Review: The wisden dictionary of cricket

The Wisden Dictionary of Cricket
Micheal Rundell
Rs. 249 pp 224

Word up, it's etymology time: "The dibbly-dobbley bowler got his Michelle after he pitched a bumper that ricocheted off the batsman's brain bucket and rattled the timber."

Decoding cricket speak can be a task for the average fan. No sport has spawned such a diverse lexicon as the gentleman's game. The Wisden Dictionary of Cricket levels the field and helps one understand the terms and their evolution from the villages of 16th century England to modern metropolises.

To do this, Michael Rundell cites a wide sampling of cricket literature and effectively traces the formation and evolution of the language of cricket. Take the example of what is commonly known as a yorker, a ball that passes underneath the striker's bat by pitching up to or inside the popping crease.

The ball was known as 'tice' around the 1850s because the aim was to 'entice' the batsman to play forward to a full toss and lose his stumps. By the 1880s, 'yorker' became the popular term with an unconvincing explanation of its etymology - that it is thus called because it originated in Yorkshire.

A more plausible theory is the well-attested connection in 18th century regional slang between York and the notion of deception.

The charm of cricket's vocabulary is that new terms came up wherever the game was played - Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean islands, the subcontinent. Sure enough, the Aussies put their own spin on the word 'yorker' with the very direct 'gazunder', which translates to what it sounds like - one that goes under.

With representational photographs clicked by celebrated lensman Patrick Eagar, corroborating text for each word from the finest cricketing literature, tasty nuggets on player nicknames and informative graphic representations, this book is more than just your average dictionary. Both cricket novice and cricket buff could do with it.


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