This article was originally written for The Corridor of Uncertainty by myself and published on my original blog Our Man in Sao Paulo. It is still the most popular post on that site so I thought I might share it with you here.
As an important ally of Portugal, the British have always had an interest in Brazil but never more so than in the 19th century when a significant proportion of the population of Rio was either British or of British descent.
As in any other part of the world, the British found themselves, they made efforts to introduce the sport to the locals and by the middle of the century, Rio boasted half a dozen cricket clubs with games played on makeshift grounds.
In the 1860s, as part of an effort to beautify the city, parks were created including the city’s first proper cricket ground which was later to host Rio’s first football games.
However, the Brazilians were reluctant to participate in sport and, unlike football which following its introduction in 1894 eventually captured the imagination of the nation, cricket faded almost completely from view as the British population in the country declined.
The modern form of cricket is still played across Brazil by small groups of expatriates and in 2003 Brazil became an associate member of the ICC but the popularity of the modern game is completely eclipsed by the popularity of a game which owes its genesis to Cricket but which has evolved and devolved into the game which is popularly known as Taco.
Anyone attempting to describe cricket to Brazilians is able to save hours of effort by simply saying: “It’s a bit like Taco”. Unfortunately the momentary satisfaction of witnessing a wave of realisation sweep across the Brazilian’s face is soon replaced by further hours spent explaining that cricket is not simply a game played by children on streets and beaches but that pads, gloves and sometimes helmets are required, and that the cricket ball is hard and bowled occasionally very hard indeed.
It’s easy to see how cricket has evolved over the last 150 years when the rules and equipment of the two games are compared. The Taco bat resembles much more closely the cricket bat of the early to the mid 19th century when bowling underarm was still a feature of the game and three sticks are used as stumps though these are much more commonly substituted these days by empty plastic bottles.
Taco is played by two pairs, a batting pair and a fielding pair. The stumps (or cans or bottles) are placed either end of the wicket (though the term wicket is alien to the average Brazilian). Around each set of stumps is the crease (again this is not called a crease and is a circle drawn a full 360 degrees around the stumps).
At each end a fielding/bowling player stands behind the stumps and the batting players stand with their bat grounded inside the crease. The bowlers attempt to hit the stumps and the batters try to hit the ball as far as possible. Like cricket, on hitting the ball the batters are able to run to the opposite end and accumulate runs.
Unlike cricket, if the ball is hit behind, or catches an edge the batter is prohibited from running. Not only may they not run but, on the third occasion of the ball touching the bat and going behind, regardless of whether runs have been made in intervening balls, both batters are out and the two pairs exchange places.
A batter may be stumped either by being bowled out or by being run out either when their bat is not within the crease or, get this if either or both of their feet are within the crease. Each time a batter is caught (even if the ball is hit behind), bowled or run out, the batting pair field and the fielding pair go into bat. The batters when running need to touch their bats as they pass for the run to count. A batter can also be got out by being hit by the ball while making a run.
The ball can be bowled from either end, the ends do not need to alternate. The ball is usually bowled from the end nearest to where the ball has been retrieved but the bowler must bowl to the stumps furthest from the end from which they are bowling. If the ball is hit back to the bowler, the bowler may immediately bowl again whether the batter is ready or not.
Although the batters and fielders may exchange roles many times over the course of the game, each team’s runs accumulate until the first team to reach a pre-agreed total, for example, ten, is declared the winner.
Wikipedia lists 17 forms of cricket including many variations peculiar to particular regions or countries around the globe, What is the most peculiar derivation of cricket Corridor readers have encountered. I for one would be interested to know whether any are as close yet equally removed from cricket as Taco.