Last spring’s Cricket World Cup was a major global event. Estimates of the television audience for the final matches ranged from 400 million to one billion, while the website ESPNcricinfo.com had an average audience, throughout the entire 43-day tournament, of 72,000 people per minute. But for most American sports fans, the Cricket World Cup was a distant curiosity, if it registered at all. A lengthy piece at one reputed sports site treated the Cricket World Cup with college-dude mockery. The writers’ judgment of the sport as “effing weird” surely reflects a common American view of cricket.
But while their tone was generally derisive, the writers did come to a realization during their introduction to cricket: the characteristics of cricketers can be explained in relation to baseball players—the grace of a fielder, the power of a batsman, the dominance of a bowler. Another, more appreciative piece by an American sportswriter who attended the World Cup found that the two sports share similarities not only on the field but also in what draws their fans. ”I do know this: I am a fan,” he wrote of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat against England. “I am sunburned but do not care. I lose track of time.” A baseball fan could have written the same line about an afternoon at the ballpark.
Martin Rowe and Evander Lomke have long recognized the commonalities between cricket and baseball. Their book Right Off the Bat: Cricket, Baseball, Literature & Life (Paul Dry Books, 2011) points out those analogies in an erudite yet readable style. The book is a primer to both sports. They give a brief and comprehensible explanation of what happens on the field. But more important to them are the lessons of the sports’ histories, the patterns of their cultures, and the deeper attractions they have for their fans. In the book, and our interview, Martin and Evander talk about the slow meander of time at a game, the expanse of green spaces under summer skies, the guarantee of the familiar and the thrill of the unexpected. If you are new to cricket or baseball, you will find their book a gratifying guide. And if you are already a fan of one of the sports, you will gain a new appreciation and new insights when seeing it alongside its cousin in the bat-and-ball family.
Be sure to visit Martin and Evander’s website, where they continue their conversation about baseball and cricket.
And stop at the Facebook page for New Books in Sports. You can leave your comments about podcasts, get announcements of new interviews, and find links to thoughtful, shorter sports writing.