Monday, November 30, 2015

Everything’s Cricket

The All-Star Cricket series recently played matches in three American cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Houston, to promote the sport that is the second most popular in the world (after soccer). Cricket has long been associated with Great Britain and its colonies and now is dominated by teams from the Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean nations.

A wee bit similar to baseball, it involves a ball, a bat, and eleven players. The play consists of throwing the ball (“bowling”) so that the batsman has a chance of hitting it and running to score runs. That’s pretty much where the similarity ends.

The earliest known reference to the sport is in 1598, when it was known as “creckett” or “krekett,” although the game is thought to have been played as early as the 13th century. It was a popular game at the Royal Grammar School in 1550.

The origin of the word is highly speculative.  Some say it is from Anglo-Saxon cricc, meaning “crutch or staff.” Samuel Johnson’s 18th-century dictionary pegged it to the Anglo-Saxon cryce, meaning a “stick.” Criquet in Old French meant a “club” or a “goal post.”

The name may also have derived from the Dutch krick, which also means a “stick” and is cognate with the modern word crook. Another possible Dutch source, though this seems to be a stretch, is the Dutch krickstoel, meaning a long low stool used as a kneeler in church and thought to resemble the wickets (or stumps) used as markers in cricket. Yet another Dutch antecedent may be krick ket sen, a name for the game of hockey, referring to the hockey stick, which resembles the bat used in early forms of cricket.

In the sense of “fair play,” as in the phrase, “That isn’t cricket,” the first such used dates from the 1850s. 

Cricket, in referring to the sport, has no connection to the same word when used to mean an insect. That is a 14th-century word derived from the French criquer, to “crackle, creak, or rattle,” alluding to the noise made by a cricket.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou has always longed to play cricket, since he understands that free beer is often offered to the players following a game. 

            They hurled the cricket
            Ball at Crockett.           
            Then he’d kick it,
            And he’d knock it.
            But he hit a
            Sticky wicket
            When they told him           
            Where to stick it.


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