That cricket has a language all of its own is something that has long been acknowledged.
However, a survey has concluded that “Doosra” is the single most untranslatable term in the cricketing lexicon, after topping the poll of more than 300 language specialists with 21 percent of the vote.
It’s not difficult to see why. That single word describes a delivery bowled by an off-spin bowler that turns the opposite way from a conventional off-break in that it goes from leg to off, rather than off to leg and so spins away from a right-handed batsman.
For cricket aficionados, that all makes perfect sense. Whatever others make of it is anyone’s guess.
“Doosra” outscored second-placed “googly” and third-placed “mullygrubber” in a survey of linguists conducted by Today Translations, a London-based language firm with a global network of 2,600 linguists.
Jurga Zilinskiene, Today Translations’ managing director, said: “Cricket is not just a sport but also a language in its own right. Indeed, it is perhaps the world’s most untranslatable language.”
He said translation is often as much about translating culture as words.
“Sometimes, the equivalent idea — like doosra or googly — simply does not exist in both cultures. I believe, for example, that cricket is now starting to catch on in France,” Lithuanian-born Zilinskiene said.
“Can you imagine? But don’t worry. We at Today Translations are working on finding a good French translation for doosra,” she said.
The word, in the cricketing sense, owes its origins to Pakistan, England’s opponents in the fourth and final Test starting at Lord’s today.
Former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who also played with great success for English county side Surrey, is credited with inventing the doosra, a word that in Urdu or Hindi means “second” or “other.”
It was a ball used to great effect by Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal in the tourists’ four-wicket third Test win at The Oval last week that cut England’s series lead to 2-1,
“Cricket has generated a richer terminology than any other sport and — some would say — than any other human activity aside from sex,” Zilinskiene said.
That will come as no great surprise to both cricket followers and those who can’t stand the sport.
Harold Pinter, the late English Nobel Prize-winning playwright, once said: “I tend to believe that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth.”
“Certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either ... Anyway, you can either have sex before cricket or after cricket. The fundamental fact is that cricket must be there at the center of things,” he said.
As many an appealing, if not necessarily attractive, bowler might have said: “Owzat?”