It's a Wild Wicket: Everything You Wanted to Know About Cricket But Were Afraid to Ask


Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer.

Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer. For the uninitiated, the Brit-sport import with roots reaching back to the fourteenth century is a lot like baseball in that there are bats and balls and monster shots get fans to whoop it up like it’s their birthday. Only in cricket there are basketball-sized scores (the equivalent of a homer is good for 6 runs), there are no gloves or foul balls, and bowlers attempt to baffle batsmen with googlies and chin music in lieu of sliders and high heat. South African born slugger Derek Erickson, the cricket pro at the Toronto Cricket Club gets us into the groove of his favourite game.

Cricket balls are rock hard—does it hurt to snag a screaming line drive barehanded?
Yes it does initially, but once you get used to catching with your bare hands and you use correct technique then it doesn’t always hurt. If you catch a ball with improper technique you can hurt your fingers and maybe break a fingernail off.

Cricketers were scoring hat tricks centuries before Gordie Howe first laced ‘em up. What do you have to do in cricket to get the fans to toss their toques?
A hat trick in cricket is when the bowler hits three wickets (scores three outs) with three consecutive balls.

The expression sticky wicket, as in to be in a bit of a pickle, has become part of popular speech yet most people wouldn’t know a sticky wicket if they tripped over one. What exactly is a sticky wicket in cricket?
The term we used was “sticky dog.” In the UK they called it a sticky dog when you played on a wet wicket where the ball would do all sorts of strange things. There are no more sticky dogs because people cover wickets these days with tarps.

Cricket matches have a reputation for lasting eons, how long do you play for?
We play for around seven and a half hours on a Saturday which is a shortened form of the game.

George Bernard Shaw said that baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended. What advantage does cricket have over baseball?
It’s a more skillful sport. I’m not trying to knock baseball but there is definitely a lot more skill, a lot more intrigue, and a lot more excitement in cricket. Over five days of a test match, there’s nothing more exciting to see a game swing from hour to hour and day to day and that’s where the entertainment value comes in. There is also a new format of cricket that’s taken off worldwide called twenty20 and the duration is about the same length of a baseball game.

I understand that brand new cricket bats need to be worked in before you use them kind of like baseball gloves, can you describe your personal “knocking in” process?
It’s done with a little mallet. Somewhere along the line people have been told to do it, but personally I’ve never knocked in a cricket bat. I just don’t see the reason for it. I’ve been to various bat factories around England and for the life of me I can’t see the benefit of knocking in a cricket bat. A bat doesn’t need special attention other than a light sanding from time to time to take out some of the cracks and if it dries out completely you can put some linseed oil on it.

Baseball players chew enough sunflower seeds to feed a flock of seagulls. What’s do cricketers chow down on?
Food for the game would be salads or anything light. I know what it is after the game—lots of beer. We’re probably the biggest beer guzzlers in the world of any sport that I can think of. I like lager, any type of lager. Castle Lager would be my favorite.

What would you rather have by your bedside to give you peace of mind while you snooze: a cricket bat, a baseball bat or a nine iron?
What a question? I think I’d rather have an AK47 or something like that.

How do cricket announcers call the long ball?
Commentators will use their own description of the ball going out of the park, some will say “that’s a biggie!” or “that’s a maximum hit!”

Cricket is full of colorful slang, what’s one of your favorites?
You’re jogging my memory a little bit there. I’ve come across numerous cricket expressions, I’ve got a book at home of them. [One of my favorites from the book is] “team spirit.” It shows a picture of a guy standing with a bottle of alcohol in his hands and he’s half falling over. That always tickled me—“team spirit”—whenever we had a drink after the game.

Why do all cricket players I see wear white, is it a regulation or something?
Cricket, like other civilized or noble sports like tennis, croquet and lawn bowling is played in white.

An abbreviated version of this story first ran in the Toronto Sun

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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