Is Cricket like Baseball?
Cricket is a team sport for two sides
of eleven players each. It is a bat-and-ball sport with some similarities to baseball, softball, and rounders -
though these three sports are much more similar to each other than any of them is to cricket.
No. Cricket is about as similar to baseball as soccer is to American football. There are some concepts that are
similar in both sports, but really they are quite different.
And no. The rules of cricket may be unfamiliar to you, but they are no more complicated than the rules of baseball.
If you can understand baseball, you can understand cricket. In fact, I am familiar with both sports and I feel that
the rules of cricket are, if anything, a bit simpler than the rules of baseball.
Most people who feel cricket is incomprehensible come to that conclusion because:
The same, however, can be said of most sports. Once you know the rules and the jargon has
been explained in the context of the rules, it all falls into place. Really.
Yes. You already have the concepts of:
- they are unfamiliar with the rules; and
- the jargon used by people talking about cricket is quite specialised and indeed incomprehensible if you don't know what it means.
This is a big advantage over not understanding these concepts. However, cricket is not baseball. As Yoda would say:
To really understand cricket, you must unlearn many things you have learnt. Some of the most important things to unlearn:
- one team batting while the other team fields;
- scoring runs;
- getting batters out;
- runners being safe or out.
The first two differences alone account for much of the difference in flavour between baseball and cricket:
- Runs are hard to score. In cricket, runs are much easier to score. The average score for one innings of a
Test match is about 320 runs.
- Batters are easy to get out. In cricket, batsmen are much harder to get out.
In six hours of play, you would expect to see an average of about 8 batsmen get out.
- Batters can strike out if they don't hit the ball. In cricket, you don't have to hit the ball if you don't
want to. If you swing and miss, there is no penalty.
- Batters who hit the ball must run. In cricket, the batsmen never have to run. They can choose when to
run, and usually only do so when they are certain they can complete the run safely. This, and the previous difference,
contribute a large portion of what makes the batsmen so hard to get out.
- Batters can't hit the ball into foul territory. In cricket, there is no foul territory. You can hit the
ball in any direction you like. This means the fielders have a much wider area to cover. Again, this makes it easier
to score runs and harder to get batsmen out.
- Pitchers must try to throw the ball in the strike zone, on the fly. In cricket,
bowlers can bowl the ball pretty much as high and
wide as they like, and usually bounce it on the pitch before it reaches the batsman.
This gives them a lot more variety in attacking the batsman and trying to either stop him scoring runs or get him out.
There are, of course, many other differences, but these six go a long way to explaining the difference in
philosophy between the two sports. If you think of cricket as "baseball with some funny rules" you'll never
really understand why a lot of the rules are the way they are, or comprehend the strategies and nuances that make
the game so intriguing. Keep them in mind as you read more on these pages.
I call the following steps the Transmutational Method of deriving cricket from baseball.
- In baseball, the batting team is the "offence". It struggles to score precious runs against
the "defence" of the fielding team. Meanwhile, the defence inexorably accumulates outs.
- In cricket, the fielding team is often termed the "attack". It struggles to get
the batsmen out as they "defend" their wickets. Meanwhile, the defending batsmen
inexorably accumulate runs.
That's 99% of cricket right there. There are of course a few other details, but that's pretty much the gist of the entire game.
- Start with baseball and apply the following functions:
- You can't strike out. Swing and miss as much as you like.
- There's no foul territory. Hit the ball anywhere you like.
- There are no balls. The pitcher is even allowed to bounce the ball on the ground before it reaches the batter.
- There are no walks either. If you get hit by a pitch, tough.
- If you hit the ball, you only have to run if you think it's safe to do so. Otherwise, stay where you are and take another pitch.
- If you reach home plate and score a run, don't go back to the dugout. Stay there to face the next pitch. Or keep running on to first again if you wish.
- When you get out, no matter what base you're on, the next batter comes in to replace you where you were.
- The bases are always loaded.
- So if you hit a home run, that's 4 runs. But don't bother actually running the bases, since that's pointless. Just stay where you are.
- Take the gloves off the fielders.
- Once you're out, you can't bat again in the same inning.
- The team's inning is only over when 6 players are out, since this leaves only 3 players who aren't out to man the bases.
- Let's increase a home run to scoring 6 runs, but still the batters don't move any bases when one is hit.
- Reduce the number of bases from four to two.
- Replace each base with three upright wooden poles in a row, 28 inches high, with the outermost two 9 inches apart.
- When batting, you are out if the pitcher hits the poles with a pitch, or if you get in the way and he hits you. You better defend them with your bat!
- If the ball hits the wall around the field, let's automatically score 4 runs and the ball is out of play, like if a home run is hit.
- Increase the number of players from 9 to 11 per team. So now, the inning is over when 10 players are out, since that just leaves one player and two bases to man.
- Reduce the number of innings from nine to two.
Note that most of these transformations are simplifications, or at least simple to describe. If I did this starting with
cricket and the goal of ending with baseball, the steps would be rather longer and require significantly more explanation at each point.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: cricket is a fairly simple game, baseball is more complicated.
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Last updated: Wednesday, 04 June, 2008; 22:58:15 PDT.
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