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Idiot's guide to cricket

The Cambodian Cricket Association launched earlier this month, and it’s promoting the ‘‘glorious game of uncertainties’’ all over the Kingdom. Peter Olszewski is here with all you need to know about bowling maiden overs, sticky wickets, no balls and googlies.

Test cricket is extreme cricket, the most traditional and long-form version of the game. One game can last a maximum of five days, and there can be up to six of these matches in a series. It’s an endurance test for both players and spectators, hence the name “test”.

As with life, a test match consists of long periods of routine tedium punctuated by relatively instant game-changing, and for some players life-changing, incidents.

The unwritten rule for spectators watching the game on television is that nothing happens in a test match while the viewer is seated and glued to the TV set. But the instant the viewer leaves the room, either to go to the toilet or get a snack or a beer, something dramatic will happen and the aforesaid viewers must take comfort in watching the incident in replay. Quite often a replay is played over and over anyway, to break the tedium.

Cricket is played between countries that have “test status,” which is determined by the International Cricket Council, which was called the Imperial Cricket Conference up until 1965. That name illustrates the hold the British Empire had on the game, and still has to some degree.

Test cricket was originally ruled from the hallowed Lords Cricket Ground in London, but in August 2005 the ICC moved its offices to Dubai. It is considered not cricket to make any jokes about the headquarters of British-borne high cricket now being in an Arabic country.

Because test cricket has such long periods of tedium, the games truly become a test for TV and radio commentators who will become excited and extremely voluble if something actually happens. Seagulls landing on the cricket pitch provide fodder for commentary and often philosophy.

Test cricket fans love the eccentrically English commentator Henry “Blowers” Blofeld, who has elevated seagull commentary to an artform.

Here are some of his gems:
“A huge seagull flies over our heads and away; is that another helicopter? No I think it’s an aeroplane.” – England-India, day five, July 26, 2002.

“We had a winking seagull the other don’t often see a seagull wink.” – England-India, day five, July 26, 2002.

“And a white seagull flies overhead, a very white seagull. I wonder which washing powder it uses.” – England-India, 2002.

The English-India game of 2002 had more than its fair share of tedium, and also at times a paucity of seagulls. So an adaptable Blowers also waxed lyrical over bees.

“A bumblebee has just come to have a look at us through the window...they’re lovely buzzy things, I rather like bumble bees, bumble bees and ladybirds.”

Or shipping forecasts.

“Radio 4 listeners, you are back after the most exciting shipping forecast there’s ever been, except you didn’t hear it ‘cos it was happening here at Lords.” – England-India, day one, July 13, 2002.

To translate, what Blowers meant was that while the radio commentary had switched to a shipping report, something exciting actually happened in the game – a vital wicket was taken.


THIS is the oldest, and usually the most intense form of the extreme Test Match version of cricket, a battle between traditional rivals England and Australia. As English spin bowler Jim Laker said: “The aim of English cricket is, in fact, mainly to beat Australia.”

The first officially recognised Test match began in Melbourne, Australia between the two teams on March 15, 1877.

There were only two matches played in series: Australia won the first, England the second, thus drawing the series and beginning a long history of cricket frustration.

In 1882, Australia won its first victory on English soil, and a London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks, wrote a mock obituary of English cricket. This declared that English cricket had died and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

England won a return series in Melbourne in 1882-83, and a group of Melbourne women gave a small urn to the English team which contained the ashes of the first cricket spectator to die of terminal tedium.

Actually, the ashes are of “disputed origin.”

In Sydney in later years, the tedium of test cricket watching was broken by the hurling of insults between team members and by spectators. The practice resulted in what is possibly the world’s only internationally famous heckler, loud-voiced Aussie cricket lover Stephen Harold Gascoigne, better known as Yabba.

The 1932-33 Ashes Series in Australia was a particularly bitter clash, and the Aussies particularly hated the English captain Douglas Jardine, who also went out of his way to annoy the colonials.

In response to a request from reporters, he said, “I never speak to the press. Furthermore, I never speak to Australians.”

At times he would come out to bat wearing an English team cravat.

On one occasion, just before batting, he swatted a fly that was bugging him. Yabba yelled out, “Leave our flies alone, Jardine. They’re the only friends you’ve got here.”

That quip has become famous in cricket circles.

Other Yabba-isms include, “Send ‘im down a piano, see if ‘e can play that!”

And “Those are the only balls you’ve touched all day!” (To an English batsman adjusting his box – a protective groin covering).

Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world where spectators can watch a game of cricket while munching on a dish of fried cricket.

FEW Americans realise that cricket was once the most popular game in the country. The world’s first international match was played between the US and Canada in 1844, and was watched by between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators. Canada won by 23 runs, which perhaps explains why cricket later slipped into relative obscurity in the US.

The United States of America Cricket Association was suspended by the International Cricket Council in 2007 because of problems with its administration, but was recognised again in early 2008.

Something to note is that America rarely, if ever, invades nations that have cricket as a major sport.

MOST cricketing nations persist in churning out cricket songs, with the most persistent offenders being the English and Australians.

The Guardian noted that, “The English seem to be incapable of singing songs about cricket without their tongue in their cheek.”

Whereas Aussie songs can be painfully and mawkishly sentimental and reverential.

Australia’s greatest cricketer is Sir Donald Bradman and Paul Kelly’s long paean to the batting hero, simply titled Bradman, is itself regarded reverentially in Australia.

But the UK Guardian was quick to take the piss, claiming the song was “a painfully sincere rock ballad…You’d have to be half-cut to sing this stuff and mean it.”

But the English perpetrated the silliest-ever cricket song, with the title of Jiggery Pokery sung by The Duckworth Lewis Method.

The chorus goes “Jiggery pokery, trickery chokery, how did he open me up? Robbery! Muggery! Aussie skull-duggery! Out for a buggering duck.”

The song has been described as “a Noel Coward” pastiche, which is sung from the perspective of an English batsman, Mike Gatting, who was bowled out by the first ball ever bowled in test cricket* by Shane Warne, who became an Australian cricket legend equally famous for his widespread and heroically numerous bouts of copulation.

The ball bowled by Shane Warne that day became recognised “as being of considerable significance in not just the context of the match or series, but in cricket in general, helping to revive leg spin bowling**”

Another really silly line from the song supposedly comes from the mouth of the defeated Gatting who says, “How such a ball could be bowled I don’t know but, if you ask me, if it had been a cheese roll it would never have got past me.”

* See section titled ‘Test Cricket’

** Advanced cricket lingo, too technical to detail in this idiot’s guide.

THAILAND, an associate member of the International Cricket Council since 2005, has an odd history of its own, having never been colonised by the British. But Thailand’s elite was certainly influenced by the British, and cricket infiltrated Thailand via the kids of elite Thai families who studied in England and were subjected to the game.

But the Thai expats themselves have played an interesting role, introducing a bastard form of cricket called sixes, a six-a-side game.

Alan Parkhouse takes up the story:

Chiang Mai in northern Thailand was the birthplace of six-a-side cricket, the fastest and most furious form of the game. The Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes tournament was established as an annual tournament in 1988, and takes place every year around late March and early April, becoming one of the biggest amateur cricket tournaments in the world.

Six-a-side cricket, which was pioneered by an English expat who lived most of his life in Thailand, is a very fast and shortened form of the one-day game, and the short format produces an intensity of play that even first-time viewers can enjoy.

The Chiang Mai tournament, now approaching its 24th year, has led to other annual sixes tournaments being organised in Thailand, in Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Phuket, and also around the region in Manila, Singapore, Shanghai, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Newcastle, Australia.

In Chiang Mai, the competition off the field is contested with equal vigour, as players vie for the coveted Worst Dressed Player Award, the dubious Turd of the Tournament Award and there is also a team prize that involves a pub crawl around Chiang Mai’s many nightspots, although no one ever seems to remember which side won.

An Australian player called Chef was the undisputed winner of the Worst Dressed Player Award, dazzling the judges with his sporting attire.

“The great thing about this event is that it caters to the serious players, with a few former internationals like myself and some professionals, and it also caters to blokes who only play occasionally in pub teams,” said former Australia national team player Trevor Chappell, who has taken part in the Chiang Mai Sixes for almost 10 years.

“The cricket also keeps some of the blokes out of the bars for a while,” added Chappell, who comes from one of the world’s most famous cricketing families.

One of the more surprising things about the annual cricket tournament in Chiang Mai is that the game is not new to the 700-year-old city. Far from it.

The venue for the Chiang Mai Sixes for the past 23 years has been the Chiengmai Gymkhana Club, which was established by British teak traders 112 years ago.

The teak traders played cricket as well as golf on the club grounds in the heart of Chiang Mai when they started their club. Between gin and tonics and cucumber sandwiches, of course.

NOT surprisingly, most Southeast Asian countries which felt the force of British colonialism have played the game accordingly. Well, to a degree.

Myanmar, which hosted an English first class team back in 1926, fell from grace by imposing an unofficial but effective ban on the sport from about 1988 to 1996.

But the pariah nation became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2006.

Singapore, an associate member of the International Cricket Council since 1974, had a shaky start to the game. The first recorded mention of cricket in Singapore was in 1837, following a letter complaining to the Singapore Free Press of cricket being played near a church on a Sunday. Cricket was then banned in Singapore on Sundays until the 1930s.

Malaysia has had associate membership with the International Cricket Council since 1967. Before independence, cricket was a much-publicised sport, but it fell out of favour. says that one of the reasons is that after the British left Malaysia, there was no elite class to carry on the tradition.

“Whenever cricket was taken to any country, it was played by the elite of that country only. In India and Indian sub-continent, we had Kings, Nawabs, Raja, Zamindar etc who were the Indian Elite. They played along with the Britishers and after the Britishers left, the elite continued with the sport.”

HOWZAT! Expats and Khmer respond to Cambodian cricket

Paedar Quealy 27 Bar Owner
It’s fantastic. Why not? Have they built a cricket field yet? Yeah, I might be interested in following a local league. It’s nice to go and drink beer and eat pies and watch the cricket.

Martin McGovern 49 Programmer
Great idea. Do they have uniforms yet? If they can play cricket in the wilderness of South LA then they can play cricket here. I’m all down for it with the proletariat. Or is it up? I can never remember. The problem is, where would they find some lawn in Phnom Penh? I’d follow it just to see if they ever got uniforms.

David McGuigan 53 Philanthropist
You’ve got to think of their wee little legs. They’d have to shorten the distance between the wickets to make it even. But where in the hell are they going to put a cricket field here?

I don’t even know the rules, except it’s tea at 2pm, unless there’s a full moon in the third quarter or something like that. All I know is Scotland’s on the bottom.

Hou Sambo 24 Footballer
I used to watch cricket on the weekend on cable TV. I can see that one person throws the ball, another one hits it with the bat, and someone else catches it and runs about, but I still don’t understand how it all works. However, I’d be happy if this sport comes to Cambodia. I don’t think I will try to play it because I’m a professional footballer, but I would like to see Cambodian people play it.

Sim Bunnara 30 Tuk Tuk driver
I used to see foreigners, they looked Korean, playing cricket at the Royal University last year. I didn’t understand what they were doing – maybe I didn’t have enough time to observe it. I’d be happy if cricket comes to Cambodia, so that our people have more choices in the sports they play. I don’t think another foreign sport will affect our culture, but it will show that our country is modern. We also have sports that countries in the world are playing.

Prak Munnyphirun 17 Student
I have neither seen cricket on TV nor heard about it from other people in my entire life. I don’t know what it looks like. But I don’t mind if this sport is brought to Cambodia because I want Cambodian people to have various sports to play like other countries do. It doesn’t matter if they play football or cricket, sport is always good for the health.



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