The sport might be a religion in the Indian subcontinent, but when it comes to mobile representation, the Gentleman’s Game (Cricket, of course) has been poorly served. Unlike tennis, golf, football and basketball, those wanting to experience a feel of leather on willow on their devices do not have a plethora of options to choose from. Fortunately, among the few options that do come their way is the eminently entertaining Stick Cricket, a game that has been around on computers for a while, and has made a smooth transition to relatively smaller screens as well.
Let’s make one thing clear at the very outset, though – Stick Cricket is not really for the so-called cricket purists. If you want a game in which you can control every aspect of the sport, from the field settings to the bowlers to the kind of deliveries and the kind of strokes, as well as fielder reactions, and top it off with tricky captaincy decisions…well, take your finger off the ‘download’ button as this is not the game for you. For, Stick Cricket – rather like the Twenty20 avatar of cricket – is more about entertainment than strategy, more a lark in the park than an academic tour, more a bestseller than a piece of classic literature…you get the idea.
And the presentation of the game reflects this. The players have a distinct cartoon-y touch to them, being generally lean and leggy with grins plastered on their faces. Player names are real but do not expect real player likenesses here. Coming to the game itself, it is all about batting. You get a view of the bowling from behind the batsman’s wickets and as the delivery is bowled, you have to tap on either side of the screen to decide where you want to dispatch the delivery. Depending on your timing, you will get some runs (they get displayed – no, you don’t have to hit any buttons to make the batsmen run), get none or get dismissed. That’s all there is to it – download, choose mode of play, and then tap one of two sides to score (or get out). All of which would sound a bit mundane and repetitive (even your view of the action does not change), but thanks to the variety of the bowling and the colorful presentation of the game, you will end up being too busy tapping away to notice. You will also figure out that playing slower bowlers is actually more difficult than the hyped faster ones as you actually have time to ponder before the ball is delivered, and that batting left-handed is a very different ball game from being a right hand man.
There are different modes of play, which add some (not a lot, really) variety to the game. These include World Domination in which you take a team of stars, called the All Stars, from across nations and eras (Gavaskar, Imran and Lara in the same team, for instance) and face off against different nations in twenty over games, in which you are always – always – chasing stiff targets (Canada set the All Stars side 193, for God’s sake). You can also try an All Star slog, where you can play as one of the cricketing nations against the All Stars and rack up your highest scores across different over limits, ranging from five to 20. And if you do not mind shelling out a bit, you can play in the Stick Cricket Premier League as well. The game essentially remains the same – one massive slog against the poor bowler. But the sights and sounds of the cheering crowds, the hopping fielders and of course, your own batsman’s antics at the crease (you should see him collapsing on the stumps after getting hit) will keep you engrossed for hours.
It does not have the same level of glorious uncertainties as the real thing and critics will rail at the over simplified way in which it handles one of the world’s most intricate sports. But on the flip side, it is a truckload of fun, and the one cricket game that we recommend every follower of the sport downloads on their handset. And not just because it is free (you can play a fair deal of the game before giving in to the lure of in-app purchases for the sake of a few more teams and overs), but because it is so much fun and easy to play. We have lost count of the number of times we have pulled out our handset to play a few overs of the game in between meetings, on metro rides, or just because we wanted a bit of a cricket-based adrenaline rush. Purists will blanch, but then Stick Cricket is more about entertainment than strategy, more a lark in the park than an academic tour, more a bestseller than a piece of classic literature…you get the idea.