There are some moments in this world that can never be wholly captured by words or pictures — they can only be truly known when they are experienced.
In cricket, these moments are plentiful. The crack of the bat of a cricketer when it connects with the ball, sending it flying over the boundaries. The whisper of the ball as it slips out of the fingertips of the bowler, gliding toward the batter. That millisecond between the time that a fielder takes a catch and the audience erupts into cheers, a beat of silence as the world realizes with wide eyes and open mouths that a wicket has fallen. All of these moments, and more, only exist in the sport of cricket.
Cricket has stolen the hearts of billions around the world — but it wasn’t always this way. The game was invented in England and it was first referenced as a sport in 1611. It gradually gained popularity throughout the country, and county teams started to be formed in the latter half of the 1600s.
In 1744, the laws of cricket were officially formalized. These rules and regulations have seen many changes over the years, such as how many balls are allowed per over, the addition of free hits — a chance for the batter to hit without being called out — what specifications are required for cricket equipment, safety rules, and many more criteria. But it was only during England’s colonization during the 1700s that cricket started to emerge as a global sport. The West Indies, India, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa — regions that were the strongholds of British colonization — had the most exposure to the sport. Initially, it was thought of as a “gentleman’s game” — something only the rich aristocrats of the colonizers could excel at — but eventually, all of the colonies began to play and win cricket matches. When these colonies became independent countries, they played not only against each other, but also against England.
Though there was often discrimination and derision toward the non-white, non-Western teams, a lot of the attitude around cricket changed in 1975. It was the year of the first ever Cricket World Cup, and the West Indies team — who were considered the last possible contender for the title — brutalized the rest of the competition in an unforgettable, electric charge to the top, taking the championship. They defended this title four years later and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with — a symbol of triumph of the colonized over the colonizer, beating the English at their own game.
In 1983, cricket would undergo a revolution. Team India — underdogs at the time — secured the championship for the first time in history through pure skill and determination. It was a momentous occasion in cricket history, and India’s resounding victory brought billions of Indians to the sport as dedicated fans. Suddenly, cricketers became celebrities and the market and exposure of the sport grew exponentially. It was no longer a gentleman’s game, but a game of the people.
The latest, most important innovations in cricket’s rules were the introduction of One Day International (ODI) matches in 1971 and Twenty20 (T20) matches in 2003. Both are shorter formats of cricket matches that see a lot more action than the typical five-day test match. Since the inception of the ODI and the T20, many more fans are brought to the sport every day.
What is it about cricket that never fails to capture people, both young and old?
For the older generation, perhaps it’s the sport’s rich history. When they watch a game, they don’t just see a Test match on the grounds of the Gabba, where Australia is notorious for winning on their home soil. They see a chronicle of victories that have made Australians proud, the deep upsets from the West Indies’ glorious win in 1986, and India’s streak-breaking triumph in 2021. When they watch the players, they don’t just see Sachin Tendulkar’s straight drive into the boundaries, but also a hint of Sir Donald Bradman’s classic and calculating style.
For the newer fans, perhaps what draws them back to the sport over and over again is the unpredictability and the excitement that it brings. Whether they enjoyed watching New Zealand tear through the ranks of previously unbeatable teams in the 2015 World Cup and then again in 2019, only to miss victory by the slightest of margins, or Australian Michael Hussey’s electrifying innings against Pakistan to steal the T20 in 2010 when all of the odds were against them, cricket never runs out of unforgettable moments, even in the most straightforward of matches.
Cricket is a story of perseverance in the face of great adversity. It is a story about beating the odds over and over again and of staring defeat in the face and denying it. It is a story that repeats itself in every match, every tournament, every championship, and yet remains timeless. It is this story that draws fans back to the sport, over and over again.
It is this story that evokes a special kind of connection between fans and cricketers that — dare I say — cannot be found elsewhere. It is this story that produces moments that are simply indescribable and that are intelligible only through experience. I hope that the possibility of such a story might entice you to turn on a cricket match, and that when you do, you’ll feel these indescribable moments too.