STUDYING THE FIELD CONDITIONS
The sport of cricket is one of the most popular in the world. It is followed by an estimated 2.5 billion people, making it second in terms of fan size only to soccer (football, outside the U.S.). The fan base is spread across the world, with cricket-playing nations extending from New Zealand to Guyana. These are primarily countries that were former British colonies, with the largest base being in India. The popularity of the sport is also growing, with newly minted national cricket teams in Canada, Scotland, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong.
Cricket is played in a field with a central play area called the pitch. The pitch is a prepared strip of compacted soil that is very closely mown—even closer than a golf green. The main play happens on the pitch, where the bowler tries to get the batsman out by bowling the ball using myriad techniques to change how the ball acts when it bounces on the pitch. They may use finger spinning and wrist actions and also take advantage of the prominent seam on the cricket ball. Based on the characteristics of the pitch, their efforts result in variations of bounce, speed, direction, and swing in the air. The ultimate goal of the bowler is to trick the batsman and get him out, while that of the batsman is to predict where the ball will go in order to score runs.
Studying the pitch has thus become an art form for players, team management, and, of course, expert commentators. ...