Tape ball cricket is renowned for accessibility, innovation and ‘making the most out of what you have’. It is played by millions, mostly in Pakistan but also in India, the UK, UAE and other cricketing nations, and while the game of tape ball cricket has rules, they are contested, varied and diverse, depending on where you’re playing and how you’re playing the game. Read the breakdown of these rules and the game itself, below.
What is a tape ball, you ask? Well, it is exactly what the name makes it sound like, a ball (tennis), wrapped around with tape to give it more speed and better bounce, for the game of cricket, particularly on concrete roads, where it is mostly played.
What makes the game interesting and exciting is that it allows cricket players and fans, who might not have access to a cricket ball, pitch, wickets or kit, to simply buy a bat, a tennis ball and some tape, and play the game that they love most. Here, we deep dive into the rules of tape ball cricket, a game that has helped develop several professional cricketers, or mostly a plethora of fast bowlers from Pakistan to become some of the best in the game. And with talks of it one day kicking off as its own sport, and even having a potential World Cup to its name, the game is here to stay.
When it comes to the rules of the game, tape ball cricket is exactly the opposite of what rules constitute – It is was developed on the streets, is easy and not to be taken too seriously (although, like any game, the possibility for seriousness, during a tape ball cricket match is very common) and it requires minimal preparation to get straight into the action. Yet, there are some ‘rules’ to the game, if you can call them that.
Organised tape ball cricket rules
On an official level, where tape ball cricket is played via an institution or organised tournament, most rules from the Laws Of Cricket do apply. However, they vary due to the nature and style of the game.
More often than not, a team will not have 11 players, but rather 6 or 8 players on each team. There is almost always one innings per team, and bowlers mostly bowl only 2 overs per game, especially if the game is 8 overs (of 6 balls each). When it comes to how many overs there are in a game, this also varies but is almost always either 8 or 10 overs and sometimes a time limit is also added to complete the allotted overs.
Batters may be required to retire after scoring a set amount of runs, this can vary between 25-50 depending on where you are playing and how many overs there are in the game. These batters wil also return to the bat if the other batters on their team have been dismissed.
To maintain the fast-paced nature of the game, some additional rules also exist, and they are often found in the street version of the game as well but are just as common in the more ‘organised’ games. For starters, all extras (byes, leg byes, no balls and wides) count as one run, and at times, these may be bowled again, but that isn’t always the case. Similarly, the time-spent between deliveries and overs is to be at a minimal, what this means exactly is your guess, but having a long-standing conversation with your peers about field placing isn’t going to cut it. You can find further details into some of these ‘established’ rules by Netherlands Cricket here.
Street tape ball cricket rules
When we talk about the streets though, the world is your playground, literally. Rules do matter, but not as much. A one bounce catch? It can be done. Hitting a ball into the neighbours backyard? It’s a six! You use your surroundings as a means to play the game you love, plain and simple.
Unconventionality is becoming more commonplace with the rise of T20 cricket and the money surrounding the shortest format of the game, but tape ball cricket is as unconventional as it gets, and probably the original source for this style of the game. Some of the unconventional rules you might come across when playing it on the streets of Karachi or Lahore, in the paddies of Punjab or mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are as follows:
No LBW: With no pads and no real umpire to make the call, more often than not, the LBW rule is ignored in tape ball cricket. And although this is also found in some versions of organised tape ball cricket rules, this is almost always the case, when it comes to street-style, tape ball cricket. In turn, the batter can be expected to play on if the ball hits their leg right in front of the stumps. This adds to the pace and fast-nature of the game.
No set number of overs: with games usually spanning 4 to 8 overs, or even constituting of over-less games, if there aren’t too many players or the game isn’t too serious, a tape ball cricket match can last for as little or as long of a time as the players like!
The ‘trial’ ball: When a bowler gets ready to bowl their first delivery, they can let the players know they will be bowling a try or trial delivery. This lets them get into a rhythm, or just figure out what they’re going to be doing for their allotted overs.
‘One bounce, out’: While some might argue this is a completely different game, and variations of the ‘one bounce out’ concept have also been seen in Australia with the likes of backyard cricket, this can also be found and implemented in some tape ball cricket rules. The idea is simple, it’s an enclosed space, and you need a batter to get out, but they aren’t exactly hitting the ball for sixes, left, right and centre. What does everyone decide? If the ball hits the floor once, you can catch it, and the player is out. This may also include a ‘one bounce, one hand, out’ version, which requires the fielder to catch the bounced ball with one hand only. Either way, it is a fun element of the game that can be exciting to play with a small number of players in a smaller space.
While the game may vary in its rules, regulations and style of play. The idea around it is exactly that, tape up a tennis ball with some electric tape, add a seam if you would like, and get right into the game. At the end of the day, whether it becomes the global phenomenon it has the potential to be, whether they institutionalise its rules or not, tape ball cricket is here to stay, and with it, the innovations, ideas and passions of millions will continue to come to life, cricket pitch or not.