Sports and Athletics: Cricket -- Origins

Figure 1.--This Francis Cotes portrait is often referred to as 'Young Crickater'. It shows a boy standing proudly by a makeshift two stump wicket in 1768. He wears an unbuttoned green vest (waistcoat), knee breeches, and stockings. Vests seem common attire for a cricket match at the time. The boy’s scraped knee and unbuttoned garments suggests he has just finished a game. This was unusual for a 18th century portrait where the sitters were usually poised emacuatted coifered and dressed. Notice the long curved bat which was used in the mid-1700s. He stands victorious next to a homemade wicket. We know his name because he holds a bat inscribed ‘Lewis Cage Aged 5’. He looks older and few 5-year olds can naster the skills needed in cricket. Crucketsprops began appearing in portraits at this tim and Cotes in particular ued them. Perhaps he had an interested in cricket. Unfortunalely we know little about Lewis Cage, although none other than Jane Austen mebntions him in her correspomdence. And cricket’s heartland was Kent.

No one has any idea when or where cricket originated, other thn it is English. Given the importnce of the sport, the origin has been the subject of considerable speculation. Some researchers believe that its origins lay in medieval times with Anglo-Saxon children living in the Weald--an area of dense woodlands and clearings in southeast England crossing Kent and Sussex. Others believe it was a Norman creation, but that would not explain why there is no trace of the game in Normandy itself. It is believed to have been a children game for centuruies, perhaps explaining why there are no early written records. We note pupils at early grammar schools playing 'creckett' (16th century). Gradually adults began to take an interest in competing (early-17th century). We begin to read about village matches. Unlike several sports, it does not seem to have developed out of the public schools. Cricket was played by a wide range of society. As far as we know, Francis Cotes is the first artist to make a major record of the growing English interest in cricket. Several of his portraits of boys used cricket bats as props. This graphically demonstrated the growing popularity of the sport, incluing one done in almost genre style suggesting the boy was actually playing--Lewis Cage (figure 1). Cricket had earlier roots, but by the mid-18th century the children of wealthy people were ckerly enjoying the sport. And because cricket has village roots, we suspect vthat children from more humble families were also involved, although they may not have had purpose made bats. We begin to read about village matches. Unlike several sports, it does not seem to have developed out of the public schools. Cricket was played by a wide range of society. Some sports historians think that cricket is related to bowls which is generally thought to be older of the two. This is because the player throwing the ball is called a bowler. And you can have bowls without a batsman, but you can not have cricket without a bowler. It seems reasonable tht at some point a bright soul came up with the idea of adding a batsman trying to interfere with the ball. Englan had plenty of sheep pastures or other clearings were cricket could be played. And of course there was the village green. The players probbly used a matted mass of sheep’s wool, a stone, or bit of wood for the ball. A stick or wooden crook could be used as a bat. As adults got interested, more refinement was possible. A stool or tree stump or gate could serve as the target. The term wicket presumably comes from a wicket gate. Modern cricket dates from the 1780s, when the Laws of Cricket which still rule the sport today were first formalized in England. Note tht this was contemperaneous with capitalism and the industrial revolution. Affluence is commonly associated with sport. An affkuent population is more prone todeveloping diversions like sport.


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Created: 8:21 PM 8/25/2017
Last updated: 8:21 PM 8/25/2017