My cricket lesson

TED RATH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

Last week I posted on Facebook that I was playing cricket on Saturday, hoping to collect a few tips before I hit the field (pitch? diamond?) to play my first match.

"Cricket? Is it a drinking game?" I received from one friend.

"Isn't cricket kind of like baseball but instead of bats they use those spanking boards?" corrected another.

It was clear I wasn't the only one who didn't understand this sport that, while hugely popular in several former British colonies worldwide, remains as foreign as sepak takraw to most Canadians (don't ask .. that's another column altogether).

So, without any further knowledge other than games can take days to play and often break for high tea, off I headed to the third annual CIMA Canada Mayor's Trophy cricket tournament in Sunnyside Park on a beautiful Saturday morning. I warned my wife not to wait up.

Cricket may not be a mainstream sport to the majority of Canadians, but it has a huge following, especially with new Canadians. There are dozens of clubs in the Toronto and District Cricket Association and other cricket associations around the GTA.

These teams - all wearing a variation of the same long-sleeved, long-panted white uniform - dedicate entire weekends to their favourite pastime.

In the mayor's tournament, thankfully, we were playing game-ettes - only half-hour matches of five overs, which essentially means each team faces 30 pitches. Get as many points as you can.

So, without offering a rulebook of cricket regulations and strategies, here's what I want to pass onto any other newbies before they hit the field for the first time:

* The ball is hard. Very hard. And gloves are not worn, so you have to catch this thing barehanded. And yes, no matter what you try to do to cushion it, your hands will hurt the next day.

* You don't pitch a cricket ball at a batter, you bowl it. That means no bending your arm as you toss it overhand in a windmill fashion - a very strange and awkward feeling. Prepare to learn how to throw a ball from scratch. The good news is the ball is expected to bounce on the way to the batter - whether you intend to do it or not.

* No need to take big swings when you're batting. Because the ball comes in so fast, all you need to do is deflect it. The hit is only half the strategy anyway - protecting the wicket behind you is the main thing. If the wicket - a pair of sticks balancing on three stakes in the ground - gets knocked by the ball, or you, or anything, you're out.

* After you hit, take the bat with you when you race to the next wicket for the point. It was drilled into me at the age of five to drop the bat before running to first base. So that's what I did ... hitting the wicket and promptly getting myself out.

That was my lesson. I'll do better next time. You'll see.


Videos

Photos