The game of cricket is a leisurely sport,  often referred to as a Gentlemen’s Game. It is steeped in history and traditions and the saying 'It's just not cricket!' is used when we want to frown on something  shameful, unethical or the dishonourable behaviour of an individual.

Even the behaviour of the fans at these test matches is according to the Club Rules. There are no “Pom Pom” girls or cheerleaders, drums, bugles, frenzied fans with funny hats and collared faces or unruly behaviour.

The loudest expressions are, Howzat, at the fall of a wicket or a Well Played old chap, at a sizzling sixer or a four.

Cricket was initially played by the ‘gentry’ of England on Sunday afternoons, on the green fields of the counties of England, which gradually led to the development of the county clubs. By the end of the 18th century, it had developed into the National sport of England.

The expansion of the British Empire led to cricket being played overseas and by the 19th century, the first international matches were being held. The game is most popular in Australasia, England, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and Southern Africa. Initially, all International Cricket matches were referred to as Test Matches and were played for five continuous days, with each team playing ‘Two Innings’. The pinnacle of Test Matches is ‘The Ashes’, which is played between traditional rivals, England and Australia. 

The term ‘Ashes’ originated in a satirical obituary published in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, immediately after Australia's 1882 victory at The Oval and stated that English cricket had died and ‘the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia’.

The mythical ashes immediately became associated with the 1882–83 series played in Australia, before which the English captain, Ivo Bligh had vowed to "regain those ashes". The English media therefore dubbed the tour ‘the quest to regain the Ashes’.

After England had won two of the three Tests on the tour, a small urn was presented to Bligh by a group of Melbourne women, including Florence Morphy, whom Bligh married within a year.  The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of a wooden bail and were humorously described as "the ashes of Australian cricket". 

 Replicas of the urn are often held aloft by victorious teams as a symbol of their victory in an Ashes series. However, whichever side wins the Ashes, the urn remains in the MCC Museum at Lord's.

For cricket lovers, the game of cricket is like ‘poetry in motion’, with elegant and graceful strokes by legendary cricket batsmen like Sir Don Bradman, Gary Sobers, Vivians Richard, Jacque Kallis, Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar, Hanif Mahmmod, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram.

As Test Matches are stretched over five days, the attendance began to drop, especially if ‘Rain stopped play’ and the game was declared as a ‘Draw’, with no declared winner. As such, to keep the game alive, major changes were introduced by introducing the limited 50 overs games in various forms in 1963.

In the late 70s, an Australian, Kerry Packer,  established the rival World Series Cricket  (WSC) competition and introduced many of the features of One Day International cricket that are now commonplace, including bright, coloured uniforms, night matches under floodlights, with  white balls.

After a shaky start, these games became very popular and lucrative, both for the sponsors and the players and within no time, the scene changed completely.

The first Limited Overs International was played in 1971 and the governing International Cricket Council (ICC) saw its potential and staged the first limited overs Cricket World Cup in 1975.

The inaugural event, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, was staged in South Africa in September 2007 and was won by India. The second event, the 2009 ICC World Twenty20, took place in England in June 2009 and the third tournament, the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 was held in May 2010 and was hosted by the West Indies.

Today, these games have become very popular in the International Cricket arena and are keenly contested and the crowds are more rowdy and noisy, similar to all that is witnessed at football matches.

Once the One Day International matches and T20 Championships were introduced, the scene changed. The white shirt and trousers were replaced by a kaleidoscope of designs and colours  and the matches became a money making racket for greedy bookies and promoters, who  enticed young, talented Pakistani players,  as well as players of other countries, to cheat and make big money by ‘fixing matches’, through ball tampering, ‘pot fixing and dropping catches, etc. 

And it was at that time, that the seeds of decline of cricket Pakistan were sown and our cricket teams went from heroes to zeros,  However, because of the harsh punishment by ICC, by fining and banning players involved in match fixing, corruption has dropped, as the players have realized that they are risking their careers and their future.

The limited overs games also saw the end of the elegant and graceful strokes of the great batsmen, and were replaced by the ‘swingers’ and the ‘sluggers’, who swung their bats at every ball blindly, hoping to hit a four or a six, in order to score maximum runs in the limited overs. 

In the first Twenty20 International match played in Dubai, Pakistani team and Boom Boom Afridi proved their detractors to eat humble pie once again and in a cliff hanging finish, Pakistan needed six runs to win from six balls. And to my surprise, Mr. Boom Boom proved the skeptics to be wrong, by hitting a magnificent six, like Javed Miandad, enabling Pakistan to win the match.

Well done, Mr. Boom Boom Afridi. We hope that you will continue to perform well in the matches that follow.

However, in the second Twenty20 match, also played in Dubai, Sri Lanka came back with all guns firing and in the limited overs, piled up an impressive 211 runs for 3 wickets.

And though the Come Back Kids had launched a strong counter attack, led by Boom Boom Afridi, they could not catch up to the massive total and lost the match by 24 runs. But none the less, it was a good fight and one wishes the Pakistani team the best of luck in the coming matches.

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