August 26, 2014

The parts of cricket that language forgot

There are feelings and situations in cricket that all of us are familiar with but can't describe succinctly

How do you describe the feeling of relief on surviving a session mixed with the anxiety of returning to bat after the break? © Getty Images

Laurie Evans enjoyed his T20 Blast Finals day at Edgbaston last Saturday, hammering an ultimately decisive 30-ball 53 in the final and holding on to a couple of skiers as Lancashire gave chase to Warwickshire's 181.

Yet there was a moment when he experienced one of the universal lows of cricket, a dropped chance on the boundary as team-mates and spectators looked on in hope and expectation. He'd grassed Karl Brown, the ball bursting through his raised hands and striking the peak of his cap before trickling away behind him, and he'd spun around in a psychic state that cricketers of all levels know and understand, having put down a catch but still having to go and field the ball.

It lasts only for a few seconds, but it is one of the worst emotions in the game, a liminal time during which you are required to complete a task that you have already failed at. All that lie ahead are moments of despair and regret that will last as long as the reprieved batsman remains at the crease.

Cricket is the most described of games, and yet no word exists to define that feeling, at least not in English, and it's a beauty of the language that it is incomplete.

One of my favourite words is "saudade", which in Portuguese means "nostalgia for a time or place that never actually existed". You'd think that we'd have a word for saudade, it being the most English of states, but we don't. There are lots more examples of course. "Schnapsidee" is the German word for "a cunning plan hatched whilst drunk". The Russian language has the tremendously sad "razbliuto" - the feeling you have for a person you once loved but don't any more. The Norwegians have even come up with "utepils", a single word to describe "sitting in the sun with a beer".

So which parts of cricket are unnamed? What moments, events and psychological states do we still need words for, alongside those brief and horrible seconds after dropping a catch when we still have to run after the ball? Here are a few:

* The conversation that you have with an incoming batsman having just run out your partner.

* The position you are in when your team has won well but you've not contributed any runs, wickets or catches.

* The way a batsman feels when he's unexpectedly asked to come on and bowl.

* Having to give a team-mate out leg before wicket when you're doing a stint of umpiring in a club match.

* The way that time drags while fielding when a draw is inevitable.

* The strange kind of euphoria that spreads through a dressing room when it's announced that bad weather has led to a partially completed game being abandoned.

* The feeling that you have played at a ground before but can't quite be sure.

* A word for a team-mate whom no one really likes.

* A batting order that is assembled not on merit but by the need to give everyone a game.

* The way you feel travelling home after the last game of the season.

There are lots more, of course, known by cricketers of all abilities but unexplained by a single word. Perhaps the MCC should appoint an official linguist to come up with phrases to define them, although on second thoughts it's quite nice that there are parts of cricket with which we're all familiar with but that are somehow beyond the reach of language. It adds to the mystery of a game that none of us ever really get to the bottom of.

Jon Hotten blogs here. @theoldbatsman

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Michael on August 29, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    What's needed is a cricketing version of 'The Meaning of Liff' (qv)

  • ian on August 29, 2014, 8:22 GMT

    The feeling that the captain has, for the second week in succession, absurdly overestimated his own skills whilst underestimating yours... for which reasons the games were lost. When this happened, I decided to change clubs...But it was a long time ago. Of course, I should have been captain ;-).

  • Omar on August 28, 2014, 11:48 GMT

    What is imperative is to give appropriate words to the situations described by the author. I can think of one" a batsman committing senacide" (being mankaded after warnings)....

  • Tony on August 28, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    The strange feeling of wishing other batsmen in your team do well . . . . but not quite as well as you.

  • Jonathan on August 28, 2014, 1:57 GMT

    the feeling a team has after having just been screwed over by duckworth-lewis

  • adam on August 27, 2014, 21:03 GMT

    @vaughanographic "Bowling a shane warnesque spinning delivery, beating everyone but not getting a wicket" already has a name.

    It's called "MacGilled".

    The next best thing to Warne, but still not good enough !!!

  • kt on August 27, 2014, 20:44 GMT

    The feeling of the bowler who gets the batsman out & the umpire called it a no ball & the batsman plays a match wining inning. Dhammika Prsad got Chris Gayle out when he has scored less than 20 runs & the nonstriking batsman called Chris Gayle to stay in to check for over stepping, third umpire called it a no ball & Chris Gayle scored his second triple century which resulted in a Test match victory against Sri Lanka in Gaile. The feeling of an tail ender who got out in last over of a test match to loose the whole series. James Anderson got out in the 4th delivery of the last over of the 2nd Test vs SL after facing 50+ deliveries for 0 runs only too loose the match & the test series. Finally how Indian players felt before the presentation after being humiliated for 3 tests in a raw.

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2014, 19:00 GMT

    This is fun. Another one: When a team is down below a score of 20 with more than 7 wickets (say 18/8) and then last batsmen put on 200 run partnership to take the Test match innings deficit to only lose by a run? :)

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    The joy of getting wicket in your very first over of a match in 1st,2nd,3rd,4th,5th or 6th ball could easily be given distinct flavors.

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    Very enjoyable and creative article.

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