History of Cricket

There are many theories about the exact origins of cricket ranging from being of 13thcentury Saxon-Norman origin to ancient origins in India; but there is little doubt that the game developed and flourished in England. There is documentary evidence that a game called kreckett was played in Surrey as early as 1550. It may have even originated from a game called stoolball, which is though to have been the early version of other bat and ball sports such as rounders, baseball, and cricket where a long low stool or ‘krickstoel’ which may have been used as a wicket.

The game is said to have been taken up by adults in the 17th century and was often associated with gambling. This led to the reputation of the game being slightly tarnished. The introduction of their own teams by gamblers between the end of the 17th and early 18th century is thought to be the origin of county teams, modern county teams were made as early as the 19th century. The game continued to grow in England and better records of games were kept from the 18th century onwards.

The spread of cricket to other countries started surprisingly with its introduction in North America by English colonies in the 17th century. Unfortunately the game did not seem to catch on there, as today it is not very popular in this region. The colonies were also responsible for the introduction of the game to the West Indies, India and Australia in the 18th century and to New Zealand and South Africa in the 19th century. Fixed laws for the game known as ‘The Code of Laws’ were created in 1788 by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). These laws have formed the basis of the modern day regulations of the game. Cricket is the only sport in the world which is governed by laws as opposed to rules. A few noteworthy changes to the game were the legitimisation of overarm bowling in 1864, increases in the weight of the ball, length of stumps and standardization of bat size along with the introduction of the leg before wicket law, all in the early 19 th century. The number of balls per over was four in 1889 this was later changed to six in 1900.

International cricket was born in 1844, and surprisingly had nothing to do with the UK when the USA took on Canada at Elysian Fields, Hoboken, New Jersey. The first test match was between Australia and England in 1877. Soon after, the legendary Ashes test series between Australia and England was born with Australia winning the first encounter in 1882 at the Kennington Oval in London.

The domestic first class cricket contest known as the ‘County Championship’ was formally initiated in 1890. This period of time up until the First World War was known as ‘The Golden Age of Cricket’.

Test Cricket continued to grow from the late 19 th century onwards with the addition of new test cricket playing nations such as South Africa (1889), West Indies (1928), India (1932), New Zealand (1929- 1930), Pakistan (1952), Sri Lanka (1981), Zimbabwe (1992) and Bangladesh (2000).

World Series Cricket was the brainchild of Australian media magnate Kerry Packer when he contracted high quality international cricketers to part take in a cricket league that was private and independent of the International Cricket Council (ICC). It lasted between 1977 and 1979. It paved the way to higher salaries for cricketers and also the introduction of coloured cricketing attire which was a massive change from the plain predominantly white cricket kit worn till then.

A shorter version of the five-day test match was played in the 1960s. The popularity of this version soon caught on because results were obtained from matches in a single day. It also prompted batsmen to play more riskier strokes in order to maximise run scoring; and the fielding side playing a more aggressive game, all in all resulting in a much more entertaining match. The first limited overs international (also known as one day international ODI) was played at the Melbourne cricket Ground in 1971. The ICC soon recognised the marketability of this type of game which led to the organisation of the first Cricket World Cup, held in England. All the test playing nations at that time participated in this tournament.

Twenty20 is another type of limited overs cricket which was introduced by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in 2003. It is contested between counties in the United Kingdom.

Although cricket has largely been a male dominated sport, the women’s version has been played since December 1934. The ODI version has been played since 1973 – the same year as the first Women’s Cricket World Cup was held, two years earlier than the Men’s version.