Sticky wicket: Why cricket is a lot like sex
Something primal and deep is at work. And could be linked to the most cherished South Asian male sexual fantasies.
Many years ago, Dr D Pressed, a senior Pakistani psychologist, told me: “Basically a good cricketer is judged by his capacities in two areas: How hard he can hit and how long he can play.” Was this not similar to what men consider the key elements of being great lovers?, she added. Locker room talk in India, Pakistan and possibly the world over literally glorifies such techniques when men boast of their sexual exploits. Whereas one stud tells of how many hours he could perform – literally echoing the goal of every cricketer: “Mein ney uskay chackay churaa diye (I scored many ‘sixes’)”.
Over time, I have learnt more from the Jungian practitioner, and to clarify, how to deconstruct the game of cricket and its enduring popularity in South Asia. Something primal and deep is at work. And could be linked to the most cherished South Asian male sexual fantasies. And more so about how men think women could be “satisfied” with their performance. Male fantasies tend to revolve around the vital organ, which according to lots of current research, in the words of Dr D “is the great redunda for many women”. This is why cricket is an extension of this syndrome.
The language says it all. Aside from the obvious business of balling/bowling, cricket terminology exhibits sexual innuendo. You can “bowl” a “maiden” over or get “caught in the slips”. Further, there are all manner of “legs” – deep, wide and narrow, including before the wicket, perhaps symbolic of resisting the inevitable. And of course the old mid-on and mid-off (you bet it’s silly).
Many sports celebrate the theme of symbolic penetration of a fixed space, but cricket takes the cake. The central symbol in cricket is verticality of the wicket. Echoing the male obsession with all things erect, as long as the wicket is vertical, all is well. Thus the wicket as a dominant metaphor underplays the horizontal dimension a player who heads back to the pavilion has to suffer the tragedy and humiliation of being “outed”.Men also boast about “simultaneous orgasms” in perfect synchrony with male climax. The idea of simultaneous orgasm is embedded in popular Western cinema and within what Dr D calls “the Harold Robin’s school of literature” in which numerous sexual marathons culminate in both parties simultaneously “exploding”. Simultaneous orgasm is like two people saying we are going to sneeze at the same time – all we need is good foreplay. The same holds true for cricket. Two partners, one of whom is passive; the other hits the ball, there is the ensuing dash and woe betide the one who is out of synch. The partner out of synch goes back to the pavilion and the woman back to the shrink. To be run out is to “give up” prematurely and the prototypical cricketer (lover) plays a long and hard-hitting innings.
Cricket, not unlike the act itself, is a very serious game, full of long interminable silences, sporadically shattered by an ear splitting “Howzzat!!?”. Dr D states that many surveys reveal how the experience of many women is not too different from the old style test matches where after days of playing, the ‘outcome’ is: nothing. An inconclusive draw. The no-holds-barred doctor suggests that the currently popular one-day matches are simply the equivalent of the proverbial one night stands.
During sex, many women try to alleviate their boredom by trying to make things interesting for males, frequently by an obliging pant here and a pant there. “But all that adds up to is a pair of pants” quips Dr D. “It is the least they can do given the endless hours preparing the pitch (fore-play)” she adds. To tell the truth about faking orgasms would just not be cricket! Given the manners required of the game, “it is simply rude to tell him to get the hell off his silly mid-on”. Most other masculine sports “harbour no such illusions of gentlemanly behavior”. One reason why in Pakistan (and India) there are standard names for sports organisations such as the Lawn Tennis Association, the Hockey Federation, etc. But for Cricket there is a “Board of Control”.
Dr D sarcastically says that it is unlikely that a controlling board “can manage to restrain the googlies and bouncers in the bedroom.” In Pakistan, cricket metaphors are used by all and sundry. In contemporary politics, cricket has emerged as a major metaphor and even a mobilising force. The only World Cup “taker” is the national hero since 1992 and remains so. No other captain has been able to take the “trophy”.