"You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.
When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game."
- from Mind your language (Mr. Brown aka Trevor Bannister)
No, no, it's not that sort of guide. I wanted to write this to explain some of the movers and shakers in men's cricketing world. For those who want to start following it, play it and all the rules will make sense. Overall the sport is sort of like a frankenstein monster made up of baseball and chess.
Australia - the best, the greatest etc. over the past 15 years. The only other team that can compete with them on an even keel is Australia B. They are hated in the cricketing world for their rude comments and arrogance that's almost always backed up by performance. They only fear fear itself (aka Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman of India). They've had some vulnerabilities be exposed in the past 2 months so the world cup may not be as one sided after all.
South Africa - Have all the skills necessary to be number 1. Almost always lose important matches, once famously by failing to read two numbers on a printout correctly (ok it was a tie but they got knocked out). Known as the chokers of world cricket.
Sri Lanka - Lots of talent with firepower to back it up. Strong title contenders this time. Have 2 magicians in their team - one of them with an Indian wife who was cheering for Sri Lanka during the last India-Sri Lanka match. He was also kept out of the game for a few months by an Australian umpire for no good reason. Conspiracy theorists attribute the reason to be so that an Australian player could have less competition during the time. The same umpire decided to beat up on Pakistan later, which did not go very well and caused his exit from the highest levels of the game.
West Indies - On any given day can lose or win to any other team. Inconsistency is the name of the game. Doesn't matter if it's Australia in front of them or Canada.
England - Filled the side with non-English origin cricketers. Notoriously bad travellers - they always come down with some stomach ailment and each is Shakespeare - always coming up with novel excuses for losing.
New Zealand - They always almost beat Australia, but lose to everyone else. They have a magician in their side called Shane Bond. Whenever he gets somebody out the commentators go, "Bond, Shane Bond." Also the only superfast bowler who does not throw.
Zimbabwe - They had a good side till recently. Mugabe took over the farms of most of the good people in the side and they left. The remaining players consolidated to make a team but the new captain "retired" at age 21 for getting death threats from the cricket baord.
Bangladesh - New entrants to the big leagues - young and fit. Win one match every 10 games or so, known as the "banana peel" for unexpectedly stopping some bigwigs. Endearing as one of them dropped a catch against India because he was distracted by watching such good players at close quarters (this was really early days). There was also the incident of asking the Aussie players for autographs after playing against them. Also the captain is known for attacking a ghost in a haunted hotel in England.
Pakistan - Bunch of geniuses - discovered by former players in neighbourhood games. Developed the art of "reverse-swing" which earned them the reputation of cheating until they taught everyone else how to do it. High-strung and inconsistent, they can also lose to any team on any day. Playing India brings out the best in each of them, no matter how badly they've done till then. 2006-2007 has been the worst year for them ever... it's been so bad that even Indians have started to feel sorry for them.
India - overhyped overpaid underperformers in one-day matches outside the subcontinent. Do well in one day matches at home and 5 day matches everywhere else. Face pressure from 1 billion fans every time they take the field. When they win they are treated like gods, when they lose they are treated like dirt. Media makes thousands of excuses when they lose - from regional tensions in the team to politics involving player selection. The players just say that they did not play well though they tried hard and right now they are part of a "process." Men in blue have proved to be babies in blue this world cup. Their early exit so far has led to 2 deaths by heart attacks and 1 death by suicide among fans.
Associated people (sorry, very India-centric):
Javed Miandad - ex-Pakistani player. much hated by fans of India due to his exploring the realms of the impossible to defeat India (the last-ball 6). Also watched by Indian security agencies for marrying his son to India's most wanted terrorist's daughter.
Imran Khan - ex-Pakistani player, now turned politician. Known for losing his wife to Hugh Grant's charms.
Steve Bucknor - Umpire of West Indian origin. Supposed to be neutral, yet serves as the 12th man on any side playing against India. Infamous for giving bad decisions that stopped India from winning their first test series in Australia against Australia.
Shoaib Akhtar - Pakistani fast bowler. Concentrates on throwing the ball at searing speeds at the expense of accuracy. For this usually serves as the opposing team's 12th man. Note: throwing the ball in cricket is illegal. He keeps injuring himself regularly and is in trouble for wine, women, injuries and performance-enhancing drugs.
Sanjay Manjrekar - ex-Indian cricket player turned commentator. Sounds depressed when India does well and does not have anything good to say about the team. Sounds happy when India does badly.
Sachin Tendulkar - God (recently has accepted human status)
Rahul Dravid - Practices very hard to be God. Unfortunately being God requires exceptional talent and can't be learned. He came close till he got saddled with the captaincy. Also known as the Great Wall of India.
Ravi Shastri - ex-Indian cricket player. Very popular with the ladies. Hosts the halftime 'Shaz and Waz show' featuring attractive women from the fans who turn out to watch cricket game.
Wasim Akram - ex-Pakistani cricket player. Co-host of 'Shaz and Waz show'. Also ladies' man and very popular in India. Spends most of his time in India playing golf when not commentating.
Brett Lee - Aussie fast bowler. Throws his faster balls trying to catch up in speed with Shoaib. Sings in hindi.
Irfan Pathan - Indian player. Started as fast bowler, became an all-rounder, then became a batsman, now doesn't play in team. Time for rise to fall is about 2 years. Known for cleaning up Adam Gilchrist of Australia with a reverse-swinging yorker.
Sunil Gavaskar - ex-Indian captain. His philosophy was honour above all.
Kapil Dev and Saurav Ganguly - ex-Indian captains. Philosophy was victory above all.
Mohammed Azharuddin - ex-Indian captain. Philosophy was money above all.