Cricket is a game that conjures up picture-book images of England, with the players out on the village green in their immaculate white kit, stopping the game periodically to drink tea and eat cucumber sandwiches. To an extent, that idyll still exists, but the sport can also be filled with raucous drama, especially in the Indian Subcontinent, where it is enjoyed by millions. If you don’t know much about the game, these fascinating cricket facts might just inspire you to find out more.
A long, long history
Sports like baseball are built on their history. But they seem as modern as eSport compared with cricket. The sport was mentioned as long ago as 1300, but the first officially recorded game took place in 1646 at Coxheath, a village to the South East of London. The game was very popular, but playing on a Sunday caused some controversy and the church was forced to start handing out fines to those who chose to play sport instead of attending services.
Fashion and trends were very different in the 1800s and believe it or not cricket was just as popular in the USA. At its peak, there were more than 1,000 cricket clubs across 42 states, until baseball took the prime spot as the nation’s bat sport of choice.
A betting controversy
Enthusiasts have always enjoyed placing a bet on cricket matches, and that’s probably another reason for those long-ago objections in the 17th century. These days, sports betting is closely regulated. Online platforms like www.comeon.com provide tips for the fans, while for players, betting on a game they are involved in is strictly off-limits.
But it was not always that way. In a 1981 game, England were staring defeat in the face. An Australian victory seemed assured, and bookmakers set odds of 500/1 on an England win. History shows that the miracle happened, in a turnaround that was so incredible, it is still being talked about today. But the even bigger story concerned the two members of the Australia team, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh, who decided to put a bet on England. Lillee, a keen gambler, said he simply could not resist “such stupid odds.”
A cricketing dynasty
Most pro sportsmen come from cricket-loving families and remember childhood games in the garden. But few get to play together at the highest level. Twin brothers Steve and Mark Waugh are a notable exception.
Steve was captain of Australia and represented his country 425 times. He is acknowledged to be one of the most talented players in the history of the game. Mark was also one of the top players of his era and represented his country 370 times.
Not always for gentlemen
Although considered a gentleman’s sport, cricketers love to indulge in “sledging,” which involves throwing imaginative insults at each other on the field of play. Mark Waugh was an expert at this, but it blew up in his face when he greeted England debutant James Ormond with the words: “What are you doing here? There’s no way you’re good enough to play international cricket.”
Ormond’s response was a work of genius. He said: “That might be true, but at least I’m the best player in my family.” Even Waugh was unable to contain his laughter.