The Delight Of Esoteric Cricket Rules

Another cricket match, another controversy over an obscure (and seemingly impenetrable) cricket rule. I’m not going to go into the jurisprudence of handling the ball; instead, I want to pause and allow every cricket blogger (and reader) to acknowledge how much fun these rules controversies have allowed us to have.

I suppose our tendency to revel in arcane laws speaks both to the weakness and attraction of cricket: on the one hand, the complexity of the rules really does turn off entire groups of people; there’s a reason soccer is the most popular sport in the world (i.e., its simplicity). On the other hand, by setting down layers of regulations, cricket forces its fans to pass through rounds of loyalty tests — Do you really like this game? Well, can you explain to me how Law 37 and related addendums affect Law X and Y?  While it may encourage pedantry, complexity also rewards a basic democratic impulse — this is a game of rules and laws, accessible to any fan willing to apply basic logic, knowledge of precedent and the give-and-take of interpretation.

Perhaps the greatest satisfaction from all these rules disputes is knowing that we are the inheritors of a set of traditions and laws handed down to us by centuries of experiments, failures and great athletes. The rulebook of cricket, however indecipherable, is a badge of honor — no doubt of dubious (that is, imperialist) origins, but one I’m happy to wear and mould for the next generation.

4 thoughts on “The Delight Of Esoteric Cricket Rules

  1. David says:

    Your talk of inheritors of rules give me an excuse to post a Youtube clip of the first handled the ball incident I can remember:
    Watching it again has made me realize several things:
    1) God, I love Youtube 2) Has the sheer quota of facial hair served up in this delivery been bettered apart from the Victorian era? 3) Tony Lewis (who, I think was the commentator) really was crap 4) How both awesome and naive was it for England to wear any odd helmet they could find rather than branded ones.

  2. Krishna Kumar says:

    Read and enjoy, my friend:

    But more seriously, I don’t think it matters that much for popularity. After all, cricket can be distilled to “throw ball, hit ball” just as football can be reduced to “get the ball into that spot”. American football is terribly complex for the first-time viewer, but that hasn’t reduced its dominance as the #1 US sport. More to do with tradition, marketing and so on.

    You do have a point. I think for the fan, the wide variety of cricket statistics and intricate rules makes cricket an ongoing discovery, loads of fun and offering ample opportunities to show off to the newbie cricket spectator. I remember being confused when a match ended with a batsman hitting a four off a no-ball when one was required, and the four was not credited. I am still confused!

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