Why didn't cricket players ever start wearing gloves?
I focused on why baseball players began to wear gloves, because it is a much more answerable question, and can be used to contrast with Cricket history to see what Baseball did and Cricket didn't.
A.G. Spalding, a premier baseball pitcher of the 19th century, a member of the first class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and eventual founder of the Spalding sporting goods company, claims to have first seen a glove in baseball in 1875, on the hand of Charles C. Waite. Waite had a small flesh colored glove to protect his hand.
According to Spalding:
Therefore, I asked Waite about his glove. He confessed that he was a
bit ashamed to wear it, but had it on to save his hand. He also
admitted that he had chosen a color as inconspicuous as possible,
because he didn't care to attract attention.
He later added:
If anyone wore a padded glove before this date I do not know it.
It appears that Charles was certainly ridiculed for wearing a glove, and even took efforts to hide it. It is presumable that a Cricket player would receive the same treatment. Players who used them were viewed as weak. So why did it catch on? Spalding, one of the most popular players in the game, began to use one himself in 1877, and began to sell them from his catalogue:
Still, it was not until 1877 that I overcame my scruples against
joining the 'kid-glove aristocracy' by donning a glove. When I did at
last decide to do so, I did not select a flesh-colored glove, but got
a black one, and cut out as much of the back as possible to let the
Happily, in my case, the presence of a glove did not call out the
ridicule that had greeted Waite. I had been playing so long and had
become so well known that the innovation seemed rather to evoke
sympathy than hilarity.
It took a famous figure of Baseball, A.G. Spalding, to adopt the practice and sell gloves to make them more mainstream. Perhaps if a prominent cricketer adopted a glove, it would have caught on and silenced the ridicule.
Is fielding in baseball really more liable to lead to finger injuries than cricket fielding?
I believe the answer to this question is yes. In baseball, the goal is roughly to hit the ball as hard as you can, every time you are up to bat. The MLB has recently been tracking average exit velocity. The games best hitters average 90+ mph (144kph!) hits every time they are up to bat. I believe it is a safe assumption that a harder hit ball would be more dangerous to catch and painful even if successfully and properly caught. In cricket, the batsmen, while certainly capable of hitting the ball with fantastic velocity, do not, because the strategy of the game rarely calls for it.
In cricket, a ball struck along the ground is considered safe, because you cannot be caught out. Many balls in cricket are hit along the ground, with little velocity, making it simple and safe to pick up the ball. Occasionally the ball is hit with much greater velocity, whether on the ground or in the air, and these strikes require a great deal of defensive skill to catch for an out or to stop a boundary.
In baseball, a ground ball results in an out ~75% of the time(look for ground ball BABIP). The strategy of baseball requires batters to hit the ball on line drives or in the air as often as possible. Hard ground balls are also more common, as a ground ball that does not leave the infield, similar to most dot balls in cricket, would result in a certain out.
Great skill is still required of baseball fielders, who have much less margin for error than a cricketer. A single misplayed ball may cost a team a run. In a game where each team averages between 4 and 5 runs per game, a single run can have a huge impact on the game. In cricket, a misplayed ball can sometimes result in a 4, or in very rare cases, a 6. But in a sport where the scores run up in the hundreds, an individual boundary will have less of an effect.
In conclusion, due to three factors:
- A prominent baseball figure adopting the (at the time) controversial glove.
- The strategy of the games, where baseball calls for more hard hit balls that cause more damage, while cricket has many more slow rolling defensive shots.
- The increased emphasis on defensive skill in baseball, where a single misplayed ball usually has larger impact on the final score than in cricket.
Baseball adopted a glove for all fielders while Cricket did not