China / Hot Issues

An impossible task: out for a duck

By John Nicholson (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-07 08:04

My troubles began late one night recently when a young Chinese woman asked me to explain the game of cricket.

"How many centuries have you got?" I asked, warming to the task.

"And exactly what part don't you understand? Silly mid-on, silly mid-off, leg before wicket, or the Duck-worth-Lewis method?"

The woman's academic supervisor in Sydney, who had earlier mentioned that her son plays the game, had offered to take my friend on a day's outing to a wildlife park. During the longish drive (that's a cricket term), the student had wanted to sound intelligent with her small talk.

I knew exactly how she felt, because for years I have made out to my cricket aficionado friends not only that I care a toss (that's another cricket term) about the game but that I half understand it.

"Splendid double reverse spin by Compton the other day, what?" I once bluffed as one of these blokes passed me, walking in the opposite direction.

But I realized I had been rumbled when, as I furiously checked Wikipedia five minutes later, it emerged that double reverse spin is a ballroom dance and that the player I had referred to renowned for bowling chinamen, for heaven's sake-had died years earlier.

But that's the thing about cricket for the uninitiated, of whom there are about 7 billion: Players come and players go, and it is very difficult to get your head around what all this toing and froing - all five days of it - is about, especially when the result is finally declared (another cricket term): an oh so magnificent ... draw.

But back to how to explain to someone from the country that invented the compass and mahjong the game given to the world by the country that invented fish and chips. I eventually came up with an 850-word description, of which this is a highly condensed version:

An impossible task: out for a duck

"Cricket is a game in which human beings gather in two teams of 11 and throw a ball a little bigger than the one used in tennis, but a lot harder, and usually red, but sometimes white, at bits of wood. Each team takes a turn having several of their teammates, separately, throw the ball at the wood, of which there are two sets of five, and each set of which, collectively called wickets, is located at either end of a strip of grass about 20 meters long and 3 meters wide that is called a wicket ...

"As the two batsmen or bats women perform their duties, their nine teammates sit on the sidelines either hoping they will succeed in hitting the ball as far as possible or selfishly hoping they will be out because that means they will get a go at batting."

All very simple, but any well-meaning attempt to translate even this limited-overs version of an explanation - not to mention the mountain of impenetrable, albeit colorful, nomenclature that goes with it - into Chinese is doomed to being caught out for a duck.

No wonder Chinese play ping-pong rather than cricket.

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