Cricket: Cricket

"Nothing but baseball. You know, we used to call it rounders. Children
play it with a rubber ball and a stick. Not a word about cricket. Americans
have no sense of proportion."
-- "The Lady Vanishes"

From "Bull Durham" to "Rocky" to "Hoosiers," we are a country passionate for sports films. Even for sports such as billiards and running, there's a film synonymous with it. Think "The Hustler" and "Chariots of Fire." But what about cricket flicks? Well-known directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson and Rob Reiner have all shown a topsy-turvy fascination with the sport in selective scenes in their work, but where are all the cinematic masterpieces set directly in cricket to be found?

With the ICC World Twenty20 heading into its last stretch, I felt it was an opportune time to give you my list of favorite cricket movies. From Bollywood romantic comedies to fascinating documentaries to a slasher flick with a deranged serial cricket killer, you're covered here. (Editor's note: Some trailers contain mature content and language.)

'Lagaan'


Might as well start with the "Citizen Kane" and "Gone with the Wind" of cricket movies. "Lagaan" is a titanic Bollywood bonanza of 225 exhilarating minutes of song and dance set during the British Raj. Amir Khan, India's George Clooney, stars as the leader of a motley crew of villagers who take on a corrupt British officer in a game of cricket in order to save their village from an absurd tax. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2001 and features the music of A.R. Rahman, who composed the soundtrack of "Slumdog Millionaire." "Lagaan" is a thaali of drama and comedy, razzmatazz and romance that creates an irresistible big-screen epic that will shake up your favorites list.

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For those watching cricket for the first time during the ICC World Twenty20 over the past two weeks, one of the first things that stands out is that with the exception of the wicketkeeper, the fielders in cricket are not allowed to wear gloves to field or catch the ball. Because the cricket ball is similar in size, weight and shape to a baseball and comes just as quickly off the bat when it is struck by a cricket batsman, viewers might get the impression that cricketers are a bit loony and risking injury in this way.

While cricketers are definitely an odd bunch in many regards, fielding without gloves is actually one of the less dangerous aspects of cricket. After all, this is a sport where it's well within the rules for the bowler to hurl a ball off the pitch aimed at the body, or the head, of the batsman at more than 90 mph.

[+] EnlargeWayne Parnell
Pal Pillai/Getty ImagesSouth Africa's Wayne Parnell lays it on the line against Australia on Sunday.
Ground fielding in cricket nowadays borrows many of the athletic techniques used in baseball. Viewers will see cricketers doing baseball slides along the edge of the boundary to prevent the ball from going over the rope. Throwing at the stumps requires surgical precision in order to run out a batsman attempting to switch ends. Yet, something like a fielder giving chase and slapping the ball back inside the boundary rope is very similar to a gunner on a special teams unit in football running for the goal line and slapping the ball back toward the 5-yard line to prevent a touchback.

Catching a cricket ball in the air also requires a technique that is actually more akin to catching a football than a baseball. People automatically associate cricket with baseball in many regards, mainly because each sport uses a bat to hit a round ball. From watching some of the cricketers in this tournament, though, you'll see their athleticism transfers well beyond comparisons to baseball.

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Welcome to Tendulkar 2.0

September, 24, 2012
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He's becoming the Mike Trout of cricket. Virat Kohli is considered the brightest and most exciting talent in his sport. The 23-year-old Indian batsman, who blasted England on Sunday for 40 runs off 32 balls in a convincing 90-run win in an ICC World Twenty20 Group A matchup, has dominated the cricketing world with his play in the past year.

He was recently named the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year for his scintillating 66.5 runs per match average, including eight centuries and six half-centuries the past season. He has 13 centuries in 90 career ODI matches, and in test matches in 2012, he has a 62.62 average -- marks that make a convincing argument that he is the undisputed heir to the great Sachin Tendulkar as India's premier cricket star.

Kohli has positioned himself through outstanding performances -- 183 runs against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, 133 not out against Sri Lanka -- to create a buzz among fans on the subcontinent and ease the reality that the twilight of Tendulkar’s career is upon us.

[+] EnlargeVirat Kohli
Matthew Lewis-ICC/Getty ImagesOnly 23, Virat Kohli infuses an old-school patience with a new-world edge in thriving as a batsman.
For 20 years, one man has cast an aura around Indian cricket that's simply mythic in scale. Tendulkar has broken nearly every record in cricket and created a body of work that remains unprecedented. But he is now 39 and no longer plays all formats of the game. India has had other players who have worn the moniker as the next Sachin, from Virender Sehwag to Yuvraj Singh, but no player has sustained the hype. That is until Kohli, who made his international debut in 2008.

During the 2011 ICC World Cup, Kohli made his grand entrance with a century in the first match of the tournament against Bangladesh and sustained a key 83-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir that gave India the momentum it needed to chase Sri Lanka's total in the final. Like Tim Duncan replacing David Robinson as the face of the San Antonio Spurs with his 1999 NBA Finals performance, Kohli's achievement was the moment that marked the changing of the guard.

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Sports journalists and commentators are sometimes derided for inserting war metaphors into descriptions of action on the field of play. Athletes become warriors who fight battles in the trenches. Catching the other team off guard isn't just good coaching, it's an ambush. A high-scoring game is no longer a contest with an excessive amount of points on the scoreboard but rather a shootout.

For the cricketers of Afghanistan, these casual clichés are no laughing matter. They are things they have to worry about from the moment they wake up in the morning. Yet, they've found a way to not only survive the daily hardships of life in a war-torn country, but somehow prosper on the field of cricket.

Afghanistan's Cinderella story is not just remarkable for the heights it's climbed from a day-to-day life of despair, but the speed with which it's risen to compete in ICC tournaments like the World Twenty20. Cricket's historical powers such as England and Australia have been part of the ICC since its inception in 1909, with national cricket boards in those countries dating well before that.

[+] EnlargeMohammad Shahzad
Matthew Lewis/ICC/Getty ImagesMohammad Shahzad, working the ball toward the boundary Wednesday against India, embodies the Afghans' gritty spirit.
Conversely, the Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed only in 1995, followed by Afghanistan being admitted into the ICC fold in 2001. In 2008, the Afghans were in the lowest level, Division Five, of the ICC's World Cup qualification ladder system for second-tier associate and affiliate teams. Eleven months and four tournaments later, they had progressed to Division One and came within one game of clinching a spot in the 2011 ICC World Cup, finishing fifth at a qualifier when only the top four teams gained spots in the main event.

In January 2010, the Afghanistan U-19 team participated for the first time in the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand. A month later, the men's team continued making strides by winning the World Twenty20 qualifier in Dubai and participated in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean that April and May. That December, the Afghans defeated Scotland in the final to win the ICC Intercontinental Cup, the premier multiday competition for associate nations.

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The comeback of Yuvraj Singh

September, 18, 2012
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As the reigning International Cricket Council World Cup champion from 2011 and the winner of the 2012 ICC U-19 World Cup, India enters the ICC World Twenty20 with a chance at staking claim to the three tournament trophies at once. The feat would be impressive, but it would pale in comparison to the accomplishment made by Indian star Yuvraj Singh just to be able to participate in this tournament.

Without Yuvraj, India would not have raised the World Cup on home soil last year. Although the tournament title was won for all-time great batsman Sachin Tendulkar, it was accomplished largely through the efforts of Yuvraj. His dual contributions on the batting and bowling side saw him named player of the series.

[+] EnlargeYuvraj Singh
Satish Bate/Hindustan Times/Getty ImagesHow will Yuvraj Singh perform in his first tournament back since beating cancer?
It appeared that after years of teasing with promise since making his international debut as an 18-year-old in 2000, Yuvraj had finally come of age during India’s World Cup win in April 2011. But just as he seemed to be entering the prime of his career, a series of ailments dragged him down.

Signs that something wasn’t right with Yuvraj occurred during the World Cup, notably during a match against the West Indies, when he could be seen vomiting on the field during his 2-hour, 43-minute batting stint to make 113 runs. It was reported that he was suffering from a “stomach bug.” He missed the tour to the West Indies that took place a few months after the World Cup with a “chest infection.” He was deemed healthy enough to tour England later in the summer but suffered a broken finger during the second test match at Nottingham and wasn’t able to take any further part in the tour.

In the fall, he played two tests at home against the West Indies but withdrew himself from the one-day series that followed in November after a “non-malignant tumor” was found on his lung. It was initially believed he would be healthy enough to tour Australia in January, but those plans were shelved after he needed more treatment. It wasn’t until February that the full scope of what was affecting him was uncovered. The initial reports that his tumor was malignant. He had cancer.

Yuvraj traveled to the U.S., where he received chemotherapy treatment for mediastinal seminoma, a tumor between his lungs, at the IU Simon Cancer Center at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. Along the way, he received a note of encouragement from cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and was visited by former teammate and Indian bowling legend Anil Kumble. By April, Yuvraj was back in India, cancer-free and ready to work on getting back into the Indian side.

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video

For the best view, track these 12 players

September, 18, 2012
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Yes, cricket. Not the stodgy stereotype of the game, but the caffeinated, raucous variety that will appeal to our quick-trigger attention spans. The 2012 ICC World Twenty20 kicked off Tuesday in Sri Lanka with enough exciting storylines and high-octane drama to draw in the most indifferent of sports fans. Below are 12 players to watch as the tournament progresses.

Yuvraj Singh, India: He's India's Mario Lemieux, the comeback kid. Singh's story could be the highlight of the tournament. One of India's most heralded players, Singh is making a return to the game after battling a rare form of germ-cell cancer. After receiving chemotherapy in the U.S., Singh is back in the form of the game he's dominated in the past, including his unforgettable six sixes in one over against England in the 2007 ICC World Twenty20. If he plays as well as he has in the past, it's going to be a long tournament for bowlers.

[+] EnlargeChris Gayle
Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty ImagesChris Gayle's power has made quite an impression on foes -- and fans -- in the West Indies and beyond.
Chris Gayle, West Indies: Called "The King of the Twenty20," the Herculean all-rounder doesn't hit cricket balls, he pulverizes them into aerial spectacles. During a match this year, one of Gayle's monstrous sixers broke the nose of a 10-year-old girl in the stands. When Gayle visited her in the hospital, she actually said it was an honor to be hit by one of his shots. Gayle has set batting records in the Twenty20 format, including the most sixes in the latest Indian Premier League season. For Gayle, playing in Sri Lanka is like Chipper Jones at Shea Stadium; he dominates. He scored 333 runs in a test match there in 2010.

Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka: Malinga is the Boba Fett of cricket bowlers. Instead of collecting Wookiee scalps, the fast bowler collects wickets. Known as "The Slinga," Malinga is the only bowler to have taken four wickets in four deliveries and won the golden wicket in the 2011 Champions League Twenty20, when he had the highest wicket count in the tournament. With his trademark hair that fluctuates from blond streaks to Valderrama-chique, Malinga has had a rough go in the few months since the Indian Premier League ended. However, he's on home soil. He knows these fields better than anyone else. So be warned: The Slinga will strike back.

Brendon McCullum, New Zealand: The Kiwi wicketkeeper has the top spot in the Twenty20 batting rankings despite the fact that he would make a hobbit seem tall. Standing a diminutive 5-foot-7, McCullum exhibits Hack Wilson-like strength in putting up crazy power numbers. He slugged a 158 not out in the IPL inaugural season in 2008. Indeed, this one possesses the power of the ring.

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What is the ICC World Twenty20?

September, 17, 2012
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video When the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 gets underway on Tuesday in Sri Lanka, it will be a grand opportunity for the sport of cricket to gain greater exposure and recruit more fans in America than ever before. In the past, cricket’s World Cup tournaments have been hidden away on satellite subscription services.

There may be some people out there wondering not just what is cricket but what is the ICC World Twenty20? Isn’t a cricket match supposed to go on for days? Yes and no. Twenty20 cricket is a relatively new format of the game, which has opened up the sport in unprecedented fashion, making it more appealing to sponsors, television networks and hopefully to casual sports fans in the U.S., who might not have had time for a game going on for several days but just might take to the sport if a match wraps up in a tidy three-and-a-half hours. The level of interest the sport has gained is remarkable considering that the first major global Twenty20 tournament did not take place until 2007.

[+] EnlargeMahendra Singh Dhoni
Deshakalyan Chowdhury/Getty ImagesMahendra Singh Dhoni is largely responsible for bringing more worldwide attention to the World Twenty20s and cricket.
Five years ago, when the inaugural edition of the ICC World Twenty20 kicked off in South Africa, it was not meant to be a great money-spinner but more of a festival event. Ticket prices were dirt cheap and some countries like India sent what can be politely described as an understrength or developmental squad to participate. Compared to the five-day Test format, Twenty20 was not seen as a high priority. It was a relaxed form of cricket, or an inferior one depending on who was pontificating.

When Twenty20 was first introduced to cricket at the professional level during the early to mid-2000s, players were open to wearing a microphone and earpiece on the field of play to communicate live on air with television play-by-play commentators. On the back of their jerseys, some stars opted for goofy nicknames like “Bear,” “Pup” or “Church” rather than their actual surnames. The very first Twenty20 international match in 2005 between New Zealand and Australia saw players take the field in retro 1980s uniforms, wild Afros and Bjorn Borg headbands.

Despite the kitschy atmosphere on the field, the large and often vibrant crowds at these Twenty20 affairs could not be ignored. So just four months after an all-round debacle at the 2007 ICC World Cup in the Caribbean -- the mysterious death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, overpriced tickets resulting in empty stands and an umpiring calamity in the final all served to dampen the mood at the sport’s premier 50-over tournament -- the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 ignited a revolution in cricket that has spurred rapid growth for the sport.

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