Russia October 9, 2009

To Russia with love

It may be a triumph of publicity over substance, but stories have been doing the rounds over the last week about the setting up of a major cricket league in Russia, with some perhaps over-enthusiastic media outlets suggesting the country was





A cricketer during a game on a pitch in front of Moscow's State University © Getty Images

It may be a triumph of publicity over substance, but stories have been doing the rounds over the last week about the setting up of a major cricket league in Russia, with some perhaps over-enthusiastic media outlets suggesting the country was poised to become a cricketing superpower.

While the Russia's United Cricket League (RUCL) should be encouraged, scratch below the surface and it’s soon clear the vision belongs pretty much to one passionate man - Ashvani Chopra.

“I love cricket and I want to make it popular and widely available here,” Chopra told AFP. “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. The tournament was a success and it became the reference point of our league.”

The league has seven clubs, made up from largely from expats, but Chopra recognises the need for that to change. “We decided that every club should have at least one local player in their line-up,” he said. “From now on it's an indispensable condition for every one of the league's clubs.”

Chopra, however, faces the same problems anyone trying to play the game away from its traditional homes faces. “It's impossible to find cricket bats or the correct balls here in Moscow,” he admitted. “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.”

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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