October 8, 2009

Offbeat

How soon a Russian Premier League?

Siddhartha Talya

While the Chinese have embraced cricket and espouse aspirations of beating India in a Test, their geopolitical rivals to the north are yet to come to grips with the strange sport. However, members of the Indian diaspora in Russia, like in most other countries where cricket is searching for a fan base, are again proving to be the game’s most passionate exporters. Ashvani Chopra, a businessman of Indian origin, who presides over Russia’s United Cricket League (RUCL), says the game is taking off in the country. In fact, the RUCL is conducting an annual championship with seven clubs, one of which consists of players with Russian citizenship.

"We started playing here in 1995 just for fun. In 2001 we conducted a small tournament, in which three teams - Australia, India and the selection of the rest of the world - were playing,” Chopra told AFP. "The tournament was a success and it became the reference point of our league."

And the commitment to grooming local talent is high on the agenda. "We dream of creating a Russian national team," Chopra said. "We decided that every club should have at least one local player in their line-up. From now on it's an indispensable condition for every one of the league's clubs."

But there are problems aplenty, the most immediate of which is the lack of equipment. "It's impossible to find cricket bats or the correct balls here in Moscow," Chopra said. "We have to bring all this stuff from home to play here. But we're ready to overcome any difficulties in the name of the game. Nothing can stop us. For all of us cricket is the biggest passion."

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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