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May 7, 2001

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The Dummies' Guide to Indoor Cricket

Sheldon Levis

Indoor cricket is cricket, but it's not played on a huge oval. It's played on a rectangular court enclosed in a tightly tensioned net. The court is between 28 and 30 metres long, between 10.5 and 12 metres wide, and between 4 and 4.5 metres high.

The pitch is the same length as an outdoor pitch. The stumps are the same size as outdoor stumps. Batting is the same as in outdoor, but you don't have to be able to hit the ball a hundred yards -- the nets are much closer than that.

Bowling is the same as in outdoor, but with a softer ball. It is still a cricket ball though, being of the same size and construction as an outdoor ball - it just isn't as heavy or as hard. There is one other important difference, of particular interest to players who may never have bowled over-arm: underarm bowling is allowed in indoor cricket, if necessary. It is not common, but many women especially have never played outdoor cricket, and therefore have never learned to bowl over-arm. They may bowl underarm, with one proviso -- the ball must bounce at least half way down the pitch, to avoid bowling a ball all along the ground.

Fielding is similar to outdoor, but with three important differences (in addition to the modified ball): Firstly, you do not need to be able to throw the ball one hundred yards. Almost all throws in indoor cricket are only a few yards in length. Secondly, you will never be confronted with having to make an outfield catch of a ball hit seventeen stories high. The enclosing netting, which is approximately 4 metres high, prevents that. And thirdly, catches can be made after a ball has bounced off the netting. This slows the ball down a lot, making some catches easy even for the least skilled amongst us.

But let's not for one minute think indoor cricket is a sport only for novices. Far from it. Played at its highest level, indoor cricket is a non-stop, action-filled sport displaying the finest of cricketing skills players can muster. And the fielding is absolutely spellbinding. Because all players on the court are relatively close to the batsman, fielding is very important, and spectacular. Not surprisingly, run-outs are the most common form of dismissal.

Anyway, that's probably enough of the reasons why indoor cricket is the most accessible and inclusive form of the sport. If you're not convinced now, you're probably permanently stuck to your couch, remote-control grafted onto your hand. But for those who'd love a game of cricket without any of the hassles of the outdoor game, let's have a more detailed look at the sport, and a review of how its progress in India is coming along.

As mentioned earlier, indoor cricket is played on a court enclosed in tightly tensioned netting. This includes the ceiling. The playing surface is a synthetic carpet, which approximates an outdoor pitch quite well.

The bats used are regular cricket bats, although a lighter one can be used as the ball does not have the weight of an outdoor ball. Players do not wear pads, although wearing a box (aka 'protector') is still recommended.

Teams consist of 8 players, which means each fielder bowls 2 overs for a total of 16 overs an innings. Each pair of batsmen/women bat for 4 overs.

Wickets are 'taken' in the same way as outdoor cricket, with the added condition that catches can be taken after the ball has bounced off a net. At the fall of a wicket, the batting team loses 5 runs (or 3, it depends on the local rules), and the batsmen/women continue batting until their 4 overs are completed.

Runs are scored by the batsmen/women physically running as in outdoor, although they only have to run half the distance - the non-strikers' crease is half-way down the pitch. Hitting the side netting scores additional, or bonus, runs. Different sections of the net are worth 1, 2, 4 or 6 runs, which are added to the physical runs scored off the same ball. Sundry runs are scored for no-balls and wides (including "leg-sides" - wides down the leg side).

The umpire sits on a raised platform behind and above the wicket-keeper, and spectators are able to view the game from very close, another advantage over the outdoor form.

Indoor cricket -- in the outside world