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What is Cricket?

This article appeared in the Campion Magazine of 1950.
When Dom Moraes requested me to write an article for the School Mag. He also added with great pride that Campion School prides itself on two things: ‘Good fielding and equally good sportsmanship.’ The first proud declaration means you chaps like your cricket; the second means that you play the game. And as theses things also mean a lot to me as one who loves the game of cricket. I gladly comply with Dom’s request.
Those of you who play cricket and take a keen interest in it must have noticed how badly India has been serves all these years in the most important department of fielding. We have had really great batsmen wonderful bowlers of all kinds many outstanding wicket keepers and one or two masterly captains. But on the whole India’s fielding has been of a lowly standard as compared to that of foreign countries. The older generation of Indian Cricketers boasted of many fine fieldsmen but in later years there has been a very great falling off and India has had to eat humble pie due to too many missed catches. At home and abroad the tale has been the same sorry one but the poor quality of cricket reporting has not stresses this real reason fro so many of our failures against international sides. The reason is that too much glamour is attached to only big totals century makers and bowlers doing lot of damage at a very small cost. But that is not the correct way to sum up the result of any match. Fielding is as important as any other department of cricket. One must remember that a run saved is a run gained. It means less of a burden to one’s own batsmen less runs to make to win. Again – and more so in an age of carefully prepared wickets it is generally a miss hit or snick which might give a bowler a chance to get a wicket and that is why good catching is so imperative. The best policy is to try and ‘make’ a catch not merely ‘take’ it. You chaps who gobble up cricket reports should carefully go through the scoreboard and work out how many wickets fall to catches these days and how many are bowled. That will give you an idea of how important good fielding is to the fortunes of your side any side.
In India of recent years coaching and training is invariably directed to improving bowling and batting and little attention is paid to bringing up a generation of young players who an field well. To do this physical fitness is the first essential; the ability and the will to run fast pick up quickly throw accurately. Catching the ball at all heights speeds and distances should be practiced for hours on end and until this is done as a matter of routine India’s cricket will never get anywhere. Lets me tell you chaps that in England in the great Public Schools which are the real nurseries of the game no school cricketer can hope to get his colours unless he can field well; he must be proficient in fielding before he can hope to catch the eye of the coach and the school selectors and catching is the one thing they insist on where cricket is so well understood and taught. The Indian schoolboy is not taught this bit he has a real interest he can always improve his fielding even without coaching. A good wicket or proper pitches are not always available in our country but any two boys with cricket ball cab learn how to catch. It is hard work but it can and must be done. Keep throwing the ball from one to the other hard high low gently. One must dive jump throw oneself flat or sideways try with both hands where possible otherwise with one hand. But catching is essential before any attempt is made to master the tricks of the bowler or batsman. Again I tell you chaps; Make catches don’t wait for the ball to drop into your hands.
As for a good sportsman that is equally essential. A smile when one is victorious and an even bigger smile when one goes down. Never question the decision of the umpire although there are times when the captain of a team is entitled to make certain inquires or lodge a protest. But on the field take your beating like a man even if you are certain that the ball did not touch your bat when you were given ‘out.’ Don’t waste time in the field; time is as precious to the other side as it is to you. And don’t please make unsporting appeals for catches and LBW’s when you are not n a position to be a judge. This is a great and bad habit with Indian school boys and I hope that you of this school will never indulge in this. Always turn out clean and properly dressed for cricket. Win and wear your colours as if they were the most precious possessions. They are like the Flag, a symbol of the country one belongs to something sacred worth fighting for and keeping safe. A well dressed team has the bearing of a smart regiment and sports teams are also warriors don’t forget. Good bearing impresses your opponents; good conduct brings you honour; good fielding brings you victory as much as good batting and bowling. Your class team should be your first loyalty. When you get into your school team your responsibility will grow. Then your college and your varsity; your state and finally your country. And when you wear a Test Cap and your country’s blazer and scarf remember that cricket means more than only winning. It means a test of sportsmanship good conduct good performance on the field and of the field too. You are then your country’s ambassadors with thousands of foreigners watching your every movement and reaction watching you much more than they care to watch politicians and statesmen.
Build up your cricket this way then with on eye on all that I have told you about so briefly. And don’t forget to MAKE catches; also don’t forget that a false appeal is unsporting. When you lay down your bat and ball and pads the only thing that will follow you is the memory of grateful people that you played the game. That is for me the real lesson of the game of cricket. That is cricket. I wish your school every god fortune in your endeavors to build up interest in sport and I do hope that other games besides cricket are also interesting you. With the will to succeed I am sure that the school sports of Bombay you will be able to add an ‘h’ to Campion ….