Martin G in the excellent Really Magazine reports that a new book, due for release later this year, At the boundaries of Cricket : Philosophical Reflections on the Noble Game (abstracts HERE) will attempt to answer this question.
Noble Game, eh?
NOBLE: (1) of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence; lofty; (2) admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition.
I suppose The Noble Game fits cricket as well as The Noble Art fits the activity which has as object the reduction of your opponent’s face to a pulp and his brain to a jelly.
Anyway, Martin G notes that the book will be of interest alike to those who feel that cricket can be seen from “Consequentialist, deontological, and virtue ethics perspectives”, and those who simply see men hitting a ball with a piece of wood. It asks whether “cricket is a language-without-words-game” and if, over the years, it could be said to show “an evolution from Lockean to Smithean liberalism”. Also discussed is the idea of ‘non-attached action’, as referenced techniques of mental preparation and mental hygiene, and the last chapter presents a strong argument against functionalism, in other words against those who might feel that :“ . . . the aesthetic appreciation of cricket, and sport more generally, can be reduced to or is subordinate to the putative purpose of the game, namely winning*”. [In other words, it’s better to read Wisden than to actually play the silly game.]
It all sounds like a cracking good read.