1744. That’s the year the Laws of Cricket were codified which helped not only position it solidly as the world’s first organized sport, but also establish it as one whose appeal still dominates the landscape of popular sports in many countries around the world even today, including Australia.
In spite of the many forms, formats and addictively frustrating stages the sport has morphed through over the centuries (and there’ve certainly been a few), no aspect of the game has persisted longer than the wicket. So essential it is to the game that the term “wicket” has been assigned to the playing pitch as well as the two sets of matching posts stationed at opposite ends of the pitch.
And not only that, but it’s also even purloined as a tongue-in-cheek metaphor that embodies the difficulty that may be encountered on either – the sticky wicket. What we’re strictly interested in discussing, however, are the matching posts: those three vertical poles that cricket batters are duty-bound to protect at all cost, and their opposing bowlers are doggedly determined to disturb with all haste. The poles are simply called stumps and, not surprisingly, they’ve been responsible for shaping the game of cricket.
The well-kept wicket
Asserting themselves no less defiantly to throngs of cricket spectators as they do to the players themselves, it takes three cricket stumps available in a range of materials to make a wicket, and suspended between them along recessed grooves are two sticks called bails. The wicket itself, measuring 71cm tall and 23cm across, isn’t a dainty structure and the act of successfully dislodging either of those bails from between the stumps by hurling a cork-filled leather ball at it should be the easiest thing in the world… or at least, that’s what one would think.
If you’re a committed cricket fan who enjoys getting a quick match started, having a well-kept wicket is a matter of pride. That’s why there’s nothing wrong with replacing an old and battered set of stumps and bails with new ones. In fact, even the choices of stump sizes available now, mean that regardless of whether you’re just a weekend player, the head of an amateur cricket club, or setting up a cricket academy for young players, there are options that allow cricket fans of all ages to set up a pitch anywhere.
Ranging between junior and senior height standards, you can easily find the suitable set for you, and immediately take to practicing or getting a quick match started. Traditionally, the cricket stumps and bails have been made from ash wood because of their strength and durability, and they had to be because of the thrashing they’ve taken from vicious bowlers. But, reliable new materials and innovative new approaches for constructing stumps and bails have allowed the sport to evolve in directions that couldn’t have been anticipated only a generation ago.
Ashwood and hardwood stumps
For as long as there are diehard cricketers around, there’ll always be original, ashwood stumps available. That doesn’t mean they can’t also be manufactured with a twist, though. For players who also want the timeless quality of traditional wooden stumps, either in ashwood or natural finish hardwood, but don’t want the headache of always needing to set stumps back into position, wooden stumps can also be had on solid rubber or spring-loaded bases that behave just as they would on a grass or turf pitch.
Good bowlers can get a ball travelling at 160kph when they’re aiming for a set of stumps. Metal stumps are sturdy enough to survive the toughest of bowlers and are portable enough to take anywhere. Built with permanent bails, they can take the punishment that would eventually cause even the most durable wooden stumps to shatter. In fact, their stoutness is probably best underlined by noting that cricketers probably shouldn’t bowl against them with pricier, regulation cricket balls to prevent damaging them.
Lightweight, plastic stumps mounted on plastic or rubber bases are the popular choice for homes and schools as they’re perfect for either indoor or outdoor use. Available in a variety of colours and sizes for juniors or seniors, plastic stumps can be used just as easily in backyards, gardens, or parks as they can be packed up, loaded in the car and taken to the beach. Their construction makes them all but unbreakable, capable of easy deflecting balls, and ideal for matches as well as net training.
Multistumps are flexible rectangular stumps designed to help bowlers and fielders improve their skills when it comes to any type of wicket keeping drills. As valuable as they are as training tools, however, they’re no less perfectly suited for matches too. Available in standard or shortened height, they can be attached to special stump spikes or bases and are suitable for either indoor or outdoor use.
The final word
At the end of the day, cricket isn’t just a time-honoured game, it’s an amazing game; and the impression that’s left by those three simple cricket stumps straddled only by two simple bails is a powerful one. That sponsors and advertisers will even pay to have their names and logos emblazoned on such pivotal pieces of equipment only to have balls savagely thrown at them would be unheard of in any other sport, but that’s all part of the magic of cricket.
Maybe it’s time you looked into replacing that old set of stumps you’ve been using for years to include looking at a new set that you can use to get a match going anywhere or just to get in some practice anytime. They’ll certainly breathe new life into your pitch, while keeping the magic of cricket alive for generations to come.