Whenever I read about cricket in American media — which is to say, very rarely — I always come across a disclaimer sentence about how complex game’s rules can be. Is it really all that true? I picked up cricket as a 12-year-old like a fish to water; I just watched a match and figured it out (at least that’s how I remember it). Then, I persuaded my parents to buy me a bat and I started to play. Done. Finished.
Of course, there are others in my family — notably, everyone else — who do not understand the game. My brother-in-law — a European — has long displayed an interest, but I have to remind him constantly about the rules (“Why isn’t that LBW? Why isn’t that blah-blah-blah?”). He always has this attitude that cricket’s all a sham and that somewhere in the rules’ thicket, there’s a giant, hypocritical loophole.
Perhaps cricket works as religions do, through either conversion or birth. There’s little hope you can “learn” your salvation otherwise; Spelling Bee this ain’t. Which is why I feel ambivalent when I see endless debates on cricket’s rules among cricket bloggers (“Was Brendon McCullum’s catch legal? Was Angelo Mathews’?”). On the one hand, the game’s complexity is part of its charm, and there’s a little, nerdy British bureaucrat inside all of us. But on the other, it should matter little if you know leg byes are counted as extras and not part of the batsman’s score, or that someone can be “timed out” or lose her wicket by “handling the ball.”
Ball, bat, field. That’s all it is.