Extract from Sports the Olympics Forgot
The game of Bocket is played throughout the Indian sub-continent but first started in Dacca in Bangladesh. Bocket is a combination of Bowls and Cricket and allows people in bowling clubs to still play a version of their game after their bowling green has been sold to a high-rise developer.
Bocket is played on a cricket pitch with the stumps and bails in place. There is an Umpire at each end of the pitch and the two teams comprise four members each. The first members of each team bowl their two bowls alternately, then the second members bowl their bowls alternately and so on.
The person who delivers the bowl is known as the bowler and he must deliver the bowl from the popping crease without having the whole of his front foot across the line; if the front foot is wholly across the line the umpire shouts “No Bowl” and the bowl is intercepted on its path by the Third Man, who isn’t an umpire.
The idea is that each team tries to get as many of its bowls as possible closer to the stumps than any of their opponents bowls. Bowls that touch the stumps are called ‘touchers’ and are marked with a white chalk tick by another official called the Tickitkeeper. Touchers only count towards the score if each team has a bowl or bowls that are equidistant from the stumps in the opinion of the umpires at the end of each end.
If a bowl knocks off one or both of the bails on the stumps then the Umpire shouts ‘Bocket’ and the team whose bowler knocked off the bail are deducted two points instantly, the wicket is repaired, and the game continues.
Each team bowls 8 bowls at one end of the pitch and then the game commences at the other end of the pitch with a further 8 bowls per team being delivered towards the other set of stumps. In a full game of Bocket both teams bowl from each end of the pitch 5 times.
Teams can try and remove their opponent’s bowls from the pitch by knocking them out of the way, but always have to be careful not to knock off the bails from the stumps. No extra points are given for knocking a bowl over the boundary rope.
A familiar tactic is to roll a bowl just past the stumps – called a slip bowl – so that other bowls can then gently cannon off this bowl and land behind the stumps where they can’t be safely removed by the opposition. Teams are wise to this tactic and either block off the slip bowl with their own slip bowl or use the slip bowl to get their own bowl behind the stumps.
The other important rule is that the bowl must roll along the ground at all times after it has been delivered; no aerial bombardments are allowed as in petanque. The main reason for this is to prevent damage to the cricket pitch although the local spinners would welcome this extra wear on the surface. Any bowler disobeying this rule is given a warning and if they re-commit the same offence their team is penalized a point.
The Bangladeshi champions are the Rocketman, a team who used to work on the ferries in Bangladesh but now play Bocket full time in the Indian sub-continent. Their captain is Iqbal Qasim: “Yes, we went from Rockets to Bocket. We started to play Bocket while we were waiting for the ferries to fill up with people – not on a cricket pitch but just in the field by the jetty; we think we are good because we have a steady hand under pressure and don’t panic; we are also lucky because our third bowler Masood used to be a groundsman and so he can read the borrows and subtleties in the pitch before we start to play. It is not like a bowls green where the grass grows in one direction and everything is flat – cricket pitches have many undulations and cracks.”
Many cricket grounds are quite large and so 4 or 5 games of Bocket can take place concurrently, which means that most Bocket championships can be completed in just one weekend. The Third Man is responsible for ensuring that no bowls from one game interfere with any of the other games taking place. Another official, called the Silly Point, does help the Third Man by indicating bowls that could cause problems for other matches.