While there are many sports played in India - from soccer to hockey to kabaddi - Bollywood has a love affair with cricket. References to the game and its players are sprinkled throughout many films. In the 2013 film Chennai Express, Rahul gives his grandfather a cricket bat - signed by cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar - for his 100th birthday. In the 2014 film Raja Natwarlal, a local conman takes down a powerful giant by selling him a fake cricket team.
If you are new to Bollywood, you may be unfamiliar with the rules of cricket.
Cricket: The basics
At first glance, cricket seems very similar to baseball - is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players. In cricket, the match is played on a large circular field at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. Each team takes its turn to bat, attempting to score runs, while the other team fields, trying to catch the ball or knock down the wickets. Turns at bat are known as innings. Unlike baseball, fielders do not wear gloves.
The cricket ball is made of a core of cork encased in red leather. The bat is a paddle that is approximately 11 centimeters wide which is flat on one side and humped on the other for strength. The bat has a sturdy cane handle. Two wickets are at either end of the pitch. These wickets are comprised of three stumps - wood posts hammered into the ground in an evenly spaced row close enough that the cricket ball can't pass between them. A pair of crosspieces, or bails, sit atop the stumps. Pads, gloves, and a helmet are worn by the batsman to prevent injury when struck by the ball.
With a running approach, the bowler pitches the ball to the batsman who attempts to hit the ball with away from the fielders so he can run to the other end of the pitch to score runs. Each batsman continues batting until he is out. A batsman is out when he is caught, bowled, leg before wicket, run out or stumped. Two batsmen bat in partnership, although only one is batting at any given time. The batting team continues batting until ten batsmen are out, or a specified number of overs of six balls have been bowled, at which point the teams switch roles and the fielding team comes in to bat.
A cricket game can last for hours or days. The following playlist featuring videos that introduce you to the rules of the sport.
If you are new to Bollywood, here are five films that help demystify cricket by featuring the sport at the heart of the story.
English Translation: "Land Tax"
Release Date: 15 June 2001
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Music by: A. R. Rahman
Description: Epic drama. It is 1893 and the British Raj is at the height of its power in India. In the small agricultural village of Champaner in western India, Captain Jack Russell (Paul Blackthorne) announces that he will double the land tax ("lagaan") from all villagers. The villagers, already overtaxed, decide to oppose it. Leading the villagers is Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) who challenges the British to a game of cricket. If the villagers win, the taxes are waived for three years. If they lose, the tax will be doubled. The problem is the Indian villagers have never played cricket and don't know a bat from a stick. And they are playing seasoned cricket professionals. Russell's sister Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley) steps forward to help the villagers learn the rules of the game.
Why I Love This Film: The story places the game of cricket at the center of a challenging time in the history of India. As the villagers are introduced to the sport, so are we. Watching the villagers learn and play a complex and unusual sport that has been honed by the British is refreshing. Constantly reminded that this cricket match is more than just a game, the bigger story is how the villagers come together as a team and a community to show their strength.
Recognition: Recognized as one of the top films to come out of Bollywood, the film won many awards and nominations. Won, Filmfare Awards for Best Movie and Best Story; Won, International Indian Film Academy Awards for Best Movie and Best Story; Won, Zee Cine Awards for Best Film and Best Story; Won, Screen Award for Best Film; and Won, National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.
Release Date: 26 August 2005
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor | Written by: Vipul K Rawal
Music by: Himesh Reshammiya, Salim-Sulaiman
Description: Drama. Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade), a deaf and mute village boy, dreams of playing for the Indian cricket team. He has a natural gift, a talent for bowling in great speed, which he hones in his father's farmland by practicing voraciously. In his craving for learning the art of bowling, he is helped initially by the local team's coach (Girish Karnad). Later he gradually discovers and revels in the magic of training by a drunkard in the village (Naseeruddin Shah) who is a veteran cricketer.
Why I Love This Film: This is a sweet and sincere story about an optimistic underdog who takes every opportunity to be a cricket bowler, despite obstacles put in his way. As Iqbal teams up with his has-been coach, both benefit from their time spent in training and the resulting friendship. Iqbal's sister Khadija (Shweta Prasad), is a particularly bright light in the film.
Recognition: Won, National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues.
3. Patiala House
Release Date: 11 February 2011
Director: Nikhil Advani
Music by: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Description: Drama. Parghat Singh Kahlon aka "Gattu" (Akshay Kumar), age 34 years, wakes up like he has every morning for the last 17 years. He remembers a dream that could have become a reality - to play cricket. This dream was obliterated by his father, Gurtej Singh Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor), 17 years go. Now, Gattu watches his father ruling a house, a family, a community like he has for the last 25 years. When Zeeshan and Simran (Anushka Sharma) come into Gattu's life, he finally summons the courage to grab an opportunity to pursue his dream, challenge his father and start a movement that will shake the very foundations of Patiala House.
Why I Love This Film: This story reminds us that we should never give up on our dreams - and what happens to us when we do. While Gattu is restrained and vulnerable in everyday life, he is strong and capable when bowling on the cricket field. Repressing his dream crushed his spirit. Realizing his ambition, frees his soul. The impact of his decision to pursue his dream sends ripples through the lives of those around him.
4. Ferrari Ki Sawaari
English Translation: "Ferrari Ride"
Release Date: 15 June 2012
Director: Rajesh Mapuskar
Music by: Pritam
Description: Comedy. Young Kayo (Ritvik Sahore) thinks of nothing but cricket. He lives with his grumpy grandfather, Behram Deboo (Boman Irani), and his loving father, Rustam "Rusy" Behram Deboo (Sharman Joshi). When Kayo is presented with the opportunity to attend a training camp at Lord's cricket ground in London, Rusy does everything in his power to send him. But when he has trouble raising the required funds, the honest and upright Rusy performs the first small act of dishonesty in his life: he borrows a gleaming red Ferrari. Just for one hour. From the greatest Indian batsmen of all time, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. Without his knowledge. A naive Rusy finds his short jaunt turns into an challenging and unforgettable night.
Why I Love This Film: This is a sweet story about small guys who do what it takes to pursue big dreams. Full of warmth and humor, it puts our average characters into challenging circumstances - as the characters address one problem they are confronted by another. Throughout, the love of family grows stronger.
5. Dil Bole Hadippa
Release Date: 18 September 2009
Director: Anurag Singh | Story by: Aparajita
Music by: Pritam
Description: Comedy. Feisty Veera Kaur (Rani Mukherjee) works with a local theatre group but her real passion is cricket. However, she can't be on the local cricket team because she is a woman. When a match between India and Pakistan is arranged for the local team, she decides to leverage her performance skills and dons a turban and beard to join the try-outs. "Veer Pratap Singh" demonstrates brilliance on the field and becomes part of the team. Veera finds herself in a predicament when she falls in love with the handsome cricket coach, Rohan Singh (Shahid Kapoor).
Why I Love This Film: Another film about the love of cricket demonstrates that no matter who you are, if you have the passion and willpower, you can accomplish anything. Mukherjee's Veera/Veer is highly animated and outspoken, which adds to the fun of the film. While the story may be a bit contrived and the characterizations somewhat transparent, the film shines a light on a number of issues including gender equality, family relationships, NRIs, and India-Pakistan relations. With music and dance numbers performed by Kapoor and Mukherjee - two of Bollywood's best actor-dancers - this film is a real entertainer.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for each of these films.
If you liked this, check out our other Friday Five posts.