Base-ket or Crick-ball? (On merging cricket and baseball)

A new form of cricket was introduced in England this June, “20-20” which required the game to be over in around three hours. Previously the shortest major league games were one day long. One-day cricket itself was a radical innovation when it began twenty or so years ago—the traditional international games took five days of eight hours (with time off for lunch and “tea”) and it was possible for those games to end without a decision (a “draw”).

(Any readers who know cricket will see that I am substituting equivalent American sport terms where appropriate…) Of course, there are people who want to preserve the ritual and rhythm of the old forms of cricket, but there are already many fans of the new 3-hour game. This is short enough for children to attend so mothers no longer have to be left at home to mind the children while the husbands spend the day at the game.
I got to thinking. If cricket tradition can be pushed aside, why not make more changes? Three hours is like the length of a baseball game and both teams have eleven players, so the two games could be merged into one. This is what it might look like:
• The pitcher (“bowler”) in cricket runs up to a line and pitches the ball over arm onto a strip of mown grass (the “pitch”). The ball bounces before it is hit. Pitching this way or off a mound (with no bounces) would both be allowed in the combination game.
• Cricket bats, which have a flat surface, or regular baseball bats would both be OK.
• In cricket a pair of batters alternate hitting and make runs by running up and down the pitch. In the combined game, batters would run around the baseball diamond, but get another at bat once they got home safely.
• Cricket batters can get out by being caught, by not getting to the base when they hit the ball, or by letting the pitch hit three sticks (the “wickets”) between the batter and the catcher (“wicketkeeper”). If the wickets were replaced with a vertical strike zone—a rectangular target held 18 inches or so above the ground on a thin stake—three times a pitch hits or is deflected onto this target would make an out.
• Cricket balls can be hit behind the batter and can be caught by fielders placed there. Balls going over the fence behind the batter could still be fouls. If the diamond were moved to the center of the field, the foul zone could be reduced in size or eliminated altogether.
• An inning in cricket involves all eleven players batting and ten of them going out (the last one ends up stranded without a partner). In the combined game everyone also bats until they are out or are stranded on base without anyone left to bat. So as not to wear out the pitcher, a pair of pitchers would alternate pitching eight pitches (an “over”)—this is what happens in cricket. (When the combined game goes prime time, TV ads can get squeezed in while the pitchers switch.)
• In cricket all the batters and pitchers are part of the eleven—there are no designated hitters or bull pen. This would be the case in the combined game.
• In cricket only the catcher wears gloves, but all fielders in the combined game could do so.
• Cricket batters wear pads to protect their legs. In the combined game these could be stripped off once the batter got on base (Velcro attachments should make this easy). Experience will tell if the distance to first base has to be reduced.

Americans are much stronger traditionalists about baseball than the English and people in their former colonies are about cricket. The combined game could be tested in England before invading the United States.

(September 2003 contribution to Sox News for Kids, a baseball magazine edited by a teenager I knew.)

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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