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Cricket

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"It's a funny kind of month, October. For the really keen cricket fan it's when you discover that your wife left you in May." - Denis Norden

Cricket is a member of the same bat/ball/base family of games as baseball. It has been played as an organized game for several hundred years, and as an international game, primarily between members of the British Empire and later Commonwealth, for well over a century.

Although cricket is an older game and might be assumed to be ancestral to baseball, this does not appear to be the case. Instead, it is likely that both games are descendents of even earlier games such as stoolball. Henry Chadwick, who was a cricket reporter for New York newspapers before switching to baseball, thought that baseball was based on rounders, an English game more similar to baseball.

A number of early baseball stars, in the days before baseball became professional, had played cricket. Among them were Asa Brainard and Jim Creighton who played on both cricket and baseball teams in the years 1861 and 1862. Baseball partisans attempted to slander cricket by blaming Creighton's untimely death on his cricket playing, even though the best evidence suggests that he was fatally injured while batting in a baseball game.

There is speculation that Americans readily accepted a game based on rounders as a way of distancing themselves from cricket, which was associated with the British upper-crust that had been seen by Americans as the enemy in two wars. Also, baseball in those days was seen as a fast-paced urban game more suited to the American character than its slow-moving and pastoral English cousin.

There has also been an interesting overlap between cricket and baseball in the Caribbean. Cricket was played on the British Virgin Island of Tortola as early as the 1890s. It moved along with the migration of sugarcane cutters from other British islands. One of the most compelling themes in Rob Ruck's book The Tropic of Baseball is that Tortolans, who also brought cricket to the Dominican Republic, laid the foundation for baseball's success there. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, baseball was recognized as arriving in 1917, but cricket remained popular, and many men played both games.

That was also true in the Bahamas, a British colony until the early 1960s, after Andre Rodgers attained success in baseball. Rodgers was famous for having played cricket as a youth; Pie Traynor wondered how good Rodgers could have been had he grown up with baseball instead. Wenty Ford was a cricket bowler as well as a pitcher. Rolando Roomes and Devon White -- both born in Jamaica, another British colony -- both played cricket first as lads before learning baseball in the U.S. The same may be true of Chili Davis. However, baseball has only ever been a fringe sport in Jamaica.

In Australia, cricket has a long heritage, again because of ties to the British Commonwealth. Yet baseball, though not in the mainstream of Australian sports, has its following. Though they also played cricket, Graeme Lloyd and Trent Durrington both got hooked on baseball as soon as they tried it.

In the early 21st century, new areas of convergence between the two games began to emerge, with baseball's international development taking it in areas were cricket had previously been unchallenged. For example, the Australian cricket federation recruited Mike Young, a former minor league baseball manager to help coach its team on defensive techniques imported from baseball. In 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed two former Indian cricket players, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, as pitchers after their arm strength was showcased on a reality television show.

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