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How to be a cricket fan when you're new to the sport

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, the United States plays India in cricket. It's the T20 World Cup in suburban New York City. That India would be advancing in the World Cup in cricket is normal. That the United States would be advancing is not. And the U.S. has already beat Pakistan. So it is time for a cricket primer for Americans, which is why we have called NPR's Mumbai, India, producer Omkar Khandekar. Welcome to the program.

OMKAR KHANDEKAR, BYLINE: Thank you, Steven.

INSKEEP: On the most basic level, what is this game?

KHANDEKAR: Wow. It's like trying to explain somebody the rules of your first language because you just instinctively know it.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

KHANDEKAR: OK. So let me try to break it down for an American audience. It's to an extent similar to a baseball. So you have a bat and a ball, and you have a player at one end, and you have a bowler at the other. The pitches are similar for both games as well. They're both between 18 to 20 meters.

INSKEEP: OK.

KHANDEKAR: The difference is behind the cricket player is a wicket. And now that's important.

INSKEEP: A wicket.

KHANDEKAR: A wicket, yes.

INSKEEP: OK.

KHANDEKAR: So the bowler's job is basically to get the ball to hit the wicket. The batsman's job is to hit the ball as far as possible and to score the maximum points. In cricket, you don't call them points, you call them runs.

INSKEEP: OK.

KHANDEKAR: Now, there are the fielders that are all over the field, and their job is to reduce these number of runs and to make sure that they catch the ball or hit the wickets. The team that scores the most wins. That's the simplest explanation I can give.

INSKEEP: OK, well, well, this is very helpful. So there is a pitcher, but he's called a bowler. And he's not throwing it to a catcher, as you would in baseball. He's trying to whack it against the wicket, that post in the ground. And the batter is trying to stop this. He's standing between the bowler and the wicket, and he's going to whack it out into the field. Is that what you just told me?

KHANDEKAR: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: OK. And you get a run when?

KHANDEKAR: OK, so to get a run, the easiest or probably the hardest way to do it is to whack the ball as hard as you can so that it crosses the boundary line, which is the end of the field. If you can do that, then you start running between what they call the pitch. And the more you run, the more runs you get.

INSKEEP: Oh, by the way, do I call it a game or a match? How long is a cricket, whatever you call it?

KHANDEKAR: I think I would call it a match.

INSKEEP: OK.

KHANDEKAR: So, originally, the classical version of this sport can go as long as five days.

INSKEEP: Wow.

KHANDEKAR: It's called a test match. It really is a test, not just for the players, but also the viewers. And that's why you have the shorter format of the game that has gained a lot of traction in the last little more over a decade. It's a little more than 3 hours.

INSKEEP: OK, as I understand, in the World Cup, they're playing these thre-hour matches.

KHANDEKAR: Yes.

INSKEEP: So we can take it in. But just so I know, the test match that could be as long as five days, is that - like, do they take a nap? Is that continuous? What's going on?

KHANDEKAR: (Laughter) So you play for five consecutive days, and each day, you end up playing for close to 8 hours. It's really exhausting.

INSKEEP: OK, I've got one more now. In this dramatic upset that caught so much attention, the United States played Pakistan, and it says, match tied, United States won the super over. What's a super over?

KHANDEKAR: OK, so this is a new thing that's come up just to make the 2020 games much more interesting. So remember I spoke about runs?

INSKEEP: Yes.

KHANDEKAR: When you have the two teams making the same number of runs, then you go to what is effectively the cricket version of a free kick as you have in a football.

INSKEEP: Or soccer, as American's football. Go on. Go on. This is great.

KHANDEKAR: The soccer...

INSKEEP: Who's on first? Anyway...

KHANDEKAR: (Laughter) Yeah. So in this case, then, you have six balls that each of the two teams bowls. And then you have to get the maximum number of runs in those six balls.

INSKEEP: OK, one final question. The United States plays India. I mean, are you following this closely, and do you have a sense of who might be favored in your mind?

KHANDEKAR: Well, there is bias, and there's objectivity, but in this case, both of them coincide, and I think India are the clear favorites.

INSKEEP: OK. All right. Well, we'll see what happens. We'll see if there's an upset. There might be a few Americans rooting for an upset, but I'm just hoping for a good game. Omkar, thanks so much.

KHANDEKAR: Thank you so much, Steven. This was fun.

INSKEEP: Omkar Khandekar is NPR's Mumbai, India, producer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING")

BUD ABBOTT: Now, on the St. Louis team, we have Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third.

LOU COSTELLO: That's what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.

ABBOTT: I'm telling you. Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third...

COSTELLO: You know the fellows' name?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: Well, then who's playing first?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: I mean, the fellow's name on first base.

ABBOTT: Who.

COSTELLO: The fella playing first base for St. Louis?

ABBOTT: Who.

COSTELLO: The guy on first base. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Omkar Khandekar
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.