Brazil's fascinating tryst with cricket
Some background on cricket in Brazil may be useful before outlining the Brazilian men's league. Cricket began in Brazil with the creation of the Rio Cricket Club in Niterói in 1882. Matches were held here and other clubs in Rio de Janeiro, where Emperor Dom Pedro II was a frequent spectator.
Cricket was also played at British clubs in Vitória, Salvador and Barretos. A few years later Charles Miller introduced cricket and football at the São Paulo Athletic Club (SPAC). Using players from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Charles formed the Brazilian national cricket team in 1888, and began staging international matches against Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, whose own British communities also had thriving cricket scenes.
In time, interest in cricket gave way to football, and combined with the declining British influence in Brazil, by the 1960s the sport was left with only two grounds – Rio Cricket and SPAC.
Despite this, cricket continued to be played to a good standard, with the national team hosting New Zealand in 1972 and the MCC in 1985. Eventually however, cricket in Rio also fell away, with the last game back in the late 1980s.
However, the opening of Brazil ’s economy in the mid-1990s saw an influx of foreigners to Brazil, which rejuvenated the sport in São Paulo and saw British bank HSBC build a cricket ground in Curitiba. Additionally, a wicket was laid in a public park in Brasília, allowing the expatriate community there to form a local league (nets were also built at the Australian Embassy).
In 1993, Brazil sent a national team to the first South American Championships, held in Peru , and has competed in every tournament since then. In 2000, the Brazilian Cricket Association was formed, and the national league commenced with three teams. By 2002, Brazil had achieved ICC Affiliate Member status, and junior development programs were underway in Curitiba, Brasília and São Paulo.
In 2004, cricket became part of the physical education curriculum at the University of Brasília, which resulted in the creation of the mostly-Brazilian Candangos side, and a steady stream of new Brazilian players to the national team. By 2004, the national league boasted nine teams.
In 2006, the men’s team participated in the first regional ICC World League of Cricket Division 3 Elimination round, held in Suriname. The next year was a big one: Brazil played against the MCC in São Paulo, an all-Brazilian women’s team was formed, which played three games against Argentina in Curitiba, then the men’s team competed in the second ICC World League of Cricket tournament, held in Buenos Aires,
But back to the Brazilian men’s national league. Nine teams currently compete for the Commonwealth Ambassador’s Trophy.
The teams are as follows: The Candangos , Brasília, and Pakistan Plus from the state of Distrito Federal, where lies the capital of Brasil, Brasília. The São Paulo Indians, SPAC and São Paulo will be representing São Paulo while the state of Paraná will be represented by Swadisht, Gralha Azul and Paraná.
Since 2000, São Paulo has won five league titles, while Brasília has won twice and Paraná once. Teams play 40-over a side matches from March to October. In November each year a Twenty20 tournament between the three state representative sides is held. This tournament rotates from year to year between the three major cities.
In terms of grounds, the league plays at the following: São Paulo Athletic Club ( São Paulo ); Clube AB – HSBC ( Curitiba ) and the University of Brasilia / Esplanada (Brasília).
The make up of the teams is interesting. Happily, more Brazilians are now playing the game. So in Brasilia , for example, the Candangos team is almost totally made up of local players, with a few weathered ex-pats thrown in. In Curitiba and São Paulo , we are seeing a growth in participation by locals as well. So the league really is attracting Brazilians to the game. The other players are mostly ex-pats drawn from countries one would expect, such as Australia , Canada , Great Britain , India , New Zealand , Pakistan , South Africa and Sri Lanka .
The 2009 competition will be tight, as it has been in previous years. Please check on updates as the season progresses.