Almost exactly one week ago, I was sitting in a pub in Tamworth, England. Tamworth is a medium-sized town outside of Birmingham that is notable for exactly two reasons: an indoor ski slope that uses real snow and one of the best preserved Norman castles in the country. I was there for the castle, not the ski slope.
I wasn’t at the pub to drink. Not yet. That would come later. It was only 11:00 am and I don’t let myself drink until at least noon. But I was renting a room from the pub and it wasn’t ready yet, so I hung around in the bar, killing time until I could drop off my suitcases.
There was really nothing to do but watch the TV in the pub, which was showing a cricket match between Canada and New Zealand.
This was the first time I’d ever actually seen cricket. I’d heard about it. I’d even read about it a little, though my eyes tended to glaze over as soon as I tried to parse out the details. I knew that it was essentially the eccentric British/colonial uncle of baseball. And I love baseball, so I tried to make sense of it.
I couldn’t. It was too bizarre. The pitcher(bowler) had a running start. He was throwing at the ground, trying to bounce the ball. The batter was using some sort of paddle. There were sticks stuck in the ground. It appeared as if there was only one base, and there was always a runner on that base, and somehow runners could score more than once on a batted ball. The announcer kept talking about something called a Yorker and I couldn’t decode whether it was good or bad. The whole thing was fucking ridiculous.
Of course, that’s not cricket’s fault. I just didn’t get it. I’m sure if someone from Tamworth came to the US and watched a baseball game he’d have a hell of a time trying to figure out the infield fly rule. He might wonder why pitchers don’t always throw curveballs or why usually only 3-5 batters hit per inning. No, this was my fault. I didn’t get cricket. And that pissed me off.
I knew I would like cricket. After all, baseball is awesome. And cricket is really the only other team sport that relies so heavily on individual, instanced events. There is no clock. It all boils down to a a series of individual moments between pitchers(bowlers) and batters(batsmen) that is heavily influenced by the fielders behind(around) the pitchers(bowlers).
So I decided I needed to learn cricket. I tried wikipedia but my eyes glazed over as I tried to read the rules. But there aren’t rules. There are laws. Cricket has Laws, and that is awesome. However, reading the laws didn’t really do much to help me understand the game. I’m sure if I read the rulebook for baseball or American football I’d still be similarly confused. I needed to see everything in action. And so I came up with a plan.
I would buy a cricket video game.
This whole situation makes me feel like such a nerd. I realize that. But I honestly can’t think of a better way to learn cricket than by playing it. For various reasons–living in the US for example–actually playing cricket was out of the question.
Besides, I’ve already learned so much from video games. I played Civilization and learned that the only downside of Communism is that my pyramids would become obsolete. I spent untold amounts of time with Oregon Trail and it taught me that trying to travel to the west coast means dying of dysentery.
So when my wife and I went to Birmingham the next day, I took her on an ill-conceived quest to find a cricket video game. It turns out, cricket video games are not sold in the US. So I had to buy it while I was there. Fortunately, my wife put up with my flight of fancy. And fortunately, we found International Cricket 2010 for the PS3:
At this point, I should offer a disclaimer. If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, you need to be careful. No one publishes cricket video games in the US. Any game you buy will likely be designed for foreign systems. The PS3 is “region free” which means it will play any game designed for any region. In this case, this is a UK game. But that’s not all! UK games run in PAL video format. US TV inputs are in NTSC format. There is one exception: HDMI is HDMI everywhere. So if you want to buy International Cricket 2010 and play it in the US, you’ll need the following:
1. A PS3 and the PS3 version of the game
2. An HDTV
3. An HDMI connection between your PS3 and your TV.
Otherwise you’ll be wasting money on a game you probably can’t play.
This week, I begin my odyssey. I’ve only stuck the game in my PS3 so far to make sure it actually plays. It does. There’s no turning back.
I will learn cricket. And I’ll detail all my attempts right here.