By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
While the NCAA college basketball tournament has many hoop fans filling out their brackets to see who will make it to the Final Four and win the NCAA Championship, another tournament is taking place on the other side of the world with just as much fandom and probably as many viewers.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup is taking place in Australia and New Zealand. Play began on February 15th and runs through March 29th. The tournament features 14 countries vying for the championship and the possibility of a $4.2 million (U.S. dollars) grand prize for the winner. Last year’s winner, India, looks to repeat as the champion. In addition, South Asian countries Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are competing in this year’s tournament.
The tournament, similar to the structure of soccer’s World Cup, has a round robin format to start. The 14 countries in the tournament are split into two, seven team “pools.” After pool play, the tournament then moves into a “knockout” stage where the winner of the match moves on and the loser is eliminated.
The tournament is widely popular all over the world as reflected through the amount of viewership for the matches. This year, on the official tournament web site of the ICC World Cup, web traffic has grown over 1,500 percent since the last major ICC event and there have been over 26 million unique visitors to the web site since the tournament began February 15th.
While cricket is a niche sport in the United States, it is extremely popular in India. The sport originated from the British aristocracy and grew with the expansion of the British Empire. Thus, many countries with ties to English rule have adopted the game.
Although cricket is a “bat and ball” game it is vastly different from American baseball. There are 11 players to a side playing in the center of a field which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats while the other team “bowls” and fields. There are two innings with each team taking a turn at batting and bowling. An inning is comprised of 50 “overs”. An over is six legal balls thrown to the batsman. An out can be recorded if a ball is batted and caught by a fielder. The team that bowls (think pitching like in baseball) is trying to knock down sets of wickets (three tall stakes with two sticks lying on top) that are set up behind the batter. The bowler throws the ball overhand to the batter with the intent of dislodging the wickets behind the batter. The batter attempts to defend the wickets by batting the ball and scoring runs in the process. A run is scored when a batsman hits the ball and runs to the other end of the pitch without the ball being caught. The team with the most runs, while dismissing members from the other team wins.
The batter uses an oblong bat and batting gloves. Bats are expensive, with a cost of around $400. Cricket balls, which are hard, solid balls, cost about $15 per ball. In addition to the basic equipment of bat and ball, there is extensive protective gear used by cricket players including gloves, shin protection and a helmet with a face mask.
The sport of cricket is played locally in several leagues. Notably, there are groups that play at Marymoor Park in Redmond and Magnuson Park in Seattle.
In addition to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the World Cup features teams from Afghanistan, Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
At this point in the tournament, India looks poised to repeat as it is 6 and 0 in the round robin matches. The tournament will now enter into the knockout rounds. (end)
For more information on the Cricket World Cup including results, the tournament’s official site is: www.icc-cricket.com.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.