Rightoffthebatbook.com’s friend Ron Kaplan has wondered whether cricket, like baseball, has coined expressions that have become commonplaces in non-sporting contexts. The answer is, “Of course!” Protestations to the contrary made by fans of either game, baseball and cricket aren’t unique—let alone uniquely superior. True, one might only ever step up to the plate to hit one out of the park in baseball; but where else but cricket does one confront a sticky wicket or is stumped with a difficult question? One can, perhaps, talk “inside baseball” if one wants to be exclusive and singular; but how better to define the unacceptable by saying “it’s not cricket.” Someone in love might only make it to first base in baseball but might be bowled over or hit for six in cricket. The games are sufficiently different from each other that a list of equivalent phrases is impossible, but both sports have indeed buried themselves into the argots of their respective cultures.
Continuing on the theme, what would be the cricket equivalent of “Brad pinch-hit for James at the stockholder’s meeting?” or “He was out in left field when it came to coming up with a reasonable solution.”
There are no pinch-hitters in cricket, although some have suggested that they might be added to the shortest form of the game—Twenty20—to spice up the action. Cricket operates like the National League in that regard: the team that starts the game, completes it. Substitutes are allowed into the game but they cannot bowl (pitch) or bat.
Given that cricket is played in the round (in other words, the ball can be hit anywhere and remain in play, and fielders can be positioned anywhere), there’s no such thing as “left” or “right” field. Thus, these phrases aren’t translatable. However, when one considers left field as a part of the ground where the ball rarely travels and where you put your worst fielder, then cricket has its equivalent: usually long leg or long on.
There has been some migration of terms from one sport to the other. Ron Kaplan mentions ‘pinch hit’ which entered the cricket lexicon 20 years or so ago. The meaning isn’t quite the same. In baseball, the pinch hitter enters the game at a particular juncture to add some attacking verve. In cricket, it refers to someone selected for a match as an opening batsman who has a more attacking outlook than a typical opener.
‘Slider’ and ‘change-up’ have also recently begun to be used to describe types of deliveries in cricket. I’ve never been really clear what they mean in either sport and would be grateful for clarification.
Ron Kaplan asks about a cricket-based equivalent to ‘left field’. I can’t come up with an identical expression, but to ‘throw someone a googly’ has some of the same feel, in its use as posing a difficult or unexpected question or situation.
This is my first visit to your site, and as you can see, I’m hooked. You may be interested in my recollections of following English test cricket when living in the USA in the 1990s on a recent post ‘Global Village Cricket’ on Declaration Game at chrispscricket.wordpress.com.
Glad you’re enjoying the site, Chris. Spread the word. You make excellent points. Of course, politicians in the UK are stepping up to the plate all the time now. I’m not sure that anything in cricket has the simplicity of “coming out of left field,” which has the sense not merely of the unexpected and unlikely, but also the outr
éto it. A googly may be tricky and baffling, but I don’t think it has that undercurrent of loopiness.