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Cricket-a Gentleman's Sport

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Rene Bosman is Communications Officer with the South African National Council for the Blind in Pretoria, South Africa.

"We don't like cricket, we love it!" A chant that not only unites cricket lovers the world over, but also a barometer of the way supporters feel about this "gentlemen's" game" played the world over - that is with the exception of the Americas of course.

Cricket is generally considered to be the national game of England, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and the West Indies. Cricket is also played in 32 other countries that are members of the International Cricket Council, located in London.

The rules that govern the game all over the world are those drawn up by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) of London in about 1788, as subsequently revised. The most interesting contests include the annual series of international Test matches (played between national teams). The game was introduced into the American colonies in the mid-18th century but never achieved widespread popularity in the United States. The first women's cricket match was played in 1745. In 1958 the International Women's Cricket Council, located in Christchurch, New Zealand, was formed.

Many people consider cricket as the fore-runner of baseball and the basic ingredients of these two sports are the same. Both sports are played on a field with oddly shaped bats and small balls, players run between bases to score points and the umpires rulings often cause controversy on and off the field. That however is where the similarities between baseball and cricket end.

Cricket is also one of only a handful of sports that vision-impaired people can also participate in. South Africa is the current world champion and the team is set to defend its title at the next World Championships in New Zealand in January 2002.

Cricket is an outdoor game, but the rules have been adapted slightly which allows players to play indoors as well. Two teams play against each other, and comprise 11 players on each team. The ball is slightly smaller than a baseball and is made of twine wound around a cork core and enclosed in hard leather.

The bat is also slightly different from a baseball bat. It is a flat, paddle-shaped piece of willow 38 in (96 cm) long and 4.25 in (10.8 cm) wide, with a cane handle. The cricket field, or ground, may range in size from about 450 ft by 500 ft (about 137 m by 152 m) to about 525 ft by 550 ft (about 160 m by 168 m). In the center of the field, parallel to its short ends, is an area called the pitch. The pitch contains two wickets, 66 ft (20 m) apart.

Each wicket consists of three wooden stumps, 28 in (71 cm) high, placed equidistant in a straight line so that the distance between the first and third stumps is 9 in (23 cm). On top of the stumps two strips of wood, between 4 and 4.5 in (10.1 and 11.4 cm) long and known as bails, are placed end to end in grooves.

The wicket is centered lengthwise in a white line, 8 ft 8 in (2.6 m) long, known as the bowling crease. Another white line, called the popping crease, or simply the crease, is drawn 4 ft (1.2 m) in front of and parallel to each bowling crease. Two parallel white lines, called return creases, run perpendicular to the bowling and popping creases, forming a rectangular area.

The central action of the game takes place between the batsman, who stands behind the popping crease, and the bowler, who delivers the ball from the opposite end of the pitch, bowling from the area between the return creases while keeping the front foot on or behind the popping crease.

The rules of cricket are somewhat complicated. The team that bats first, a privilege decided by the toss of a coin, sends two batsmen out on the field, one to each wicket. The opposing team sends a bowler to one wicket and a wicketkeeper to a position behind the other wicket.

The remaining nine players are placed about the field in positions from which they are best able to catch or stop the ball after it has been hit. Two umpires control the game. One stands directly behind the wicket at the bowler's end, and the other stands about 30 yd (27.4 m) away from the wicket at the batter's end, 90 degrees to the line between the two wickets.

Bowlers bowl the ball, either underhand or overhand, without bending their arms. Batsmen may hit the ball in any direction and, after hitting the ball, can elect to run to the opposite crease.

If the batsman runs, the partner runs for the crease the batter has just left. If both runners reach the opposite creases before either of them is put out, a run is scored. The batting team also scores runs as penalties for various infractions by the bowler and fieldsmen.

Batsmen may be put out in various ways. One way is said to be bowled out-if the ball delivered by the bowler goes by the batsman and knocks either bail off the wicket. Another is to be caught out-if the ball is caught before it reaches the ground. A fieldsman who stops a batted ball may throw it to the wicketkeeper, who then attempts to knock off the bails on the near wicket before the runner reaches the crease.

Alternatively, the fieldsman may throw the ball at either wicket for the same purpose, or else throw it to the bowler or another fieldsman, who then attempts to knock off the bails of either wicket. When put out by the wicketkeeper, without help from another fieldsman, the batsman is said to be stumped; when put out by a fieldsman, the batsman is said to be run out.

The batsman is also out if, in playing the ball, the bails are knocked off of the wicket with the bat or with any part of the batsman's body (called hit wicket); if the batsman's leg intercepts a straight bowled ball and thereby prevents the ball from striking the wicket (called leg before wicket); or if any of several other rules are violated.

A batsman who hits to the boundary of the field scores four runs without having to run for them; if the ball is hit over the boundary on the fly, the batsman is credited with six runs. The same batsman continues to bat until put out. It is considered a notable feat to score 100 runs (called a century) in one time at bat.

Each batsman remains at the wicket reached during the last run; thus, when play resumes, a different batsman may face the bowler. When the bowler has delivered a so-called over of six balls (eight in some countries), a second bowler bowls from the opposite end.

Since the new bowler faces in the direction opposite that faced by the first one, the wicketkeeper and the fieldsmen shift their positions accordingly. When the second bowler has delivered an over, the first bowler resumes bowling. No bowler may bowl two consecutive overs.

A team may use all 11 players as bowlers, but it is more common for 4 to 6 players to bowl. A team's innings ends when 10 of 11 batsmen have been put out, when a predetermined number of overs have been completed, or when the captain of the batting team chooses to declare the innings finished. Each team has one or two innings, usually taken alternately.

The team that scores the most runs is the winner. At the highest competitive levels, a cricket match takes three to five days to complete. Blind Cricket rules differ slightly from the sighted game. The team consist of three category players namely B1 - No sight up to light perception, B2 - acuity of maximum 2/60, field of vision maximum 5 degrees, B3 - acuity of maximum 6/60, field of vision maximum 20 degrees.

The ball is white and made of hard plastics with ball bearings inside. This helps the batsman to determine the direction of the ball. The wickets are similar to those used in indoor cricket stumps with no bails. The color is fluorescent orange or yellow.

The bowling has to be underarm and the ball has to bounce once on either side of the mid pitch before it reaches the batting crease. The bowler has to ask if the batsman is ready before he starts his run-up, to which the batsman must respond by calling out "yes". At the point of delivery the bowler must say, "play"

A wide is called when the ball passes outside the return crease or if the ball strikes a player before reaching the batsman. A batsman is required to stand on his feet until "play" is called by the bowler. Every run scored by a B1 batsman will count for two runs for his team. A B1 batsman has a runner and a B2 shall have the option to have a runner. A batsman can be given out LBW even though the ball pitched on the leg side.

A limited overs match comprises 40 overs a side. In every cycle of three in a batting order, one player from each category must be played. A minimum of five bowlers have to be used. B1 bowlers must bowl at least 40% of the overs.