Cricket is a sport like no other, a close cousin of baseball that is loved by fans worldwide but is only played at the highest level in a few countries. But did you know when adults were first documented to play the game?
Adult cricket was first documented in 1611 when two men were fined for failing to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket.
Cricket, The Children’s Game
One theory holds that cricket originated as a children’s game in south-eastern England. There is some evidence to support this. A court case was held in Guilford in 1597, and one of the witnesses, a 59-year-old man, stated that he and his friends used to play cricket during their school years. Cricket must have been played by Surrey boys around 1550, based on his age.
More evidence that cricket is a children’s game comes from a 1611 English-French dictionary, which defines the noun “crosse” as “the crooked staff with which boys play cricket” and the verb form “crosser” as “to play at cricket.”
The name may derive from the Old English words cryce or cric, which means crutch or staff. We have cryce from Saxon, which means stick, and criquet from Old French, which also means club or stick. Furthermore, these countries were closely linked with Flanders, where people spoke Middle Dutch, which includes words like krick, which means stick or crook, and kerkstoel, which is a long low stool for kneeling in church. This is similar to the wicket used in the early days of cricket.
Experts speculate that cricket may have originated in Flanders rather than England. According to Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert at Bonn University, the word cricket is derived from the Middle Dutch phrase met de cricket sen, which means with the stick chase. He speculated that the name and the entire sport could be Flemish rather than English. (Source: Wisden)
The Start of Professional Cricket
Adults playing cricket were first recorded in 1611 when two men were fined 12d each for failing to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. At around the same time, the first organized cricket match was held in Chevening, Kent. A few years later, in 1624, we learn of what may have been cricket’s first death in Sussex. Jasper Vinall was killed when another player accidentally hit him on the head.
Cricket remained a regional sport in England throughout the 17th century. It was forbidden during the Puritans’ or Commonwealth’s reign. The problem was that people used to play cricket on Sunday, and Puritans couldn’t stand entertainment, crowds, and gambling on a day of rest.
Patrons and players from the gentry social class consider themselves cricket amateurs. They coined this term to distinguish their game from professional cricket players, many of whom were from the working class. They wanted to be distinct enough to have separate changing and dining facilities while playing.
The gentry developed its honor code to claim leadership rights in any contest. It was even more important when they had to play with the working class. Many people began to see leading idols as amateur cricketers who were successful.
Professionals played for a wage or a match fee under contract, while amateurs only played for expenses. They used to claim far more than they spent on game participation. (Source: Wisden)
Image from Scoreline.Org