How to cut through Americans downplaying cricket

In the context of cricket, there are basically two types of Americans.  Those Americans who love baseball will laugh when they watch a cricket match for the first time.  These Americans must be led gently into the bright sun of cricket.

Then there are the Americans who don’t much like baseball.  They may show some interest in cricket but their interest will probably just be a show of good manners.  Nevertheless, they will indicate that they want to learn how cricket works and if you explain it to them well, they may develop a love for cricket that they cannot foster for baseball.

In the end, it should be as easy for a Yank to enjoy cricket as it is for a South African to choose from the many South African casinos.

Cricket is Not Baseball

In both cases, you have to emphasize at the outset that cricket and baseball are two very different games even though the sports both use a ball, a bat, and use the term innings.  You can throw your American friend or guest for a loop by telling them that in cricket the word innings is singular as in “an innings”.  It will take the Yank some time to digest that apparently horrible affront upon the Queen’s English, even though they feel no allegiance to a Queen or to English per se.

Americans don’t speak English as such, ya know.  They speak like a language that utilizes English words but has no other characteristics of proper English.  We say this to you not so you can say it to the Yank in your midst but so that you can understand the depth of the challenge facing you.

Chin up.

Baseball is Baseball

An American once said that in baseball the basic rules are quite simple: fair or foul; strike or ball; safe or out.

Cricket eliminates the fair or foul dichotomy by having a roundish shape in which every batted ball is “fair”.

In baseball, every batter must run on every batted ball that is “fair” and doesn’t run on “foul” balls.  In cricket, a batter can choose to run or not to run based on whether the batted ball will garner a run or not.

In baseball, if the batter hits the ball outside the lines it is foul.  If it’s caught before it bounces the batter is out.  If it bounces first, the batter is not out.  A batter can hit an unlimited number of balls foul to protect himself from getting out.

The area behind the batting space is always foul so a ball hit behind a batter in baseball is always foul.  In cricket, a ball hit behind oneself may be good for several runs.

Cricket is Cricket

In cricket, the pitcher is called the bowler.  Each bowler bowls six pitches and then gives way to his partner.  So, in cricket bowlers rest their arms after every six bowls.  In baseball, there is much more stress on a pitcher’s arm as he may throw 30 pitches before being able to rest.

The incidence of arm injuries in baseball is far greater than in cricket.

One of the greatest laughs you’ll get from an American is when a batter in cricket scores runs on a ball hit hard but on the ground.  The American will guffaw loudly and exclaim, “He just scored four runs on a ground ball!”

Your response should be, “Yes, he did.  That’s one of the things that makes cricket so good.  And it also makes cricket much different than baseball.”  If he presses you on the point, you must remind him that in baseball many runs are scored on ground balls, past first base or third base primarily.

Also point out that in baseball, a bloop hit is still a hit.

Time in Cricket and Baseball

Both games have the benefit of not using a time clock.  A game in baseball can take two hours or four depending on many factors.  A cricket game usually runs a couple of hours.  Both games give spectators the chance to watch a game that requires great skill in a mood of utter relaxation.

International football and the grotesquely violent American football, do not allow the kind of lazy afternoon viewing that cricket and baseball do allow.  Hockey is much more like American football in this sense.  Hockey has nearly non-stop speed and ever-present scoring opportunities which make it so exciting.

But hockey is nothing like cricket or baseball.


Cricket and baseball are like cousins who are related on both sides of the family.  On one side the relation is quite distant; known and appreciated but distant.  On the other side, the relationship is quite close with deep familial similarities.

Americans should be encouraged to see batting in cricket as a skilled profession, no less than in baseball albeit much different.  One thing is true: in baseball, a weak hitter will be dispatched quickly by being forced to hit a ball weakly to a defender or by striking out.  In cricket, a weak hitter can simply stop every bowl and wait for his chance.

Pitching in Cricket

This, however, brings us to the great challenge in cricket: fooling the batter so he can’t simply stop a pitch and allows the wicket to be hit.  In baseball, a pitcher can use great pitching speed to get batters out.  In cricket, bowlers need a lot more guile.  The spin pitches on cricket are a beauty to behold when they can quickly bring a weak hitter’s turn at bat to an early end.

Excellent bowling is even more beautiful to watch when it brings a good hitter’s turn at bat to a quick end.

Appreciate Both Games

Turning your American friend from denouncing cricket to enjoying it for its own sake is no simple task.  Focus on the positive, extoll the great athleticism displayed by cricketers, and encourage the American to see cricket as a great game in its own right.