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Thread: History of Cricket

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    SJS
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    History of Cricket

    I think this is something that has been missing amongst an otherwise very varied and rich fare that CW serves. I intend to put here, the historical perspective on all aspects of the game and how each element has evolved over time.

    Since there is, by far, the greatest enthusiasm in comparing the greats over the last 150 years of the game (although we should include another century before that to understand its evolution fully) I think it is important to have a record in one place for the changes that have taken place over time. One finds a lot of confusion, for example, about how the wickets and their management (covering etc) have changed over time. The other day there was clearly some doubt about the under-arm, round-arm and over-arm bowling and so on.

    I will try and take up one subject at a time and put a time line on the evolutionary process, its causes and its effects. I think this is the bare minimum one needs to know to be able to objectively understand what were the conditions facing players from different eras and how it affected their performances and, for the modern fan, what kind of influence this might have on the relative stats for different eras.

    I hope this is both informative and fun

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    State Regular L Trumper's Avatar
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    Great Idea.

    Just to start off, I'd suggest over arm bowling may be the biggest change that ever happened to cricket as we know it. I think around 1864 - 1870 period onwards it became the norm. So can we consider that to be the starting point?

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    Quote Originally Posted by L Trumper View Post
    Great Idea.

    Just to start off, I'd suggest over arm bowling may be the biggest change that ever happened to cricket as we know it. I think around 1864 - 1870 period onwards it became the norm. So can we consider that to be the starting point?
    Ok. I will start with the history of bowling and its evolution till the current time. . . tomorrow :o)

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    Global Moderator Fusion's Avatar
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    Great idea for a thread. Look forward to this.


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    Fantastic. SJS and Archie Mac are real plusses of this web site. Will read this with interest and hopefully contribute a little as well.

    I sincerely hope this thread doesn't denegerate into a tedious comparison btwn eras with the inevitable purpose of trolls bigging up their hero by denigrating every other player in the game's rich past. The most boring topic in cricket apart from Ian Chappell banging on abt the front foot no ball rule. So lets have a no trolls rule please.

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    International Vice-Captain Red Hill's Avatar
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    Really looking forward to this SJS. Great idea.

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    International Captain wellAlbidarned's Avatar
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    Sounds awesome.
    Exit pursuing a beer

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    Cricketer Of The Year wpdavid's Avatar
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    Sounds great.

    fwiw here is an overview that CW originally published about 8 years ago.

    I'm confident that SJS's effort will be a marked improvement!

    http://www.cricketweb.net/resources/history/index.php

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    Cricket Web Staff Member archie mac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the big bambino View Post
    Fantastic. SJS and Archie Mac are real plusses of this web site. Will read this with interest and hopefully contribute a little as well.
    Mentioned in the same breath as SJS For the record I always defer to SJS he is the CW legend, next daylight and then there is a core of about 20 who have spent too much time reading old cricket books. I am putting TBB in there as well

    Quote Originally Posted by the big bambino View Post
    I sincerely hope this thread doesn't denegerate into a tedious comparison btwn eras with the inevitable purpose of trolls bigging up their hero by denigrating every other player in the game's rich past. The most boring topic in cricket apart from Ian Chappell banging on abt the front foot no ball rule. So lets have a no trolls rule please.
    Yes, very good point. If SJS is prepared to spend the time writing these things down then we should all just try and learn and contribute where we can. Just for this thread let's just agree a champion in an given era would be a champion in any era.
    You know it makes sense.

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    SJS
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    Okay here goes . . . this will take some time . . . lots of time . . .

    Cricket - A Brief History

    The Origins - Prehistory

    The instinct to throw and hit is the basis of man’s primitive armoury. Nature, of her bounty, has supplied him with an endless variety of missiles, of means of striking, and, in her wisdom, has provided that what the man must do for life, the boy should attempt for fun. That is the genesis of cricket.

    ~ Harry S Altham in his seminal work A History of Cricket

    Its difficult to latch onto a very precise time for the game’s origins. It is even more difficult to do so without the next person, and we are talking only eminent writers on the game’s history here, coming around and demolishing the idea. Almost all early views on the subject matter have been later modified or outright rejected. Although, as we have moved along time, the amount of research on the subject has clearly improved, both in quantum and in quality, but to get a precise handle on dates is still not bereft of the dangers faced by all attempts at ‘prehistory’ in all spheres of human activity. Unfortunately, although cricket’s pre-historic period is not in some ice age or stone age (we are talking something like the middle of the second millennium), we still do not have written word to establish a more accurate timeline on the game’s date of birth. Hence there is a considerable period of pre-history before we come to history or the written word.

    I guess, for most modern fans this is ‘no big deal’ so I will not dwell too long over what is, otherwise, a fascinating subject and quickly move to the periods where we have written records. Lets, however, agree that the game clearly started in continental Europe, at least at the same time, probably earlier, than in the British Isles and it has more French connection than we (the modern lay fans) would have ever imagined.

    There is also little doubt that the game started, as is true for most basic games, in a haphazard manner with no set rules. The only common threads between how it was played in different places were those that differentiated it from the other ‘basic’ games. Thus unlike the ball-kicking, or ball-throwing (or any combination/variation of the two) which were the precursors of the football, rugby and handball type of games ‘our’ game, even in its earliest avatars, always involved the hitting of a ‘ball’ away with a stick/staff like implement.

    The game involved two people at the minimum, the thrower of the ‘ball’ and the person hitting it away. Thus at the root it was a contest between a bowler (as we understand the term today) and a batter or batsman – irrespective of what they were called till we stuck on the modern terms. It is interesting how this, contest between individuals differentiates cricket from other outdoor games (Golf and variations of hitting the ball away accepted) which were more team of games.

    Note :- Some very interesting stuff has been written about how, this aspect of cricket, where an individual contest, where in two individuals are assisted (where bowlers are concerned) by others who do jobs ‘assigned’ basically to help him achieve his objective, is so different from anything else in any sport. And how this, happening as it did mainly on the British Isles where the game took root (besides places where they ruled), affected British society and shaped the ‘English personality’ (for want of a better word). To write on this subject will mean a major deviation but I will see if I can come back to this at another time.

    The batsman (I shall use the modern terms most of the time for ease of understanding/continuity and for my own convenience) were often, not always, defending some type of a ‘citadel’ which the bowler was trying to hit. This could be a stool, a circle drawn on the ground or, the precursor of our ‘wicket’, a wooden door – to a sheep’s’ pen.

    The connection to the sheep – the shepherds really - is very strong and irrespective of how much is hinted by some to try and find other connections, we should accept that most of our basic implements and their terminology takes its roots from the humble shepherds and their lives. Thus we have a picture of a shepherd boy throwing a stone in the direction of another shepherd boy who stood in front of the entrance to their hurdle sheep-pen which “took the form of a smaller hurdle, two uprights and a smaller cross-bar” The cross bar was called ‘bail’ and the whole contrivance the ‘wicket’ from the Saxon verb ‘wican’ meaning to yield or allow a way through. The use of the horizontal upright was important in the latter adaptation as well since it allowed to settle the dispute whether the ball had actually hit the wicket. The verticals continued to be called the stumps from the stumps of the trees which, in all probability, were the first ‘citadel’ the batting shepherds defended before they moved to their sheep-pen – and stumps is what they have remained.

    As the game moved from the shepherds to the other folk and away from the sheep-pen, the wicket took the shape we know today with changes over time (will discuss later) with other interesting variations like the placing of a stool as a wicket which gave the name to a variation of the game ‘stool-ball’.

    The bat was the staff of the shepherd boy to start with and modified over time (discuss later) very much by a process of evolution that is more like ‘natural selection’ than random or even intelligent design, imposed on us by some ghostly/Godly figure from his/her imagination. The changes in the implements, the pitch and the laws governing the game make for a very interesting reading and although I understand that history is not everyone’s cup of tea, we need to acknowledge the influences of change on sport (as on everything else) before we pontificate on relative merits and demerits of the protagonists from that humble shepherd boy to the Tendulkars and Laras of our times.

    The attempt being made her is not to write some scholarly work but to give to the modern fan at least a whiff of how the game has evolved so that he can better appreciate the conditions including opposition (batsmen versus bowlers and both versus the conditions) that faced different sets of players over different eras. This is as much to appreciate how much the game has changed and, much more importantly, how little it has really in the last hundred years or so, as to help us appreciate our ancestry – those who played the game in eras gone by.

    A word about ancestors and how we treat them and their lives - I am in my sixties, old by most standards, but not a conservative in any sense of the word. I infuriate conservatives by my radical views (their choice of words not mine) on all subjects but I stick to being an Aquarian with an open and highly curious mind, willing to learn every day. But being 63, this Tuesday, I hope I have learnt at least something already. And one of the things I have learnt is that while our ancestors did things very differently from us, and while we have, over time, learnt to do most things in a more efficient way, the tendency to run down everything old is our loss not of those who are beyond caring any way. An effort to understand how things were in earlier times, gives us not just an appreciation of what they went through and under what handicaps which we cant imagine since we take so much as given, but also a better nuanced appreciation of all that is modern for only through understanding where we have come from can we appreciate the long journey that has been made.

    The modern cricketing great (and here I use the term in the restricted way it was always meant to be used not liberally conferred like confetti) is as great as that in any other era – he is just different because he is at one end of the journey. He has, as of date, come farthest from those humble origins outside the sheep-pen which is why he is unrecognizable from that shepherd boy but, at the heart, a Sachin or a Viv Richards remains that boy with his shepherd’s staff while the boy with the round stone or wooden orb in hand is no different from the Shoaib Akhtar or even the boy in a street in Karachi.

    The game will continue to produce greats long after all of us are gone and it will produce many more modest and just good players. In 2023, when you and I are long gone, our great grand children will be running down our Tendulkars and Laras exactly as we do those who graced the game a hundred years ago. They too will be armed with a battery of statistics, in all probability much more ‘sophisticated’ and much better researched and available at a click, perhaps at a glance.

    It will as wrong then as it is today.

    If I am able to get that message through then this whole exercise would have been worthwhile . . .

    . . . to be continued

    PS : I am not doing any editing here (except where prompted by my laptop) and writing just freely so I am likely to make plenty of typos that will go uncorrected. Please feel free to point out any major language errors that make the reading/understanding cumbersome other wise please ignore. Further, since I am writing freely - this piece as I sit on the ‘throne’ in the loo ☺ - I am quite likely to miss some important things or break the chain of events. I will come back to them later and will also try and put them back where they should have been originally to make this one continuous piece of writing for anyone reading it later.
    Last edited by SJS; 01-02-2013 at 10:00 PM.

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    SJS
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    Quote Originally Posted by archie mac View Post
    Mentioned in the same breath as SJS For the record I always defer to SJS he is the CW legend, next daylight and then there is a core of about 20 who have spent too much time reading old cricket books. I am putting TBB in there as well



    Yes, very good point. If SJS is prepared to spend the time writing these things down then we should all just try and learn and contribute where we can. Just for this thread let's just agree a champion in an given era would be a champion in any era.
    Thanks for the kind words mate. Doubt if I deserve anything like that but feels good I must admit :o)

    Yes, I think it would be nice to stick to the history and questions/clarifications about what is going to be written. This is going to take a long time, as I have said earlier so please bear with me and lets get this done in an orderly fashion for I do not wish to be sent on a diversion. I am not a professional writer and I find it difficult to pick up the thread of my writing once I stop or get diverted. I have no issues if, once this whole thing is finished (it will be a matter of weeks and months I guess rather than days) that we have a separate thread to discuss the History of Cricket as well as what is written here. You have the freedom to write what you wish there but I will be really happy if this thread remains, even after I have finished this exercise, something for members of CW to come back to, read and contribute in the spirit in which it is being written. Otherwise it will be an exercise in futility for yours truly.

    Rest I leave to your individual and collective better judgement.

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    SJS
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    By the way, I did not mean NO COMMENTS whatsoever. I get the feeling that what I said in the preceding post may have made people wary of commenting at all.

    If there is nothing here besides what I type, I won't even know if anyone is reading the stuff :

    Please feel free to write. Just make sure we do not digress too far away from the subject matter. It feels much better to know what people feel about what is written.
    Last edited by SJS; 02-02-2013 at 01:58 AM.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member archie mac's Avatar
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    Good stuff. Can you throw in some dates please. Also are we up to the two stumps yet?

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    Cricket - A Brief History . . . continued . . . 2.1

    Recorded History
    Five thousand years ago the Egyptians played ninepins; Nausicaa and her maidens were having fielding practice when Odysseus discovered himself to them . . . and in AD 150 Fronto could write to Marcus Aurelius. With reference to an argument between them, ‘Malitiosam pilam mihi dedisti’ – you have bowled me a pretty dirty ball !
    ~ Harry S Altham in The History of Cricket

    700 years ago !

    The earliest couple of references to cricket that can be offered as evidence of the game being played are both around the same period in the early 14th century.

    The first is visual, a postcard that shows part of the illumination of the Decretal of Pope Gregory IX. It shows two figures – one with a straight club and a ball, and the other, perhaps his tutor, demonstrating, left handed and with convincing technique, a stroke, played with what, except for its length, is indistinguishable from a modern cricket stump. The second is an entry in the Wardrobe account of King Edward I, in the year 1300 AD, which in essence informs us that Hugo, the Chamberlain, in March 1300, paid out to the chaplain of the King’s son, Prince Edward, a sum of six pounds for playing at ‘creag’ and other sports.

    400 years ago :

    Then, nearly 200 years later, in 1598, we have a gentleman called John Derrick bearing testimony in court that as a child, (not later than 1550) ‘he and diverse of his fellowes did runne and play their at cricket and other plaies’ So at least children were playing a game, by now known as cricket, at least at the start of the 17th century – 400 years ago. That it no longer remained a sport of children alone is reported by a Bill of Presentment, dated 1622, against six parishioners of Boxgrove for playing cricket in the Churchyard on a Sunday.

    About ten years later the park in West Hosley is plowed and sown for a cricket field . . . and so the references keep piling up increasing in number and frequency till towards the latter half of the 17th century by when it becomes clear that cricket has evolved from a pastime for boys to a game with national dimensions and appeal.

    Cricket had arrived as a national pastime and had started enjoying the patronage of the elite So the history proper of the game that we are going to address is from after 1650 AD

    Fossilised remains of the game 1582 to 1794 :

    Before we move onto the next, the development phase of the game, it is important to look at a very interesting development that took place in 1582 which kind of sent a cricketing branch into exile to sub-continental Eutope where it continued in exactly the same form as in which it had left the motherland’s shores – for more than two centuries !
    When the Catholics found it virtually impossible to practice their old religion in the British Isles, some of them decided to send their children away to be educated in the Roman Catholic traditions. Thus in 1582, Father Robert Parsons founded his English grammar school at Eu in Normandy, France so that the young boys in his charge may be educated and brought up as practicing Roman Catholics in the realm of His Most Christian Majesty the King of France.

    Seven years later, the patron Duke de Guise was murdered and father Parson gathered his wards again at St Omer. The school grew to 200 students by the early 1630’s. A hundred and thirty years later the French proscribed the society of Jesus and the school moved to Bruges in the Austrian Netherlands. Again in 1773 the Jesuits were suppressed by the Pope in 1794 they moved again, this time to Liege where they remained till the French Revolutionary armies chased them out in 1794 and they came back to England to settle in an estate a few miles away from Preston, Lancashire.

    When the vessel John of Yarmouth brought the young Roman Catholics back to England in July 1794, it carried in its hold, as part of the schoolboy’s luggage a number of oddly shaped clubs about three feet long, with a round handle at the top (an inch in diameter), and a number of leather balls with which the boys were used to playing a game called cricket.

    It was a game the boys of the school had played term after term for 206 years ! and as John Gerard wrote in the history of the Stonyhurst college . . .
    “It would appear, very probably, to have represented the rudimentary form in which the game was played in England, when in the days of Elizabeth (1st) the founders of the college had to take themselves and their institution away from their native land.”

    Stonyhurst cricket was played at the school now back in England for another 66 years till it was replaced by London Cricket, the ‘regulation’ game now played across the country according to the laws of the MCC.

    It is an absolutely awesome instance where an unfortunate quirk of fate took these young men away from the native land, they took the game alongwith them, where it became ‘fossilised’ as most things cultural generally do when a people are forced by circumstances away from their homelands and cut off from it. The developments in England had no impact on the way these boys continued to play the game in France and the short period in Austrian Netherlands and they brought it back intact !

    This has been a big boon for historians since there was no proper record of exactly how the game was played in England in the 16th century and exactly how the bat and ball were shaped. Now, over two hundred years later they came back exactly as they had left and we have evidence that is delightful.

    I will place here pictures of boys holding the bat and ball and the wicket they defended of those days later but let me first describe the game as they played it in France which, in all probability, is how the young men who left for France in 1786 had played it.

    We are told that Ushaw games of Cat and Battledore were transported by Cardinal Allen from 16th century Oxford to Duoay. About the same period there is clear evidence of the existence of Cricket in some form and there is nothing improbable in the supposition that this was in like manner taken over the sea. On the French soil it would naturally be fossilized, none of the influences which combined to develop the game at home affecting its course, while school traditions would rigorously preserve its original features.

    However this maybe, it is certain that the primitive Stonyhurst game, the nature of which was regulated by a minute and complex code of rules, combined with the essential features of Cricket much that was altogether different from what is commonly called by that name.
    "The base to be guarded was neither the hole nor the circle of the Cat games but a stone the size of a mill stone. A bowler – one of a team of five – bowled one of the not too hard balls, underarm along a thirty yard pitch on a smooth, hard, gravel playground in the direction of the stone with the object of hitting it and bowling the batsman out. He bowled twenty-one balls at the batsman as fast as he could, one after the other, never having to mind whether the batsman was ready or not. One of the rules was ‘A batsman can not be bowled by a full pitch or first-bounce unless he offers”

    What was meant by “if he offers” is not known.

    All the balls used in Stonyhurst Cricket were partly made by the boys themselves. They made the interior which was cloth tightly covered with worsted soaked in glue which was rapidly dried before a fire. In latter days they made the core from a nucleus of ‘india rubber’ as it was then called. The nucleus made by the boys was then given to the workers at the school’s shoe shop where it was covered by two halves of thick, hard, leather stitched through with waxened thread. The seam thus formed was “raised like a belt around the ball like the rings of planet Saturn” and the boys were advised to bowl as fast as they could and “always with the seam” (meaning on the seam).

    The batsman could be bowled or caught by the bowler, the three fielders or the second bowler who doubled up as wicket keeper at the other end crouched a yard behind the stone.

    It is quite possible that the ball may have changed form in the 200 years that they were away from England. We know that the first cricket balls were made from round

    Bat, Ball, Wicket and all . . .

    The implements needed to play the game initially were just two – a round orb for the bowler to throw and a staff for the batter to hit it away with. Any old wall, stool, stump of a tree or, indeed the wicket gate of a sheep pen was the third element which was what the orb was aimed at. However, these looked so very different in their earliest avatars from what we know them as today. The same applies to the surface on which the protagonists carried on their wars of attrition. From a downward sloping wicket selected by Hambledon’s champion bowler to the drugged wickets of the fifties and sixties and the doctored wickets that Bhajji and Dhoni wish their bosses in BCCI arrange for them we have come a long way. Surprisingly, however, while the size and shape of the bat has changed, as has that of the wicket, the pitch has remained almost unchanged now for nearly two centuries.

    Lets look at the evolution of each of these next . . .

    . . . to be continued
    Last edited by SJS; 06-02-2013 at 08:04 PM.

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    Cricket - A Brief History . . . continued . . . 2.2

    Stonyhurst Cricket


    This Afghani enjoying cricket today and this Stonyhurst Cricketer from earlier times are linked by more than just a stone ‘wicket’. Both are having enormous fun (craic) trying to stop a ball hitting a target and ‘whacking’ it as far as ever they can.




    Bats, three feet in length tapering to an oval head 4 ½ inches in width, were made by villagers in the winter months. Some consisted entirely of ash, but most had an alder-head spliced on to an ash-handle.

    Balls which had a core of cork – sometimes with india rubber at the centre – were covered with worsted, soaked in glue and baked before the fire by the boys. They were then taken to the shoemakers for casing with two hemispheres of hard leather sewn to form a thick seam around the ball.

    Pitches were dominated by the single wicket stone; 27 yards away stood the ‘running in’ stone, placed at a slightly oblique angle to give a clear path for the striker. The ‘running mark’, from which the bowler released the ball underarm and with the seam, was a further three yards away.

    ‘Play’ was called for the first ball, but thereafter ‘the bowler is at perfect liberty to bowl as quickly as he likes, and if the batsman be not ready, need allow no time’. At the wicket he was assisted by a ‘second bowler’ and three ‘faggers’ or fielders.

    Amongst other things the second bowler was required ‘to have the cricket-stone free from all books, bats etc, which may in any way prevent him striking the stone with the ball’.

    The batsman, who retired after 21 balls, was obliged, from the nature of his implement to slog. The hard surface of the Playground was well adapted for this and ‘greeners’ could be dispatched 100 yards across its length into the gardens beyond the Penance Walk.

    Runs were scored by racing to and from the running-in stone and, on the final ball, counted double.”

    Even by the time of the mid-C18th and the great matches played on the Artillery Ground, Finsbury, we can see that although there are similarities with the equipment used, the game in England had moved forward.

    Source : Stonyhurst Cricket
    Last edited by SJS; 06-02-2013 at 08:06 PM.

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