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Bowled over March 4, 2012

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

The New Zealand Blackcaps host South Africa for cricket at Eden Park.

“The stadium experience is pretty similar no matter where you are in the world, isn’t it?”

Looking around me, I can definitely see Kevin’s point. Making our way around the concourse of Eden Park, a 60,000-seat stadium in Auckand, I’m feeling I could be at any outdoor, major-league venue in America—minus the espresso that each of use carried in our hands.

Eden Park recently served as the epicenter of the world’s rugby community for the Rugby World Cup 2011, won by the host team from New Zealand. It’s not hard to notice during my travels around the country that the All Blacks, as they’re known, are a source of national pride.

The Blackcaps take the field following intermission

But on this day, Kevin and I are at Eden Park to experience another Kiwi passion—cricket. For his more than 3 years in New Zealand, this is only Kevin’s second live cricket game. Of course it’s my first, and I insisted that attending a professional sporting event during my visit was high on the “to do” list.

My fondness for cricket extends entirely from the joy of watching RIT’s international students play in and around campus, but my knowledge of the rules and scoring procedures is woeful. Kevin does his best to educate me on the key aspects, given his limited perspective.

As we settle into our seats, I increasingly sense a baseball vibe—right down to the drunken clown leading (successfully, to my surprise) the wave. But even with limited instruction, it’s easy for me to notice similarities with the mechanics of both games.

Kevin and I on a chilly evening for cricket

I’m immediately fascinated with watching the bowler—the athlete that baseball fans would most easily identify as the pitcher. Techniques between bowlers vary greatly, and I marvel at their ability to get the pitch anywhere in the vicinity of the batters. Hitting the ball anywhere on the field away from the bowler and his teammates without it being caught allows the batters to score runs, so it’s my assumption the bowler’s primary objective is to keep his opponents from hitting the ball effectively. I’m feeling good that I’m now getting the hang of this.

But alas, with one pitch, my understanding of cricket is turned on its ear. The batter fails to make contact, and the three sticks erected behind him go flying. The crowd roars its approval, and the bowler accepts the congratulations of his teammates.

“What happened?” I ask Kevin.

“The bowler knocked over the wickets, so the batter’s out.”

So I think about this for a minute, and I realize the wickets are always in the bowler’s crosshairs, and it’s the batters’ job to protect them from being hit. I recite this sudden revelation back to Kevin.

“I get it now,” I express with a broad smile. “This changes everything!”

“Yeah, maybe I should have started there,” Kevin laughingly concedes while reflecting back on his tutorial.

On this occasion, South Africa went on to beat the New Zealanders, but I did not leave Eden Park felling defeated. In fact, I believe my international sporting literacy may have chalked up a major victory.



1. Cynthia Cooper - March 4, 2012

It strikes me that this is how internationaler visiters must feel when they watch roller-blading in America. (Is roller-blading an American sport? Is it ever watched by international visitors? Food for thought on a Sunday/Monday morning.)

Safe travels!

2. Cynthia Cooper - March 4, 2012

Not roller-blading — I meant roller derby. (Should never try to communicate before morning coffee!)

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