In this essay I argue against what I call ‘functionalist claims’ 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. Such claims, I contend, rest on a certain dubious Kantian-inspired dichotomy between aesthetic and functionalist values that ought to be rejected. In the course of criticizing these views I discuss the nature of aesthetic versus non-aesthetic assessments, including the salient differences and similarities between art and sport; the relationship between the cognitive and affective elements involved in the aesthetic appreciation of cricket; and the normative nature of the aesthetic judgements made. Appealing to the concept of ‘play’ and to Kant's account of aesthetic appreciation I argue, firstly, that the essential nature of cricket appreciation, qua cricket, just is aesthetic; secondly, that a proper, full appreciation of the game requires a particular type of aesthetic understanding, kinaesthetic and imaginative in nature, which, I suggest, can be illuminated further by appealing to the rich account of C.L.R. James.