Michael Lian


Michael Lian

At risk of being booed off the ground from other sports fans, the reason why cricket is such a great sport is the fact that cricket is possibly the most complete and testing sport ever heard of or played.

It's a Mental Game.

You can lose a cricket game days before the toss. The mental game is as challenging as the physical one. A knock to the ribs at training and your batting can be off for weeks. So much of the game is about taking the conscious into the subconscious, and not letting it back.

The night before a game you have to be as confident as possible. At the moment, I'm getting ready for a must win match tomorrow for my team. I know that I didn't train well a few days ago, but I've got to rid those thoughts out of my mind and focus on the confidence boosting things, like the fact that I've been getting lots of edges when bowling to left handers recently.

Meanwhile, you should feel for the Captain. He has to place his fielders in exactly the right places so as to stop runs and get a wicket. And to do that, he's got to take into account the way that the bowler bowls and how the batsman is doing. No wonder most captains struggle to keep their personal game intact while they lead the team.

It's a Physical Game.

Cricket is no longer about rocking up to games on Saturdays and drinking too many cans of VB on a flight to England. It's an elite sport where elite athletes of all body shapes and sizes are pushed to the limit. There are many great athletes who play cricket, yet even they can't stand up to the rigors of multi-day test matches.

Fast bowlers also have it tough. They put 9 times their own body weight through their own foot every ball they bowl. Some of them will bowl tens of thousands of balls in their career, not counting their junior cricket cricket and training. 18 year olds frequently have back injuries because they struggle to keep their bodies at the level of fitness required.

Batsman are no longer beer-belly owning egotistical blokes. They can run 20 metres, in full padding, at speeds even Usain Bolt would be proud of. Actually, even Usain Bolt isn't that fast, as he has shown many times by being rather ironically run out in charity matches. They've also got such strong arms that many batsman can swing a 2 kilo plank of wood with one arm and still hit a ball of leather 80 odd metres.

It's a Skillful Game.

One of the hardest things about cricket is that you can't be a hack. You've got to have skill and finesse. No one can simply act like a baseballer and hit the ball as far as they can in cricket. You've got to be able to control a fast moving ball, something that Bradman always prouded himself on being able to do. Many cricketers are also very good golfers, tennis players and squash players, simply because they know how to control a ball with an artificial appendage.

You've also got to be skilfully fast when playing cricket. A batsman in international cricket has 600 milliseconds to hit a ball. They have around 200 milliseconds of that to actually make up their mind. You can't swing and hope for the best - actually, yes your do. Just do it with an incredible amount of skill.

It's a Testing Game.

You can play cricket in so many different conditions that it's not funny. 10 degrees in Hobart one week, 35 degrees in Chennai the next. It's crazy. Then add in the fact that test matches go for days. And can end with no result. It's demoralizing at the best of times. Many players never get to the highest level simply because their brains can't last 4 or 5 days, let alone 1.

Then there's the intense attention and pressure any cricketer feels. Even if you're batting with someone else, there is so much pressure on you. You have 11 people trying to effectively get rid of you. They have a leather-bound grenade, and you have a plank. I wish you luck.

It's an Individual Game.

Although you play as a team, so are very much alone when you're actually in the action. Batsmen act alone, as do bowlers. Your team mates can't help you, it's all up to you.

As the bowler runs into bowl, as a batsman, you know that you're all alone. Your partner down the other end can't help you. You've got eleven guys trying to get your throat and you've got 600 milliseconds to dodge their bullet, all by yourself. 

The bowler must be able to rely upon himself to deliver the perfect ball every time. His captain can set a field, but it's all up to him to actually bowl the ball and get it in the right spots.

It's a Partnership Game.

As important as the individual game is, the partnership game is surely even tougher mentally. At various stages of the game, you find your fate decided by your team mate's ability at the other end.

When batting, you have to be ready to hand your life over to the guy at the other end. You have to trust each other so that you follow each other's instructions. You need to make each of you equal - you each have equal roles in the partnership. If you can't work with the other guy, your game is over.

Bowling also happens in partnerships. A good bowler uses their partner's bowling to complement theirs, and they slowly chip away at the batsman. You aren't facing two bowlers, you've facing one partnership.

It's a Team Game.

No matter how much of a partnership sort of game or an individual game cricket is, it all comes down to being a team game. Your team provides the emotional energy to keep you going. The team must work together - everyone pulls their own weight. Individual performances blend into the fate of the team.

One individual mistake or the failure of a partnership, and the whole team suffers.

It's an Adaptable Game.

Most importantly, cricket is adaptable. It has thrived in Afghanistan despite a war. Many diplomats assume that cricket is safe as it is so popular amongst the people, and is therefore not a terrorist risk (they have been wrong once). Almost any country that decides to take up cricket can play. The game is incredibly adaptable.

Also, the game has been able to twist and turn it's self into a variety of forms, targeted for all sorts of players and fans. From the 2 hour Twenty20 games to the 5 day test matches, cricket can satisfy any fan and can test any athlete.

It's hard to describe to some who doesn't play cricket just how good a game it is. But it's one of the greatest ever played.