By Kyle Jones
I don’t believe that you choose who you fall in love with, or who falls in love with you. Love is a one-of-a-kind sort of thing that no supercomputer can calculate.
IBM couldn’t have told me that I’d fall in love with my fiancée, that we would decide to stay together even though we knew most of our relationship would be spent hundreds of miles apart from each other, that we’d love one another more each day because of it, and that we’d weather whatever storm life threw at us and come out stronger.
Soon, the distance between us will be just a few inches, instead of just a few states.
But for now, I sit, and write, and watch cricket, as the rain patters lightly against my window.
Married life sounds great right about now.
Cricket is also one-of-a-kind. It is the second most popular sport on Earth, right behind soccer, yet the vast majority of Americans could not tell you a single thing about it.
The rules are simple, yet intricate. The game is exhilarating at times, and mind numbingly slow at others. It holds a truly unique place in the world of sports.
My fiancée’s probably horrified at the sight of being mentioned in the same line as sports, especially the “boring baseball” that she playfully teases me for watching.
Truth be told, she deserves a whole story devoted to her, without me having to use games as metaphors for how much I love her.
Sorry honey, love is an anomaly.
So is cricket.
The wizardry of wickets and willows
What is cricket?
It’s a game played with a ball and a bat. The ball is made of cork and leather, and the bat is made from willow wood.
There are three sticks behind each batsman called a wicket, and if the ball hits the wicket the batsman is out. Bowler throws ball, batsman hits ball, batsmen run, and cricket occurs.
So is it, as my fiancée puts it, “boring baseball?”
Maybe. I don’t think so.
To me, cricket is more of an experience than a simple game. Each match carries with it a distinct flavor, unique to the teams playing and pitch being played on. Each region has its own twists, turns, and nuances.
The pitch at Lord’s in London runs different from the MCG in Melbourne, which turns different from Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The power in cricket is also regional, and is constantly shifting.
England invented the game more than 300 years ago, so, like with everything the British come up with, they’ve been surpassed in quality by the nations and peoples whom they subjected to the pains and cruelties of colonial rule.
Call it reparations.
The West Indies had its advent in the 80s.
Sri Lanka found success in ODI and T20 cricket in the 90s, but even the great Lasith Malinga couldn’t guide the squad to sustained success in Test cricket.
Don Bradman’s Invincibles of Australia lived up to its name, and 2012 saw dominance in all forms by AB de Villiers and South Africa.
New Zealand is in the middle of a golden age, with stars like Kane Williamson guiding the little island nation to a World Cup Final and World Test Championship Final in the span of three years.
Even Ireland, who only achieved Test status in 2017, managed a famous ODI victory over England in August of 2020.
And, of course, nobody could forget the mighty India. From Tendulkar, to Dhoni, to Kholi and so many more, India has been, and will be, at the top of cricket rankings in all forms until rising sea levels flood the subcontinent.
Then maybe Nepal will have its moment.
No other sport asks you to sit through five days of play for a result, produces score lines where run totals can range from the 100s to 600s, or has three different formats that are all played consistently as part of a series.
No other sport can bring the excitement of a home run and the glory of a goal in back-to-back bowls, can make the little kid raised by a single mother into the hero of Mumbai, or the scrawny kid from Delhi into one of the biggest superstars on Earth.
No other sport showcases magic like a spinner can, or tenacity like a batter in the death-overs can.
And, no other sport produces storylines quite like cricket.
The duel between a bowler and a batsman can be as simple as two men playing a simple game, or as deep rooted as a country fighting for legitimacy against its former colonizers. The duel can last seconds, hours, or even days before one side finally topples.
When that ball turns in and clatters into the stumps, so too does the illusion that one nation is superior, that one race doesn’t belong in sport, that women can’t play exciting cricket, and that cricketers can’t create meaningful change.
When Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards’ West Indies team swept England 5-0 in 1984, it wasn’t just a series of emphatic wins on the pitch. It was a powerful statement from a team, proving that people of color had a place in a game dominated by the white English and Aussies.
A series sweep in cricket is often called a whitewash. For the West Indies of that famous 1984 tour, the sweep is famously known as “the Blackwash.”
Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup campaign marked the rise of an underdog, a country embroiled in violence and economic insecurity brought together by the wicket and willow, with the victory over Australia in the final match marking a mountaintop moment for the country.
Even Zimbabwe, who seems to hold eternal underdog status, had a moment in the sun at the 1999 World Cup, netting famous victories against India and South Africa, a team that was atop the world rankings at the time.
India’s recent tour of Australia featured the highs and lows of the best dramas, the energy of the best action flicks, and ended with an Indian victory at the Gabba that none could have predicted. It was, as ESPN’s Mark Nicholas put it, “Test cricket at its finest.”
The Women’s BBL and the excitement of the Women’s T20 World Cup proved that women could not only play exciting cricket, but draw in viewers as well.
But, what is it about cricket that drew me in? In the U.S. you have to dig deep into your cable package to watch games legally. The U.S. has a team, but it is nowhere near competitive, even compared to underdog sides like Zimbabwe, Scotland, or the Netherlands.
There’s no true domestic league like in England and Australia, and there’s no big money T20 competition like the IPL and CPL. It’s not a stretch to say that Americans have very little incentive to care about the game of cricket.
So, why do I?
Why do we fall in love?
There are so many reasons that you can give for falling in love with somebody. It could be an aspect of their appearance, their attitude, the way they make you feel, etc.
So, why did I fall in love with my fiancée? To tell you the truth, I couldn’t give you just one reason.
She’s beautiful, kind to everyone she meets, incredibly caring, insanely smart, talented, … I could go on.
But, what makes her so great and what makes me believe that love is an anomaly is this: I find a new reason to love her each day.
Maybe it’s something she says, or does. Maybe it’s her smile that lights up the room, or just casually telling me that she loves me. The feeling of knowing you have someone who can pick you up no matter what is a feeling that I hope everyone gets to experience.
Regardless of what it is, I love her more and more everyday. We’ve been together for over six years now, so that’s a hell of a lot of love. It’s something that keeps me going.
I’ve dealt with burnout in the past — I think everybody does — and there are times when I look at the mounds of work that I have to get done, and I just tell myself that I can’t. That I’m not good enough. That it’s not worth it.
Then, in comes my shining light.
She has been my motivation, my muse, and my rock. When nobody else has been able to reach me, she has been there. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be writing this piece.
She pushed me to pursue my passion for writing. She told me I was good at it. She inspires me to push to be better every day.
She is a one-in-a-billion woman. The fact that, out of the 7.8 billion people on this planet, we were able to come together and fall in love is insane from a statistical standpoint. Our existence as a couple is an anomaly.
Love is an anomaly.
So is cricket.
So, why cricket?
I have no connection to the country of New Zealand. None of my ancestors lived there, none of my family members live there, and I’ve never even set foot there. I have literally zero reason to get excited about New Zealand cricket.
And yet, they are by far my favorite cricketing nation.
The first time I really sat down and watched New Zealand for more than a few hours was during their series against England in 2019. I had tuned in to the Cricket World Cup that summer, and the prospect of the two finalists going head-to-head for a month was too good to pass up.
As expected, the teams played five great T20s, followed by a dominating test from New Zealand and then a second test that was drawn.
Up to this point, I had only followed cricket from a distance, never really researching the sport or getting myself entrenched with a team. But, the New Zealand versus England series changed something for me.
Maybe it was B.J. Watling batting for 205 in the first test, Kane Williamson just being an overall force for good, or Lockie Ferguson’s mustache.
Maybe it was the fact that ESPN holds the broadcasting rights for New Zealand cricket in the U.S., so I could actually watch the games without having to worry about my computer contracting a virus.
I think what really roped me in, though, was the feeling I got from watching the game.
With most sports, I have some sort of expectation about how things will go. I expect Mizzou to let me down. I expect the Texans to embarrass my hometown. I expect the Rockets to choke.
I might be a sucker for pain, but I tend to go back to my teams every time because, at this point, not watching them just seems wrong. With New Zealand cricket, and cricket in general, I have no expectations.
I’m told that India is the for-sure winner, and then I watch them get defeated in the World Cup. I’m told that Ireland has no chance against England, and then I watch Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie both hit tons for a historic win. I enter the world of cricket with the same lens as a child. I have no expectations, and it’s wonderful.
One day, I’ll grow expectations. I’ll have my ideas of how a match should go. But, deep down, I don’t think cricket will lose its shine for me.
That’s because it’s my thing.
I’m the only one in my family that watches it, the only one in my friend group that watches it. It’s something that makes me feel unique, and the more I dive into it the happier it makes me.
But, if I had to choose one reason for my love of cricket, it’s probably Kyle Jamieson.
Jamieson sticks out among the cricket world. He stands at a whopping 6-foot-8, a giant among the cricketing world, and bowls with enough pace to take down even the best batsmen.
He is a true Test cricket all-rounder, showing mastery with the bat and ball, and all of this at the age of 26, making him a young up-and-comer by cricket standards.
Jamieson is cementing himself as a force in the cricket world and is another subversion of my expectations.
Kyle Jamieson is cricket — he is the sport’s future — and I get to watch his story unfold.
I love watching cricket because it reminds me why I fell in love with sports.
Why do I bring up my love of sports? Why does that matter? Because, in a weird way, sports taught me how to love. They’ve always been what I’m most passionate about. Through loving a team like the Astros, I’ve learned everything that I might need to know when it comes to a relationship.
I’ve learned happiness, like in 2005 when the Astros won the NLCS. I’ve learned what it means to care, like when I used to stay up way too late just to hear Milo Hamilton call that walk-off home run or winning strikeout.
I’ve learned how to stand with the person you love through tough times, like the three-year stretch from 2011 to 2013 where the team lost over 100 games every year. I’ve learned what it means to be proud, like when the Astros won the 2017 World Series.
I’ve learned anger and disappointment, like when the news about the 2017 cheating scandal emerged. I’ve learned what it means to forgive and to realize there was a mistake, but that one mistake doesn’t mean the relationship has to be ruined.
Sticking by the Astros was a test run for real relationships, and maybe sports have been your test run too.
Maybe you’ve had a team that you stuck with through thick and thin, through the ups and downs, no matter what. Maybe you’ve had a person that you’ve stuck by through tough times too.
We’ve all had days where a win makes everything better, puts a little extra pep in our step. Maybe you’ve got a person who can do the same thing.
Maybe you have a team that makes you happy just by talking about them. Maybe you have a person in your life that does the same.
Love is so crazy because it can appear anywhere in our lives, especially when we least expect it. I never expected to fall in love with the game of cricket. I never expected to fall in love with my fiancée.
I never expected that one person would turn my life totally upside down in the best way and turn me into who I am today. Six years ago, I could never have predicted where I am today, and so much of it is because of one woman.
I had a 1 in 7.8 billion chance of meeting her. Our love is something that only we can truly understand the intricacies and depths of. It is an anomaly.
Love is an anomaly.
And so is cricket.