July 5, 2009

Serbia

Cricket debuts in Serbia

George Binoy
The first ever cricket match in Serbia between Belgrade Cricket Association XII and Carmel & District CC, June 5, 2009
 © Getty Images
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Vladimir Ninkovic

On June 5 2009, the first cricket match in the history of Serbia took place in the picturesque village of Karlovčić, some 20 miles from Belgrade. At stake was the Meridian Bet Belgrade Trophy, played between a Belgrade Cricket Association XII and Carmel & District CC, from Flintshire, North Wales. The guests won, having scored 175 all out versus the hosts 107, but the competitive nature of the match demonstrated that cricket has future in this small Balkan state.

The Belgrade team consisted primarily of local players with only three expatriates, from England, India and Pakistan respectively, and all the Serbian players learned the game only within the last year. Nevertheless, the pace of the trio of Belgrade fast bowlers (Dajč, Pantelić, Bulj), combined with the spin and swing of the expats (Sarang, Muhammad, Bancroft), managed to dismiss the visitors before the 40th over for a score of 175; a fairly achievable target. However, the second innings of the match showed that experience is an extremely valuable asset in cricket. The Serbs were unconvincing with the bat and only Sarang (38), Muhammad (38) and Ninkovic (8) managed to pile-up some runs, which were enough only for an honorable defeat. In the Welsh side, the best players were Marshall (52), Van Es (37 not out, plus two wickets taken), followed by an excellent bowling performance from the Abraham brothers, Andrew and Timothy, with four and three wickets, respectively.

After several unsuccessful attempts, cricket was finally officially established in Serbia in October 2007, when ex-rugby league players and team-mates, Haris Dajč and Vladimir Ninković, decided to found the first cricket clubs in Belgrade: Stari Grad and Mirijevo. Haris says: "Through some friends from the UK and Australia, we learned the basic rules and cricket suddenly felt appealing. We wanted to practice it but there were no clubs in Belgrade. So, we decided to take things into our own hands and founded our own clubs“. Fortunately, we got in contact with a guy from Mumbai, then living in Belgrade, who helped us with the first cricket steps. The first equipment was bought in January 2008, during spring and summer we managed to hold two trainings a week, where we basically played short matches with the people from the Indian and British embassy and some other expats. In January of 2009, having gathered more locals, the Belgrade Cricket Association was founded.

This spring we started holding serious training sessions three times a week, and eventually doubled the number of members. In April, Mr. Dajč and Mr. Ninković visited the ICC-Europe and spoke to the regional development official Mr. Richard Holdsworth, who was extremely satisfied with their efforts. On June 5, the first match took place in the village of Karlovcic, against Carmel & District CC, which our team, with only three expats in it, lost but we were delighted with our performance. The match received extensive media coverage. The most important TV stations, newspapers and news agencies were interested and some of them were even present at the ground.

At the moment a new club in Čačak, a town in western Serbia, is being established and there are plans to form a Serbian National Association by the end of the current year. In addition, the first domestic season is due to start on August 16 and both a 40 over and Twenty20 championships will be played by the 17th October. Three clubs will participate and the limit will be three expats in each.

Therefore, cricket in Serbia easily gains its place between other well established sports and we hope that from 2010, our national team will take part in regional and European competitions. For more information please visit our website - www.serbiacricket.com.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by PJ Goedhals on (July 29, 2009, 11:34 GMT)

I think you guys should read Angus Bell's book - "Batting in the Baltic" to see for yourself....

Posted by CC Lowlanders on (July 26, 2009, 14:26 GMT)

First match in Serbia took place iz Zrenjanin 2005. Mr Angus Bell was here. Greetings from CC Lowlanders Zrenjanin.

Posted by Pankaj on (July 22, 2009, 3:00 GMT)

What a great work you have done. I just hope that cricket in serbia to go miles and miles ahead it is just the beginning.

Posted by Vladimir Ninkovic on (July 8, 2009, 11:40 GMT)

Tom Patterson, unfortunately Red Star CC was one of the unsuccessful attempts I mentioned in the text, since that club doesn't exist in the register of the ministry of sports. Our clubs are the first ones that formally exist. However, we deeply respect your effort, because we know how difficult it is to deal with Serbian bureaucracy, especially if you are a foreigner. Also, I would like to thank everybody for the words of support. Visit our website and feel free to contact us.

Posted by Timothy Abraham on (July 7, 2009, 14:50 GMT)

Tom Patterson, I must beg to differ.. Serbia has officially only been an independent state since 2006. Therefore your match pre-dates the independence of the country and cannot be the first.

Additionally, where is Red Star CC now? Does it still exist?

Posted by Tom Patterson on (July 7, 2009, 7:22 GMT)

I would like to point out that this is NOT the "first cricket match in the history of Serbia". In 2003-4, myself and a fellow expat spent two years training Serb schoolchildren, and with full support and backing from the ECC, the ICC and the MCC (who provided a portable pitch) we established Serbia's first, official cricket team - Red Star CC. We played a variety of social games and our training culminated in an official international match against Bulgaria, which we duly lost (largely due to the fact that we fielded two expats, including myself - I played woefully) and the Bulgarians fielded a team largely comprised of Pakistani medical students, with only their 12th man being a Bulgarian national. Full details of the club and the match are available on the ECC website in the 2003/4 archives.

Posted by Vivek on (July 7, 2009, 6:02 GMT)

Glad that expats only have limited places in the team. And looks like it was a 40-over game as well. All the best, and great job.

Posted by Craig Flood on (July 6, 2009, 20:17 GMT)

Hello

Commendable effort!!

Without getting into the Serbia /Kosovo issue and keeping to cricket. I have to tell you a group of expats made up of virtually every test playing nation regularly played cricket in the UNMIK gym in Pristina from 2003 to 2006. Of course it was inside and we used a tennis ball with tape. We even had to make our own bat!!! The best bit was the response or should I say stunned looks from from the rest of the expats as they took in this quaint old empire tradition.

So yes you played in whites but there were many spanking cover drives years earlier.

Craig

Posted by Nejc on (July 6, 2009, 18:08 GMT)

CONGRATULATION ... SVE ČESTITKE I can easily speak on behalf of all Slovenian cricket teams; We are more then happy to hear the good news from Serbia and look forward to playing some quality balkan kriket with you guys =) CONGRATULATION AGAIN and ALL THE BEST IN THE FUTURE! for any additional help or match planning you can easily contact our association !!! We will be more then happy to assist :) PRIJATNO I SVE NABOLJE ...

Posted by Mark Aldridge on (July 6, 2009, 15:52 GMT)

Vladimir,

This sounds tremendous! I had no idea cricket was taking off in Serbia. I am an ex-pat living in Poland and I am thinking of trying to get a team off the ground. My big question, though, is how did you go about setting up the wicket? Also, can we have more pictures? THere would clearly be someone to play against if we could raise a team here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George Binoy
Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket

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