:55] This comes, of course, from cricket’s reputation as being a gentleman’s, honest sport.

[00:19:02] Secondly, you might hear the phrase “he had a good innings”. 

[00:19:07] An “innings” is the period of time where a cricket team plays, and so this means that “he had a good period of time doing something”. 

[00:19:16] It’s often used to describe someone’s life, so “my grandmother lived until she was 109 years old - she had a great innings”.

[00:19:26] And our final gift from cricket to the English language, which is probably the most common of the three, and most people wouldn’t know comes from cricket, is to say that someone did something “off their own bat”.

[00:19:41] “Off your own bat” means on your own, without someone telling you that you needed to do it.

[00:19:48] So, there you go, that is cricket. 

[00:19:52] A sport that, on one level, makes absolutely no sense, and is confusing to almost anyone who hasn’t been brought up in a country where it is popular.

[00:20:03] Nevertheless, it is a sport that has a devoted army of passionate fans. 

[00:20:09] Fans so passionate, in England’s case, that they are called The Barmy Army, the mad army.

[00:20:17] I have no expectation that the past 20 minutes will have turned you into a passionate cricket fan, and that you will be signing up for the Barmy Army, but I certainly hope that you now have a better idea of the weird and wonderful story of this quintessentially English sport.

[00:20:38] OK then, that is it for today's episode on cricket.

[00:20:44] I imagine that you might not yet be a cricket fan, but I would still love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:20:51] Have you ever watched even part of a game of cricket? Did you understand what was going on? Have you ever heard of anyone from your country playing cricket?

[00:21:01] I would love to know. 

[00:21:03] You can head right into our community forum, which is over at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away with other curious minds.

[00:21:12] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:21:18] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode


[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about cricket.

[00:00:28] Now, because you are most likely not from the UK, the sport of cricket might seem a little strange.

[00:00:36] Perhaps you have no idea what it is.

[00:00:39] Or perhaps you have seen clips on TV or YouTube of people dressed in white on a large grass field running up and down after a ball, but you don’t really know what’s going on.

[00:00:53] In either case, in today’s episode we will learn about, and try to demystify this weird and wonderful game.

[00:01:02] It’s hard to think of a sport that is more quintessentially English than cricket, and I hope that in 20 minutes' time you’ll have a much better understanding of where it comes from, how cricket actually is played, some of the controversies that have surrounded the sport, and this will all help you understand why it is such a culturally important part of life in the UK.

[00:01:30] Right, we have a lot to learn about today, so let's get started.

[00:01:36] Let me start by telling the story of perhaps the most famous cricket match in recent English history, which gives you an idea about quite how strange this game is.

[00:01:49] On the 12th of September, 2005, 11 Englishmen stood in a very large green field.

[00:01:57] In the middle of the field were two Australians, each holding a large piece of wood.

[00:02:05] These men had been standing in 5 different fields across England for 21 days, watched by thousands of people in the crowds, and millions of people on TVs around the world, but mainly in England and Australia.

[00:02:21] A tall Englishman held a hard red ball in his hand, then ran fast towards one of the Australians, and threw the ball as fast as he could. 

[00:02:35] The ball flew towards the Australian at 145 km per hour. The Australian swung his bat, hit the ball slightly, lifting it up a little bit.

[00:02:48] Behind him stood an Englishman with very large gloves, who dived down to the ground to catch the ball. 

[00:02:57] He caught it, a man dressed in a white shirt and tie put up his finger, and the crowds went wild.

[00:03:06] Finally, the England team had won the game. 

[00:03:10] And what was their prize for this victory? 

[00:03:13] A very small wooden trophy, just 15cm high, containing some ash, the remains of some burnt wood.

[00:03:24] Now, when described like this the game of cricket doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.

[00:03:31] But the beauty of cricket is that a lot of it doesn’t make much sense, and intentionally so, it doesn’t try to make much sense.

[00:03:41] This doesn’t stop it being one of the most popular sports in the UK, the most popular sport in the world’s second largest country, India, and a sport with hundreds of millions of devoted fans all over the world.

[00:03:56] I should say that I am not one of those massively devoted fans. I played cricket when I was younger, but was never very good at it. 

[00:04:05] I also started playing cricket in Scotland. 

[00:04:09] Cricket involves a lot of standing around waiting for things to happen, and if you are standing around for hours at a time wearing not very much in Scotland, well, you’ll get quite cold and probably not have a huge amount of fun.

[00:04:26] But this doesn’t stop one from admiring the sport, and it certainly should not stop you from understanding where it comes from, and why it is such a culturally significant part of life in the UK.

[00:04:41] So, where did it all begin?

[00:04:45] Its origins are obscure, but it seems that it was well underway in southern England by the second half of the 17th century. 

[00:04:54] Like theatre, dancing and gambling, it re-emerged with the Restoration of Charles II, the king nicknamed the Merry Monarch, in 1660.

[00:05:07] Before the return of Charles II, Britain had experienced two decades of rule by the Puritans, a group with hardline religious views who basically outlawed anything that was too much fun.

[00:05:23] Having too much fun was considered sinful, and therefore bright clothing, theatre, and enjoyable sports were off the menu.

[00:05:34] At this time, cricket involved the ball being rolled along the ground and hit with a rounded stick which would’ve looked a bit more like a modern hockey stick, a stick with a rounded end.

[00:05:49] The game was played by village teams in the south of England - villages would play each other, and as travel became easier, through developments like an improved railway network, cricket teams would be able to travel further to play against each other.

[00:06:08] From its early days, it was a game that attracted gambling, with people betting large amounts of money on the result of a game. 

[00:06:18] Indeed, in 1664 parliament had to pass a law limiting the amount that could be bet on a single cricket match. 

[00:06:28] The amount was £100, which is about €2,500 in today’s money. 

[00:06:35] It might not sound like a massive amount of money, but it was more than the annual wage of 99% of the country’s population at the time.

[00:06:46] This gives us a bit of an indication about who was playing the sport, or at least who was gambling on it. The wealthier people in society.

[00:06:57] Now, you might say, “obviously - the poorest people in society didn't have the time or money to play sport". 

[00:07:05] But it wasn’t only the rich who were playing.

[00:07:09] In the early days, there were actually two different categories of players. There was the so-called ‘amateur’ cricket player, and the ‘professional’ player.

[00:07:20] The ‘amateurs’ were the rich, the noble, players.

[00:07:25] The ‘professionals’ were the poorer, working-class players.

[00:07:30] The richer players realised that they needed the best quality players on their teams in order to have the best chance of winning their matches, and would therefore recruit cricket players from the lower social classes.

[00:07:46] But they would make sure that there was a clear distinction between the two. The amateurs wouldn’t be paid to play, they could only claim expenses, in theory at least.

[00:07:59] And the two different classes of players would even have separate changing rooms and dining facilities.

[00:08:08] This really gives you an idea about the strangeness of the game, and its relationship with the British social class system.

[00:08:18] Moving on to the development of cricket, it spread from the villages of southern England further north, and some of the most passionate cricketing regions can now be found in the north of the country.

[00:08:33] And, of course, with the British empire, it spread abroad, to the countries that Britain had colonised.

[00:08:41] The British soldiers and diplomats living in these countries often didn’t have a huge amount to do.

[00:08:49] The weather was good, and cricket was a leisurely sport, an activity that would take up quite a long time and not require a huge amount of physical effort. 

[00:09:02] It was no doubt quite a lot of fun to be outside in the sun for a few days at a time, only breaking for a large lunch, tea, and plenty of drinking when it was all over in the evening.

[00:09:16] Naturally, it became popular almost everywhere it was played.

[00:09:21] Indeed, the list of the top cricketing countries in the world has a large overlap with a list of ex-British colonies.

[00:09:30] It’s currently New Zealand, Australia, India, England, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, The West Indies, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

[00:09:41] It might sound like a strange game to have become so popular. 

[00:09:45] You do need a large space to play it, it takes quite a long time in general, and you need several people.

[00:09:53] If you contrast it to football, for example, with football you can have some fun playing it on your own or just with a few people, you only really need one ball, and you don’t need much space to do it.

[00:10:08] It is in many ways unlikely that cricket became so popular.

[00:10:14] But, you only need to go to a small Indian village to see how popular it really is. 

[00:10:21] Culturally, it is now incredibly important in countries such as India, and the sporting idol of a young Indian boy, the person who they would look up to the most, that person is more likely to be the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar than a footballer like Lionel Messi.

[00:10:42] Now, let’s briefly pause to discuss how cricket actually works. 

[00:10:48] It is a complicated game, and there are numerous rules, but I’ll provide you with an outline here.

[00:10:56] There are two teams, two sides.

[00:10:58] Each side has 11 players, so there are 22 players in total, but no more than 13 players are on the pitch at any one time.

[00:11:10] 11 from one side, which is doing what’s called ‘fielding’, and two from the other side, which is doing what’s called ‘batting’, they are trying to hit the ball.

[00:11:22] The remaining nine are sitting on the side, waiting their turn.

[00:11:27] Back on the pitch, which is technically called a cricket field, there is a piece of ground in the middle where all the action takes place.

[00:11:37] Long story short, one person from the fielding side runs up and throws the ball at one of the people on the batting side.

[00:11:48] That person tries to hit the ball as far as they can, away from all of the other players who are standing around trying to stop it.

[00:11:57] If they manage to hit it, they can choose to run up and down, and this is how they score points.

[00:12:05] They also have another objective, another goal, which is to stop the ball hitting three wooden sticks behind them.

[00:12:15] The aim of the person throwing the ball is to throw it so fast, or in such a complicated way that the person batting can’t hit it properly, and the ball either hits the sticks behind them, or they hit the ball into the air and one of the players on the other side catches it. 

[00:12:36] If the ball is caught by the other team, or if it hits the sticks behind them, the batsman is ‘out’, and is replaced by another player.

[00:12:47] Now, the rules are more complicated than that, but this is the general idea.

[00:12:53] What you may have noticed is that there are only a few people who are actively involved in every part of it, the rest are watching from a distance. 

[00:13:04] If you are on the team that is fielding, that is stopping the ball, yes you need to pay attention, but there is a lot of standing around until the ball comes your way.

[00:13:16] You could say that this is one of the reasons that cricket never became quite so popular in Scotland as it is in England, as anyone standing around waiting for something to happen is likely to get pretty cold.

[00:13:30] Another peculiarity about cricket is that it can take a very long time for anything to actually happen, for a team to win.

[00:13:41] There are different types of cricket matches, but the classic one is something called a ‘test’ match. 

[00:13:48] Now, with this type of cricket match it is possible to play for 5 days in a row and for there still to be no winner.

[00:13:58] And with some cricket matches they are really extended competitions. 

[00:14:04] With the one I mentioned at the start of the episode, which is called the Ashes, that can go on for 25 days in total and it’s possible for there still to be no winner.

[00:14:17] So, being a cricket fan does require some patience!

[00:14:22] Now, in terms of cricket today, and how things have developed since the early days of it being a sort of ‘two-tiered’ sport, it has retained a lot of its reputation of being a gentleman’s game.

[00:14:37] Unlike something like football, where some players might fall over to try to trick the referee and win a penalty, there was an unwritten rule that cricketers weren’t like this. 

[00:14:51] There was a code of honour, an unwritten law between players not to cheat, and to always remain honorable. 

[00:14:59] But, although cricket may have the reputation of being a ‘gentleman’s game’, there are numerous instances where it doesn’t live up to the name.

[00:15:11] Firstly, like in many sports, there have been multiple occasions of bribery and match-fixing, or players accepting money to change the outcome, the result of a match. 

[00:15:25] For some supposed gentlemen, the temptation of being paid large amounts of money to accidentally miss the ball proved too much.

[00:15:36] Secondly, it’s possible to cheat during the game. The most common way of doing this is by intentionally damaging the ball so that it moves in the air. 

[00:15:49] Back in 2018 two Australian cricketers received lengthy bans, they were forbidden of playing the sport for a long time, for using sandpaper to make one side of the ball rougher than the other.

[00:16:07] The explanation of what they were doing, and why, is that if there is one side of the ball that is a different texture to the other, as it moves through the air the resistance on one side of it is different to the other, meaning it will move in an unpredictable way, making it harder for the batsman to understand where it will finish.

[00:16:32] And the final not-so-gentlemanly act, which is really an ongoing thing, is something that hasn't stopped, is something called sledging.

[00:16:43] Now, if you look up the word ‘sledging’ in a dictionary, the first definition will probably be something like ‘go on a sledge’, which is the mode of transport most commonly associated with Father Christmas and winter sports.

[00:17:00] But in cricket sledging is something very different.

[00:17:05] It means to insult other players, to say rude things to them to try to distract them, to put them off, and cause them to make mistakes.

[00:17:16] Of course, this is something that happens in many sports, but in cricket it does tend to have a certain style to it, there is often something a little more witty and intelligent about it compared to straight-forward insults.

[00:17:33] But, I should add, it is against the rules of the sport, it is banned, and it does detract from the sportsmanship of the game.

[00:17:42] So, that is a brief history of the sport, and how it works.

[00:17:47] From a cultural perspective, you can find traces of cricket throughout British, and especially English, culture.

[00:17:55] Many English villages will have a cricket pitch, and the tradition of village cricket continues to this day, in fact it normally starts about when this podcast will be released in May.

[00:18:08] The Cricketers is a common name for a pub, and the pub in a village I used to live in was called The Cricketers.

[00:18:16] And for many people, even those who might not be avid cricket fans themselves, there is something slightly timeless about cricket, something about the sport that makes you imagine that its essence hasn’t changed so much from the days of The Restoration.

[00:18:34] Now, our final point to add is on its linguistic legacy, because cricket has also left its impression on the English language.

[00:18:45] Firstly, you might hear someone say that something is “just not cricket”. This means that it’s dishonest, or it’s unfair.

[00:18:55] This comes, of course, from cricket’s reputation as being a gentleman’s, honest sport.

[00:19:02] Secondly, you might hear the phrase “he had a good innings”. 

[00:19:07] An “innings” is the period of time where a cricket team plays, and so this means that “he had a good period of time doing something”. 

[00:19:16] It’s often used to describe someone’s life, so “my grandmother lived until she was 109 years old - she had a great innings”.

[00:19:26] And our final gift from cricket to the English language, which is probably the most common of the three, and most people wouldn’t know comes from cricket, is to say that someone did something “off their own bat”.

[00:19:41] “Off your own bat” means on your own, without someone telling you that you needed to do it.

[00:19:48] So, there you go, that is cricket. 

[00:19:52] A sport that, on one level, makes absolutely no sense, and is confusing to almost anyone who hasn’t been brought up in a country where it is popular.

[00:20:03] Nevertheless, it is a sport that has a devoted army of passionate fans. 

[00:20:09] Fans so passionate, in England’s case, that they are called The Barmy Army, the mad army.

[00:20:17] I have no expectation that the past 20 minutes will have turned you into a passionate cricket fan, and that you will be signing up for the Barmy Army, but I certainly hope that you now have a better idea of the weird and wonderful story of this quintessentially English sport.

[00:20:38] OK then, that is it for today's episode on cricket.

[00:20:44] I imagine that you might not yet be a cricket fan, but I would still love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:20:51] Have you ever watched even part of a game of cricket? Did you understand what was going on? Have you ever heard of anyone from your country playing cricket?

[00:21:01] I would love to know. 

[00:21:03] You can head right into our community forum, which is over at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away with other curious minds.

[00:21:12] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:21:18] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode


[END OF EPISODE]