It’s just not cricket!

Joensuu competed in an indoor cricket match against Cricket Finland
Photograph from Cricket Finland Facebook (c) Cricket Finland 2020
After watching the Joensuu v Cricket Finland invitational match the other week I started to think about my own experiences and knowledge of cricket and pesäpallo and how the 2 sports share similarities and differences.

A little bit about me
I live in the UK and my dad is a big cricket fan, but he prefers to play the game rather than follow national or regional teams etc. Every year was devoted to cricket - the first signs of Spring saw the start of training at indoor nets; as summer came it was 3 days a week at the cricket club where he was either playing or coaching. As I grew up I started to get involved with the club myself and became the official scorer (keeping a record of all the runs and balls in the game). 

As I got older I started to realise and understand that my father also was a big fan of American sports. One particular passion he had was for baseball. I soon started to watch coverage of games on television in the middle of the night and I found the game fascinating. It took me awhile to figure out all the rules and it was difficult following baseball before the Internet became widespread. Over the years baseball became my number one passion and I followed seasons keenly. But I always felt that there were parts of the games that didn’t really speak to me. I’ve never been a big fan of games being so reliant on homeruns and I often found a lot of delays in the game quite irritating. Changing a pitcher would often give me time to nip out and make another coffee and still have plenty of time to spare before the game started up again.

One day whilst researching Finland I came across Pesäpallo. After watching some videos online and following live updates I started to become a convert. The things that turned me away from baseball were simply not there in Pesäpallo and the things I liked were even more prominent - I had found a new passion.

Looking back at my journey to finding Pesäpallo, I can see a vast amount of differences with Cricket and Pesäpallo, in fact it had never occurred to me that the 2 sports could be seen as similar. It was the cricket Finland invitational match that got me thinking about the similarities and led me to wonder - are there cricket fans out there who are looking for something different without changing the heart and soul of cricket with format changes?

“It looks like he’s going to throw that at me!”
How pitching is different in Cricket
Photograph from Cricket Finland Facebook
(C) Cricket Finland 2020
These 2 sports look completely different
At first blush cricket and Pesäpallo seem as different as night and day, yet there are a number of obvious similarities. Cricket and Pesäpallo are both Bat and Ball Sports; they are both team sports; and they both have the concepts of runs and outs. But those seemed to be the only clear similarities at first.

Cricket is played with a straight bat and the ball is bowled (often with blistering pace) directly towards the batter in order to hit their wickets. Pesäpallo does not rely on horizontal pitching at an object the batter has to protect, but is a vertical pitch that gives the batter an opportunity to advance runners and the fielding tea, an opportunity to record outs. A cricket pitch is circular or an oval shape and hitting the ball beyond the boundary scores runs, albeit a majority of the time a batter spends in the game is spent running between 2 sets of wickets to score runs. 

Cricket’s popularity
Cricket is a popular sport across various countries around the world these days and it is great to see non-English speaking countries thrive and succeed in new competitions. In the UK cricket has seen a resurgence since England won the ICC cricket World Cup in 2019 (hosted in England and Wales). The drama and excitement of the final captured the imaginations of many people and became a major talking point for people up and down the Uk. But for me I just saw a final that had a lot of the drama and intensity of so many of the Pesäpallo games I reviewed last year.

Cricket often is seen to be trying to appeal to new and different audiences, with the invention and growth of the T20 game - which is a shorter and more fast paced version of the game. Fans of the test match will look at you in horror if you start talking about T20 whilst T20 fans will often switch off when people talk about spending 5 days playing a game in order to get a drawn result. The test matches have such great tactical and skilful elements, yet these are lost in T20 games. In T20 games you get the high intensity matches and drama, but little in the way of tactics and skill - if you hit more boundaries you will win; direction and skilful shots are often a hinderance. 

With 2020 already in full swing, the UK prepares for yet another format change for cricket - the 100. This is an even more intense and shorter version of the game and has met opposition and criticism from a number of people, yet it has the hallmarks of a very exciting  series. I believe that each format has its benefits and its drawbacks and it really is a matter of preference as to which format you want to follow. But I still think that Pesäpallo is a different sport that actually can offer most of the benefits from multiple formats of cricket.

Stars of both games come together to discuss the game
Photograph from Cricket Finland Facebook (c) Cricket Finland 2020
Are there any similarities 
Going back over the similarities there is more to it than I originally thought. Both sports require a great deal of patience a great deal of common sense and thought, as well as tactics and strategy. Fielding position in both sports is imperative. The individual skills applied in both sports are again very similar: coordination arm strength and direction when hitting – precision is essential in both sports. Running speed catching and throwing with great accuracy and speed sometimes over long distances. Whilst the two sports on the outside looks very different, my conclusion is that they are very heart they use the same skills and values, albeit in a different way. Cricket in recent years has undergone many format changes to try and rejuvenate the game.Diehard fans do not appreciate his tinkering with the game, But new and younger fans are drawn to the exciting new concepts. One key format change that seems to creep in more and more is the pace of the game – everybody wants to see an exciting game over a short period of time it ends with a winner and a loser. Everybody wants to see big schools, dramatic hits and outs. These qualities are the very things that first drew Pesäpallo to my attention and they are the qualities that keep me coming back again and again. 

And what does my Father think?

My father came to visit recently whilst I was watching the KPL v Tahko game and writing the review. My father is familiar of course with baseball and so he could see some of the similarities between Pesäpallo and MLB, but he could see a number of differences. As he watched, slightly puzzled, wearing his England Cricket sweatshirt, he paused and said he found the whole thing very intriguing. Fascinated by the pace of the game, he found it hard to tear himself away, albeit it was past the time he needed to leave. Of course - My father is unlikely to be a convert and turn away from cricket, a sport that has defined his life for as long as I have been alive; nor would i want him to. For a man who, throughout my life has been someone to offer very few words, I found he was quite interested and quizzed me on the rules. If I have brought this amazing sport to someone’s attention and they have shown an interest, then that is all I could ever ask for!

Comments

  1. Nice article, thanks for the coverage. Cricket Finland are keen to develop further possible links with Pesäpallo in Finland, appreciating that the standard Finn still has no clue about cricket, or even worse a totally incorrect opinion based on false preconception.
    There are indeed numerous similarities, as you have written, such that kids could quite easily play both games without a problem and which would hopefully lead to an extension of the sporting environment in Finland.
    One point of note regarding T20: statistics actually show that winning teams score more 1's and 2's than their opposition, not necessarily more boundaries as you wrote.
    On a personal note, have you considered visiting Finland for the historical T20 World Cup Qualifier Europe in late-June?

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