Cricket World Cup 2019: Facts and a very un-English history


The Cricket World Cup 2019 commenced on May 30 with England and South Africa playing the first match of the international event.

The 12th edition of the World Cup is being held in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14 with 10 national teams.

All the 10 teams will play each other in the first round. Only four teams with the highest scoring average will proceed to the semi-finals which, at the time of writing, are two matches away.

Even though there are 105 countries which are the members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the managing body of international cricket, only ten are playing this year.

The host country England and seven other top teams, according to the international rankings, were automatically qualified to take part in the World Cup.

The remaining two spots were won by two other teams winning the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier. Each team has a 15 member squad.

The sport is mainly played by former British colonies as it was spread by the colonial power in the 17th-century Britain. The TV audience for the World Cup is well over one billion.

The Cricket World Cup 2019 Schedule. | Photo: International Cricket Council

History: Myth and fact

England claims to be the mother of the sport just as the Americans claim baseball and basketball, which are simply not true. It is an old game. There is evidence that peoples have practiced games with a stick and a ball from the dawn of civilization. Ancient cultures in Persia, Egypt and Greece, practiced games with a stick and a ball for fun and as part of certain ceremonies. Its origins probably lie with field hockey and golf, as the swing of the bat by one’s body is quite similar, and its historical origins may well lie in Africa, as George Fosty’s Black Ice Project is documenting with regard to ice hockey.

Games of this type extended during the Middle Ages throughout Europe and became popular in varied forms. Europeans introduced similar games in their colonies in America to the fifteenth century .

There, despite the popular version of the origin of baseball created by Doubleday, numerous references to the terms “baseball” and “bat-and-ball” occur in documents of the early eighteenth century .

The origin of cricket as with baseball really should be defined as the evolution of both sports, because based on what historians of the game have been found, it is a derivation of the game “stool ball” dating from the Middle Ages and, in turn, the “stool ball” comes from practiced ritual games in the ancient world.

But cricket is no longer English, if it ever was. Cricket is at least old enough to have been played in mediaeval France and England as far back as the 13th century if not before and, in that sense, is hardly “an English game.”

Nor was cricket in England the proverbial Victorian game for aristocrats and lords.

The first reference of cricket as an adult sport was found in 1611 in the same country. In the mid-17th century, village cricket was developed and soon English “county teams” were formed. In 1654 churchwardens fined their parishioners in Kent two shillings each for playing cricket on Sundays. It was a game played between two villages, amongst peasants, reflecting their culture, social goals and social relationships.

The first known inter-county game was played in 1709. Gradually, in the first half of the 18th century, cricket started spreading in London and other parts of England.

The first known women’s cricket was played in 1745 in Surrey.

The first reference of the term “base ball” occurred in 1744 just under 100 years before Abner Doubleday supposedly invented the sport in Cooperstown, New York in 1839 .

In 1744 in England the first printed evidence of the game “base ball” was published in a book of childhood pastimes. Between that year and 1796 there are several more references about baseball in Europe realizing a game played by small children and niñas. In 1796 the first rules of “base ball” were published in Germany, which illustrates that probably in that country the game was practiced.

The British introduced cricket in North America in the 17th century and in the 18th century, and spread it to the other parts of the world, mainly with the rise and expansion of its vast colonial empire covering one quarter of the globe. The British navy and plantation owners would introduce the symmetrical sport into its colonies, much in the spirit of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to Foreign Parts, just as the American Navy and plantation owners spread baseball (beisbol) in the Caribbean and the Pacific. It would become, ironically, yet another rope to hang themselves. The popularity of cricket rose as the English army or the British Raj as with India encouraged the colonized gentry to play the “civilized” game to the detriment of indigenous sports and later as the pitch was turned into a battle field against the master’s teams.

Cricket in Canada

The earliest known cricket match in Canada was in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1786 and immigrants played it. Matches between the British garrison and local sides eventually became a regular feature on the Halifax Commons. Seating of the spectators on the grounds were segregated according to social class; inhabitants of the working class neighbourhood were seated on the North side of the Commons and the elite on the South side. During winter, cricket was even played on the frozen ice of the Northwest Arm. The Halifax Cricket Club, which still exists today, was originally chartered in 1858. Cricket was also played in Nova Scotian mining communities by coal miners of English and Scottish origin or in Whitney Pier, Sydney on Cape Breton island by steel workers from Barbados. Youth played “stick ball” and “wind ball’ on the streets of both cities and rural towns.

The game of baseball, first played in Ontario, Canada in the 1830s derives from rounders, a similar English sport.

In 1844, the first international cricket game was played between the United States and Canada in New York. The first overseas tour was played in 1859 when the English team visited the North American countries. With the neo-colonial confederation of Canada in 1867, the Anglo-Canadian ruling elite declared cricket the national sport. Lacrosse, the sport of the Indigenous Peoples, was relegated to the sidelines. Until the 1960s, cricket was the domain of the private schools and clubs of the ruling elite. With the expansion of immigration in the 1960s, cricket became a blue collar amateur sport, a sport played by the Canadian people, although it is twice marginalized by the monopoly media as “an immigrant game” as well as a “fringe sport.” Cricket has grown from 17,000 senior and junior players in 2004 to an estimated 40,000 players across Canada, all amateurs.

Cricket Canada, known as the Canadian Cricket Association until November 2007, is the governing body of cricket in Canada. It was established in 1892 and has its current headquarters in Toronto, Ontario. It administers the national men’s and women’s teams as well as several youth teams at various age levels. It also describes cricket as “a minority sport.”

Cricket’s epicentre shifts

The popularity of the game soared after the International Cricket Council was formed in 1909. It was initially known as the Imperial Cricket Conference and England, Australia, and South Africa were characteristically the first member countries.

During the 20th century, more countries became a part of the ICC. The ICC changed its name from Imperial Cricket Conference to International Cricket Conference in 1965 and took its current name in 1989. Today there are another 64 countries which have affiliate or associate status with the ICC including Canada. The ICC acts as an informal sports cartel associated with global media empires, not the least of which is Robert Murdoch’s Newcorp.

The first international women’s cricket was played in 1934 between England and Australia and the International Women’s Cricket Council was founded in 1958 (it was merged with ICC in 2005) to develop the women’s game.

The first Men’s Cricket World Cup was organized in 1975 in England. Since then it is held every four years.

Cricket’s epicentre has shifted decisively from England to South Asia, Oceania, Africa and the West Indies. The first time the world cup was held outside of England was in 1987 jointly in India and Pakistan.

Australia won the World Cup more than the other countries. It won the cup five times (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2015) followed by West Indies (1975, 1979) and India (1983, 2011) each won the cup twice, and Pakistan (1992) and Sri Lanka (1996) won once.

Today, the game is played in over seventy countries on most continents, and has become the “national sport” of various states and a field of resistance amongst not a few nations. Beating the British at “their own game” became an invitation to incomparable national and patriotic festivals and not a few popular rebellions, especially in the West Indies. The Bermuda Cup, for instance, is always played on Thursday and Friday prior to Emancipation Day, August 4, which commemorates the day in 1834 when slavery was abolished on the island. No one could bring themselves to work, forcing the Governor in the 1930s to declare public holidays. For two days, the ground at Somerset is home to some 7,000 fans – out of a total population of some 55,000. The most well-known cricketer in the world is perhaps Imre Kahn who led Pakistan to the World Cup in 1992 and who is now prime minister of that country.

With a file from Telesur and from Ecured

*The writer was president of the Nova Scotia Cricket Association for 13 years and with Curtis Coward co-author of The Kids’ Baseball Book (New Media Publications, 1994)

Related reading

‘Only on the Halifax Commons, you say? Pity!’

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