Sports and sporting activities have become significant aspects of modern civilisation. Most of today’s complex games have evolved from simple ideas of the pre World War II epoch. Before the second world war, most sporting activities were conducted mainly for leisure and social pass time activities, today sports has taken complex and professional platform whose aims have since changed from only leisure to sources of income and economic drivers. From a clinical perspective, sporting activities are important in one’s life and more especially to children and adolescents as it aids in their physical and psychological development. Cricket, just like soccer, rugby and athletics commands mass and passionate following all over the world. The sport which began in the pre-restoration era in England has achieved significant influence worldwide. Like all other professional sporting activities, cricket has rules and international organizations that oversee their implementation govern the sport. This paper takes interest in discussing cricket as a sport and the various benefits that accompany it.
Although the origins of cricket remain uncertain, the game is thought to have originated from south-east England during the 16th century (Johnson, 2016). The earliest documented evidence of the game dates back to a 1958 court case in which “creckett” was attested to have been played on a common land in Guildford around 1550. In the case, 59-year-old coroner, John Derrick testified that during his tenure as a scholar at “Free School at Guildford,” five decade earlier, “hee and diverse of his fellows did runne and play at creckett and other plaies (Mortimer, 2013). There however exist other claims suggesting that the game could have existed earlier than the documented date, as early as 1300, these claims however are lacking in evidence and have since been treated only as rumour and innuendo.
It is believed that the game was primarily played by children though documented evidence from 1611 show that adult participation in the game also occurred. The game initially as a social pass time activity organised between parishes and slowly grew into an organized activity; this is attested to by a newspaper reporting of “a great cricket match” between two teams each with eleven players that took place in Sussex in 1697 (Mortimer, 2013). The 18th century witnessed significant changes to the sport. Initially, the ball was rolled and skimmed towards the batsman by the bowler, this changed to pitching around 1760. This evolution also paved way to introduction of the modern straight bat in place of the old “hockey stick” shape. The first international cricket game is recalled to have taken place in 1844 between Canada and the United States, since then the game has tremendously advanced and today there exist numerous international and intercontinental cricket tourneys.
Traditionally, cricket is a ball and bat contest between two teams, eleven players a piece. The playing surface is usually a grassy circular or oval field, whose size may vary depending on the competition as there are no rules specifying its size, with a rectangular strip (pitch) at the centre (MCC, 2016). The team kit is usually all-white jersey and pants, this however witnesses alterations when it comes to limited overs cricket in which the participants dress in club or team colours. Additionally, players are allowed to put on protective gear to avoid injuries by the ball. The game is played in two phases called innings in which the teams switch between fielding and batting. During play, all the eleven members of the fielding team are allowed into the field of play as opposed to only two members of the batting team. Scoring is determined in terms of the number of runs and extras.
Materials of the game
Figure 1: a typical cricket field
The game is played on a grass surfaced field. The dimensions of the field are not specified by the laws of the game, the field is however oval or circular in shape with a centred rectangular strip known as pitch. The pitch is often flat in terrain, about 10 feet in width and with very short grass. Wooden targets known as wickets are placed 20 metres apart at either end of the pitch. The wickets act as targets for the fielding/bowling side and are defended by the batting team.
Figure 2; image of cricketers showing, a batter, a wicketkeeper and two fielders
Stumps, bails and creases
A wicket often consists of three wooden stumps vertically aligned with each other. Two wooden cross-pieces referred to as bails often surmount the stumps. The combined height of the stumps and bails should be 28.5 inches while the total width of stumps and inter-stump spacing usually totals to 9 inches (MCC, 2016).
Figure 4; a typical cricket pitch
Crease is the term that is used to refer to a set of four lines painted around the wicket areas to demarcate the batsman’s “safe territory” as well as and to establish the limit of the bowler’s approach. The four creases are; one popping/batting crease, one bowling crease and two return creases. Stumps are often hammered onto the ground in line on the bowling crease which is usually 8 feet 8 inches long and are centred along the crease. The popping crease has the same dimensions as the bowling crease; it is parallel to the bowling crease and 4 feet in front it. The return creases are parallel to each other and run from the ends of the popping crease through the ends of the bowling crease.
Bat and ball
Figure 5; typical cricket bats
The game involves a bowler pitching a ball from one end of the pitch towards a batman armed with a bat on the opposite end. The bat is a wooden instrument with its lower part having the shape of a blade while the upper part is a cylindrical base. The bat is designed with a width not exceeding 4.25 increase and total length not more than 38 inches. (MCC, 2016). The ball is a tough solid object comprising of seamed leather surrounding a cork core, it has a total circumference of 9 inches. On the surface of the ball are six rows of stitches known as “seam” which bind the shell of the ball to the string and cork inside. For a new ball, the seam is outstanding and aids in propelling the ball in an unpredictable way, the seam however wears out with continued use. Due to its hardness and the speed at which it is pitched, the ball poses great danger to batsmen, as a result. Batsmen are required to put on gear which include; helmet for head protection, pads for knees and shin protection, batting gloves for protecting the hands and a box inside the trousers to guard the crotch area.
Laws of cricket
The rules which govern the structure of the game, conduct of players and officials were established by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), a private club based in London in England. Overall, there are 42 laws governing the game (MCC, 2016), this article however, will only highlight the rules governing the game structure as well as scoring and winning.
Structure of the Game
1) Each team consists of 11 players. At any given time when the ball is live, all members of the fielding/bowling team must be in the field with only two members of the batting team present.
2) An over can only be complete when the bowler makes a total of six legal deliveries.
3) The game must be officiated by three officials known as umpires. Two of the umpires should be present on the field standing at either end of the wicket. The third umpire is off the field and follows the match on recorded clips. The infield umpires are responsible for counting the number of legal balls in an over, deliberate on whether the batsmen is out after an appeal as well as checking if the delivery by the bowler is legal.
4) The bowling team should have one designated wicket keeper. This is the only player allowed to wear protective pads and gloves on the field. The wicket keepers position is on the opposite side to the bowler to catch the ball in case it is missed by the batman.
5) The fielder. This refers to any of the eleven members of the bowling team. They are normally positioned to field the ball, to end runs and boundaries and to dismiss batsmen by catching or running them out.
6) Innings. Teams should deliberate on the number of innings per team for each game before the start. It should also be pre determined on whether the length of the each innings is limited by time or overs.
7) The follow-on. In the case of a two innings match, the second team to bat can require their opponents to bat again in quick succession if they score significantly fewer runs than their opponents who batted first. The side enforcing the follow-on can potentially win the match without batting again.
8) Declaration and forfeiture. The captain of the batting team has authority to close an inning at any interval of a dead ball. The captain also has authority to forfeit his innings before it starts.
9) Intervals. The timings and length intervals between innings, lunch, tea and drinks intervals must be deliberated on before the start of the match.
10) Start of play and cessation of play. The start of play after an interval break begins with a signal from the umpire; usually a signal of “Play” terminates by a call of “Time” from an umpire. The last session of a match cannot end with less than 20 overs and if necessary an extension in time must be allowed to achieve this rule.
11) Practice on the field. Batting and bowling practises on the pitch are not allowed except before and after the day play. Trial run-ups by bowlers can only be granted if the umpire perceives that it would not waste time.
Scoring and winning
Scoring runs. A score in cricket is referred to as a run; it can only be achieved when the two batsmen run their opposite bowler creases. More than one runs can be scored from a single ball.
12) Boundaries. A boundary define the limits by which a ball is considered live, it is demarcated round the field of play. Four runs are scored if a ball is hit and rolls past or drops infield and bounces out of it. Six runs are score when a hit ball does not touch ground before crossing the boundary.
13) The result. The team with the most runs wins the match, a match is tied when both team score equal runs and draws when time elapses before all innings are complete.
14) The over. This consists of six legally pitched balls by the bowler.
15) Dead ball. A ball becomes live at the start of a bowlers run and becomes dead when all action from the ball ends. Scoring and dismissal of batsmen cannot occur during a dead ball.
16) No ball. This occurs when the bowler bowls from a wrong position, over flexes his elbow during delivery or when the delivery is considered dangerous.
Aims of cricket
The general aim of cricket and any other game is winning. In cricket winning is achieved when a team outscore another by collecting more runs and extras than their opponents.
The aim of the game can be viewed from the perspective of the players
The batter aims at scoring runs by hitting the ball as far and hard as possible to enable them run between the wickets.
The bowler pitches the ball over arm towards the batman with aim to dismiss them or get them out.
The fielders aim is to curtail the batter’s runs and dismiss them by either catching the ball while still in flight before landing, or hitting the wickets with the ball during the batters run.
The wicketkeeper aims to stop the ball in case the batter misses it or to catch it in flight before landing.
Objectives of the game
The game has a number of objectives;
1) To promote international relations through games; international and intercontinental cricket tournaments enhance inter-nation relations and promote peaceful coexistence.
2) To promote physiological and psychological development in teenagers and adolescents and healthy lifestyles (Gilligan & Smith, 1991). Cricket is a sport that involves physical and mental engagements by the participants. This is essential in the growth and development of children and youths.
3) Creation of employment. Although the game was initially a social pass-time, it has undergone enormous advancements and has become a professional game. Today many professionals engage in the sport as a source of livelihood.
The following learning outcomes are tied to participation in the game of cricket;
1) Team work skills. Cricket is a team sport that requires team members to coordinate effectively in order to achieve their aims. Through participation in cricket, participants acquire essential team skills that enable them to cooperate and work as a team.
2) Skill improvement; through the game, one is able to learn essential game skills which include; batting skills, throwing, catching, fielding and throwing accuracy.
Age related physiological and psychological effects of playing the game
Dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion
Since cricket is an outdoor activity which requires participants to be in the open exposed to heat, there is a high chance of the players being dehydrated, heat stroked and exhausted as a result of heat exposure. This can happen to persons at any age.
Melanoma and other skin cancers
Research shows that excessive exposure to sunlight increases the risk of one contracting melanoma and other skin cancers. This effect is also applicable to all cricket players regardless of age.
Cricket is a physical game that calls for strenuous throws, batting and runs, these activities require a lot of energy and strong muscle reflexes (Bull, Shambrook, James, & Brooks, 2005). These activities could work against players of tender ages whose muscles and not well developed (Noakes & Durandt, 2009).
Due to the games intensity and equipment numerous physical injuries are bound to occur. Statistics estimate cricket injuries at 2.6/10,000 athlete hours resulting in 28.4% to 71.6% of players sustaining between 1.61 and 1.91 injuries per season (Corrigan, 1994). These injuries can in form of bony and back injuries by bowlers and injuries by the ball to batters and fielders. Physical injuries in the game occur to all ages of participants.
Depression is a psychological effect that has been associated with long term cricketing. Research shows that a number of the game’s players suffer from depression and other psychological disorders, these disorders sometimes call for rehabilitation (Hundertmark, 2007).
Like other professional games, cricket is a game that has been embraced worldwide. Like all other sporting activities, the game has a number of benefits both to individuals and society.
Professional cricketers earn livings from the sport, contrary to the purpose during its origin where it was considered a children game and a social pass time the game is currently played at high stakes with large number of spectators (Gilligan & Smith, 1991).
The physical nature of the game calls for physical fitness that shields one from the many health hazards associated with current dietary behaviours.
Promotion of social cohesion
Cricket is a game that is fancied by people of vast social backgrounds. It brings together people from different backgrounds hence strengthening the bonds between them and enhancing peaceful co-existence.
Comparison with other sporting activities
The benefits of cricket do not contrast with other team sports. Team work, healthy lifestyles, income earning and promotion of social cohesion are also enjoyed in Soccer, Rugby, hockey and volleyball. It is thus tempting to conclude that early all team sports that require physical engagements have similar benefits.
Although a myriad of sports disciplines remunerate their players, Income that is earned by cricketers outshines the wages earned by other sports disciplines in the world over. It is evident that cricket in some countries such as India has become like a religion while the players are considered to be idols. This is influenced by the fact that players who play Cricket earn colossal amounts of money that has projected them to astronomical levels in their social status.
Team unity among the players in any team is the basic threshold required if any team is to realise good results. Games like rugby, hockey, rugby as well as soccer and cricket highly depend on how well individual players are able to coordinate with other players in the field. Cricket as discipline greatly reinforces the issue of team cohesion.
It is undeniable that cricket is a physical game just like other sports such as rugby and soccer. However cricket is more involving. The game not only demands physical fitness but also the players should be mentally fit. It is therefore prudent to pinpoint that the physical aspects of the game cushions the players of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and obesity.
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Corrigan, A. (1994). Cricket injuries. Aust Fam Physician, 13(8), 558–559.
Gilligan, C., & Smith, E. (1991). Physical activity effects on bone metabolism. Calcif Tissue Int, 50-54.
Hundertmark, J. (2007). Cricketers and mental health concerns. Australas Psychiatry, 15(6), 509–512.
Johnson, B. (2016, November 28). The History of Cricket. Retrieved from History UK (The History and Heritage Acoomodation Guide): https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-History-of-Cricket/
MCC. (2016, November 28). Laws. Retrieved from Lord’s (The home of Cricket): https://www.lords.org/mcc/laws-of-cricket/laws/
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