Whenever I mention cricket to any of my friends, the first thing someone asks is, “isn’t that like baseball,” which is usually a quick way to end the friendship. To say that cricket is like baseball is to say that boxing is like mixed martial arts. It is to say that Dell is like Sony. It is to say that English is like Klingon. Just because both have certain similarities does not change the fundamental differences that essentially make them two sports that should never be mentioned in the same vein and certainly not in the same sports bar discussion.
In baseball, for example, the throw doesn’t touch the ground; cricket’s leading bowler built a career on making it bounce off the turf and spin like a ballerina. In baseball, you need to throw inside an imaginary box; in cricket, there are actual wickets you need to hit. In baseball, you have to run every time you manage to make a legitimate shot; in cricket, you have the option to stand your ground and tell the bowler that he needs to go home and cry to mommy. Therefore, in terms of the way the game is played, the two are fundamentally different. Sure, some of the terms are shared but they mean entirely different things; would a baseball fan know what it meant when someone said “the condition of the pitch is excellent”? I think not. Of course, if you tell a cricketer that he can only hit directly in front because the gigantic space behind him is all foul land a la baseball, he would break down and start crying about how you took away his dreams to play a cut shot or fine flick (not similar at all, see).
But, perhaps, there are more similarities now than there once were. Cricket used to be a game of stamina but now, it is all about quick running, quicker reflexes and constant smashing, kind of like how cricket fans see baseball. That, my friends, is where you come in. ESPN, on their website dedicated to the sport, is currently offering a live stream of the Cricket T20 World Cup for free in the United States. Seriously, I have eaten terrible food because it was in the form of a free sample; this is actually a new and exciting opportunity for a lot of you.
For those that were always daunted by the prospect of sitting down and seeing a game that takes five days to complete, this miniature version of the game takes literally under five hours. In the olden days, individual players used to bat for periods longer than that. Truth be told, players and fans just don’t have the patience to play five days anymore so, more and more often, we see even the longest format being completed in three or four days. Although, for the rest of the world, I’m guessing even that is a little too long.
Therefore, the cricket world gives you the T20I, or Twenty-Twenty International. Each side faces 120 deliveries or “pitches” (dubbed 20 “overs” of six deliveries each) and the one with the higher score at the end wins. It’s perfect for viewers looking to get into the game because there really isn’t much depth; players are essentially forced to attack every delivery and attempt to send it sailing; that’s how old cricket fans always viewed baseball. There is a lot less depth to the T20 version, especially when compared with the longest format and all its wonderful little intricacies, but a lot more sustained smashing. For any fan of either baseball or the Hulk, that should be all that matters. Tune in to ESPN Cricinfo and enjoy the ride.