Aravind Adiga, the Man Booker Prize winning author of Selection Day and The White Tiger, has put together a handy glossary of cricket terms for the uninitiated.
The man holding the bat and standing in front of the three wooden stumps is called the batsman. As in baseball, he can be right or left-handed; the latter have an unfair advantage.
His aim is to score as many runs as he can: the nine fielders spread out around him, and the man with the gloves crouching behind him (the 'wicketkeeper') are there to stop him from doing so.
The person with the ball is the bowler. Whether he bowls the ball slowly (a spinner) or quickly (a fast bowler), his aim is to dismiss the batsman—to 'take his wicket', or more colloquially, to 'get him out'.
What outsiders, especially Americans, find cricket. Groucho Marx, after watching an hour of a test match in London, is said to have asked: 'But when does it begin?'
When the batsman hits the ball to the very end of the cricket field, he is awarded four runs (a 'boundary'). If he hits it into the crowd, he gets six.
The greatest cricketer, by general consensus, of all time. Before and after the second world war, he represented Australia, the country with the most impressive record in virtually every form of cricket.
The difference between street cricket, usually played with a tennis ball, and the real version of the game, which is played with a hard red leather ball that can come flying at a batsman’s face or chest at ninety miles an hour.
A blow from a cricket ball can sting for days—if it strikes the head or neck, it can knock you unconscious. Which is why a batman, before he goes out to bat, must first put on thick leather gloves, and tie foam padding around his legs, chest, forearm, and groin, and finally strap on a protective helmet with a visor, completing his resemblance to a medieval knight.
The discovery in the 1990s that cricket matches, particularly those involving teams from the Indian subcontinent, were being rigged by global betting networks that had links to mobsters and politicians. Fixing scandals continue to erupt, despite pledges by cricket administrators to clean up the game.
A country said to have two real religions—cinema and cricket.
What millions of admirers call Sachin Tendulkar, a cricketing prodigy who blossomed into India’s finest batsman. Tendulkar, who has now retired from the game, is also worshipped by advertising executives, who use him to sell everything from soft drinks and sports shoes, to durable acrylic paint and hatchback cars.
19th century English cricketer, long-bearded, indefatigable, versatile, rumbustious—a character out of Dickens—who became not only the embodiment of Victorian cricket, but indeed of the Victorian era itself.
India’s domestic tournament, named for a legendary early 20th century batsman, Ranjithsinhji.
Mumbai has a very impressive record in this tournament, as does its arch rival, Delhi, although both have recently been losing their paramount position to other teams, as big-city boys increasingly lose out to hungrier cricketers from smaller towns across India.
The traditional form of the game in which everyone wears white, and where play stops for lunch and tea. It takes place over five days, but the three customary fates of a team in a sporting encounter—win, tie, or lose—are supplemented by a third, the draw, which is to say, you can simply have no result even after five days of play. (See Groucho Marx’s comment above)
Two other formats are edging out test cricket—the more exciting, if sometimes silly, 'one day' match, and the two-hour format known as '20-20 cricket', which is, in the eyes of some older fans, almost as bad as baseball.