World Cup Group A – A Cricketing ViewGraham Brown |
Over the coming month there is going to be the greatest sporting spectacle that the globe has ever seen. The media circus, the droves of fans, banners streaming from every window, flags proudly displayed as everyone gets behind their team and wills them on to victory. I am talking about, of course, India?s visit to Zimbabwe to take them on in a Twenty20 double header! However while the world and their wife paint their faces in the Zimbabwean colours and tattooists needles tire of etching the India crest into supporters pectorals there is something else going on down the road.
Apparently there is some sort of tournament going on, they wear wide spikes, their pads beneath their socks and their gloves don?t even have padding. I understand that the odd cricket fan may flick over in-between overs to see what all the fuss is about. Now while these overpaid drama queens mince about the pitch, theatrics, diving and simulation a plenty, I know there will be only one question doing the rounds of my mind,
I wonder if they’re any good at cricket?
So in the greatest cricket meets football hybrid since Ian Botham turned out for Scunthorpe United we examine the cricketing culture of the teams from Group A.
When I think of France, there are many images my mind jolts to, and cricketers pulling on their whites isn’t one of them, however behind the stereotyped striped jumpers and beret hides a sleeveless white knitted jumper and a baggy fronted cap itching to get out.Cricket Web speaks to Peter Moore, an Irish import playing cricket over in France.
Moore played cricket growing up in Northern Ireland. After a brief sabattical from the game, about 8 years, whilst arriving in France he discovered Les Ormes cricket club, half an hour away from Rennes where he was living. The Irishman signed up and has been playing there for the last 11 years. Moor took over the organisation of the club in 2004 and has just resigned from the role of president of the association and fixture secretary. He still plays however and enjoys participating as a player, without all the extra work of organisation.
In comparison to football, In France, Moor informs us, cricket is completely unknown to the vast majority of people. There are fewer than 800 active players in France (affiliated to France Cricket), which means that they don’t benefit from any grants (1200 affiliated players are necessary to obtain any government grants), which means that developing the sport is all the more difficult. There are about 45 clubs in France, with the vast majority being in the Paris region and in the East, due to the number of ex-pats in these regions. There isn’t really a national league, although some regional leagues are organised. It’s hard to point out any clubs are particularly successful, as Peter doesn’t follow the clubs from other regions and for the majority of clubs, the games are friendlies. In regard of the facilities in France there is very little for the few cricketing enthusiasts to work with. Most pitches are either on private grounds or on municipal grounds, with no real infrastructure. There are no big cricket stadiums.
Looking to the future and fast forwarding thirty years to the 2040 Cricket world cup Moor admits that it would be nice to dream that a French side would be featuring but concedes that this almost certainly not be the case. This is attributed to the ICC not doing enough to promote cricket in France and across the globe. The adopted Frenchman cites a requirement for more money to be invested into the sport in France as well as some government intervention being required in order to bring the sport into the French schools and increase its popularity.
Competing with the French in Group A is another team that doesn’t feature too prominently in cricketing folklore, Uruguay . However from small acorns grows mighty oaks and it has fallen to another Irishman, John Biscomb, to spread the gift of cricket further afield.
Biscomb, who played for Irish Schools but played little since, has taken the responsibility of trying to reactivate Cricket in Uruguay. This task however is not a simple one with cricket being way behind football in terms of popularity, participation and acknowledgement. Biscomb continues that in Uraguay there are no official clubs though there is a Uruguayan Cricket Association which have played some friendly matches at the Montevideo Cricket Club.
Due to the poor recognition of the game in Uruguay there are no star players to speak of, however there are a select few with the enthusiasm and desire to get a game on. Our best turnout, continues Biscomb, was 32 so we played 16 a side. This is a positive signal for the seeds of the greatest game on earth being sewn by Biscomb but even with this exclusive group of committed cricketers other factors might leave his hands somewhat tied. With enough equipment for only two sides to use and no marked pitches or stadium, the idea of having two games occurring concurrently in the country seems ambitious.
Idolising the great Yorkshire cricketer Freddie Trueman it would appear the John Biscomb could do with some of that grit and fire in the belly to inspire the good people of Uruguay to trade their boots for spikes. Believing that the ICC could do more to promote cricket across South America he concedes that there are grave doubts that Uruguay will be singing their national anthem at the cricket world cup 2040.He outlines enthusiastic volunteers with time, patience and dedication as the greatest resource to take Uruguayan Cricket forward from its current state.
There is a definite positive in the ability to raise enough players to have a sixteen aside game of cricket, and I couldn’t help but smile at how many club captains across the globe will be green with envy over that turnout if any of their fixtures clash with their own nations World Cup games. The next team in this group is certainly poles apart from the previous two in terms of cricketing heritage, however that it not to say that they don’t have their own worries and issues to resolve as Richard Hingston explains about the soccer World Cup hosts, South Africa.
Richard Hingston has been playing cricket in South Africa since the age of 8 giving him a wealth of experience at the tender age 23. Vice captain for his school side and playing for a men’s team from the age of 10 gives Hingston the insight to open the door on South African cricket behind the glamour of the all conquering test team.
Pitting cricket against football in his homeland, Hingston gives an interesting slant on the comparison: Sport is still generally based around race in South Africa, reveals the young South African, so while cricket holds equal popularity with football amongst the white population, it has yet to become very popular with the black majority. Coloured people are becoming very active when it comes to playing and supporting cricket with the likes of Duminy, Gibbs and Langeveldt playing. Twenty20 and One Day International cricket is vastly more popular than test cricket, and women are big supporters of T20 in South Africa. During the world cup, there will be hardly any coverage of cricket in South Africa. With cricket beginning to breach the divide in South Africa, it is little wonder they have a whole host of successful players and cricket clubs across the nation.
Listing Western Province (Cobras) and Northern Transvaal (Titans) as the two teams who generally hold most of the power Hingston adds that franchise cricket is very evenly matched, for example the Eastern Cape (Warriors) have recently won the local T20 competition. As well as thriving competition at a local level the Proteas boast a raft of cricketing superstars with Richard confirming that the most popular players seem to be Ntini, de Villiers, Duminy, Amla and Steyn, while his own personal hero is Allan Donald who sparked his interest in cricket in the first place thanks to his work ethic and pace.
It is of little surprise that there are many clubs from all walks of life all over South Africa. With a number of very powerful sporting schools that continuously play to a high standard from an early age and churn out good cricketers. With this conveyor belt of talent you might assume that all the club would be blessed with all the tools needed to ensure the continuation of the great cricketing tradition, however that is a generalisation that is slightly off the mark according to Hingston who comments that in the old white areas facilities are second to none, with fantastic stadiums and great practice facilities for clubs and schools. In rural black areas, and those that are underdeveloped, the opposite is generally the case.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue with the young cricketers confirmation that the Springboks will be featuring in the cricket world cup 2040. With such high presence on the world scene, and with limited overs games becoming even more appealing to the masses it would appear that the South Africals are a given to be a big player in the world game for years to come, however not wanting to see his nation rest on its laurels, Hingston identifies areas for progression, that the work done in underprivileged, black areas to continues to grow in size. He recognises a need for more Makhaya Ntini’s and a need for more investment and sponsorship in order to compete with England on wages, and perhaps stop losing so many talented cricketers to their system.
Other nations ‘borrowing’ their talent is not an issue for the final team in Group A, Mexico, to worry about. In fact, quite the inverse is true as most of their cricketing infrastructure is based on the exploits of foreign imports just like the administrator of the Mexico Cricket Association Debarati Choudhurj.
Choudhurj moved to Mexico from India 15 years ago, he has been involved in cricket in Mexico ever since and as well as his role with the Mexico Cricket Association, he is also captain of his cricket club. Regretfully he concedes that although cricket is played in Mexico, it is hardly acknowledged compared to football, the national sport of Mexico. This lack of recognition from Mexican nationals id reflected in the achievements of the most successful club side in the country, Tigres de Bengala, a team comprised mostly of expats from India. This tradition of multicultural contributions to the cricketing tapestry of Mexico is amplified as Choudhuri expresses that the star players in Mexico are Arunesh Verma(Indian Origin),Yas Patel(British Origin),Tarun Sharma(Indian Origin) and Manish(Indian Origin).
Given the lack of native talent currently available, the Indian expat still is involved in an organised setup with four cricket clubs in Mexico, three in Mexico City and one in Cancun. Each club has two teams and there a total of 100 club players. These players play across the two cricket grounds based in the country, one in Mexico City, which is a turf wicket and the other, is in Cancun, where they play on a flix pitch.
With Mexican being perhaps more famous for sombreros than they are for floppy sunhats, and the large sub continent influence on the game its no suprise that Choudhuri’s cricketing hero is none other than Sachin Tendulkar . And what he wouldn’t give for the little man himself to emigrate to Mexico, one of the few events that could raise the profile of the game enough in Mexico to propel them forward and stand a chance of featuring in the 2030 cricket world cup. Choudhuri concurs that whilst he would be elated to see that dream come to fruition, he has doubts about its reality unless big strides are made to target children and encourage grass roots cricket.
When asked about the role of the ICC in world cricket the administrator of Mexican cricket claims that as an affiliate member of the ICC they receive some grants. However they need more then the nominal amount they get to actually put a push on to cricket in Mexico. Alongside increased revenue other remedies to improve Mexico cricket are outlined as a requirement for more full time coaches and the need for promoters to reach out to the young people in the schools of Mexico to attract them towards cricketing programmes. Mr. Choudhurj also suggests that increased TV and Media coverage would increase the number of people becoming interested in cricket in Mexico.
Many thanks go out to the people mentioned in the article for taking the time to share their experiences of cricket in their country. Hopefully in 100 years time their efforts will have football writers sat watching the Mercedes Hoverboard sponsored T20 World Cup live from Mexico City wondering if they ever played football in France, pondering why the cricket stadiums in South Africa used to be rectangular and why Uruguay play with five extra fielders.