OCTOBER 01, 2014

Cricket in unusual places

Colombia's first homegrown cricketer

Cricket may be about to spark to life in a tiny but significant way in Colombia, which is due to host the inaugural Amazon Cup, a triangular T20 tournament also featuring Brazil and Peru. When the tournament begins, a Colombia-born player, Jairo Andres Venegas, will represent his national team for the first time. The Guardian's John Ashdown profiles the wicketkeeper, who is "almost certainly the only Colombian to have a Lord's tea-towel framed and hanging on the wall of his living room".

For Venegas it represents the apogee of a journey that began not long before Allan Border's no-nonsense Australia side thrashed David Gower's fracturing England in 1989. And it's a journey that began, of course, in, um, Belgium. "I was six years old, we were living in Belgium because my father used to work for Phillips," he says. "My older brother and I studied at the British School of Brussels and while my brother actually played at school, I did Kwik Cricket or whatever it was called at the time. We came back to Colombia the next year and cricket became just a memory of good times."

A flirtation with rugby followed and the first time Venegas played what might be called "proper cricket" was in Bogotá, after an email to Lord's, conversations with ICC Americas, contact with the British Embassy in the Colombian capital and a long wait. The wait, though, has been worth it - now he is a committed convert and admits to being the "most cricket-obsessed Colombian in the country".

MAY 08, 2014

The baseball-cricket crossover

The upcoming release of Million Dollar Arm, a movie based on the story of two Indian cricketers who signed professional Major League baseball contracts after winning a reality TV contest, prompts the Guardian's Andy Bull to ponder the relationship between the two sports. With the rise of Twenty20, the lines between the skills used in the two sports are blurring, as shown by the appointment of Julien Fountain, who played baseball for the British national team, as coach of the South Korea cricket team.

While he was on holiday in Sri Lanka this summer, Fountain went to watch a match between a local side and a touring team from, you'll never guess, South Korea. This year's Asian Games are being held in Incheon this September, and, as with the 2010 edition, the 2014 Asiad will include a T20 cricket competition. As hosts, the South Koreans have decided to enter a team. Trouble being that outside of the ex-pat scene, the country isn't well stocked with cricketers. But what they do have, of course, are plenty of baseballers. They won the Olympic gold in 2008, and silver at the 2009 World Classic. Well, you can see where this is going.

Fountain is now the head coach of South Korea. He is trying to create a T20 team out of a bunch of baseballers. He remembers that match in Sri Lanka, he told Al Jazeera, because "the funny thing was that they made a lot of basic mistakes but they still posted 165 in 20 overs. And they even had 59 dot balls. It's monstrous - they just hit." Fountain says: "They're beginners but it's cheating to call them that. Show me a beginner cricketer who can hit the ball 110 metres. I've got an opening batsman who hit 90 runs last week. He took the opposition apart."

APRIL 09, 2014

Cuban cricket

Bat up, Cuba

T20 cricket has been dubbed the best vehicle to sell the game across the far reaches of the globe. But what happens when the bug bites but the players do not have the requisite equipment to mimic Chris Gayle's monstrous hits or Lasith Malinga's searing toe-crushers? A town in Cuba faced this conundrum but Scyld Berry's column, in the Telegraph, explains how a charity has taken responsibility of supplying the locals all they need to fuel their passion for cricket.

To see the impact of the arrival of four quality bats in Guantanamo was heart-warming, even for a bowler, and of the first cricket helmet the players had ever seen. A useful addition, because the first ball of our middle-practice - just short of a length - went three feet over the batsman's head.

NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Cricket, under the world

No, we're not talking about the Ashes. This particular match took place 'down under' in a more literal sense. Down under a mountain, in a slate mine, in Lake District - a mountainous region in northwest England. Two village teams, Threlkeld and Caldbeck, were involved in the game, widely believed to be the first underground cricket match.

Honister Slate Mine hosted the game, a fundraiser, amid a network of underground tunnels inside the mountain Fleetwith Pike. And if everyone on hand had to wear hard hats it was because of the 2000ft of rock and slate above their heads, not because a flurry of sixes were expected - there were no designated boundaries in the match and the batsmen had to run all their runs, resulting in a middling target of 28 from six overs for Caldbeck to chase. The team made light work of it, winning with 10 balls to spare.

OCTOBER 29, 2013


Cricket from the stone age?

A visit to the National Museum of the History of Sport in Orkney gives all the ammunition necessary to fight the phrase 'it's just a game'. The exhibits describe how intricately sport is tied with other spheres like entertainment, art and science, writes Alan Tyers, in the Telegraph. In addition, the display, called Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: the History of Sport in 100-ish Objects, provides evidence of cricket dating back a surprisingly long time.

Among the museum's treasures are this skeleton of the so-called Head Down Man, believed to be the first Stone Age cricketer. Preserved in a mixture of peat and his own bile on a Yorkshire moor, he was interred with some sticks of rhubarb, probably a totem for use in the afterlife.

OCTOBER 19, 2013

The Vatican Cricket Club

The cricket team that shoulders a billion hopes? No, we're not talking about India, but cricket's new converts - the Vatican. With ecclesiastical records numbering members of the Catholic church at around 1.2 billion worldwide, the ICC, in their bid to expand the game, would sure welcome the news of the Vatican being interested in cricket.

And that's what it seems to be, with the Pontifical Council for Culture announcing plans to form cricket teams - one for men, made up of priests from around the world, and a women's XI comprising nuns. Australia's ambassador to the Vatican, John McCarthy, a former SCG Trust member, is helping to put the teams together, and hopes to organise a match against a Church of England XI.

Cricket, McCarthy said, was already popular in Rome, with priests and religious arriving there from around the world, and the Vatican's teams would draw on talent from everywhere cricket is played. "Internationally one would have a team representing the Vatican drawn from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies," McCarthy told Vatican Radio. "We are looking for Sri Lankan, Indian or Pakistani sisters who have played cricket and if they are found, they certainly will be invited to join the [women's] cricket team."

AUGUST 29, 2013

England cricket

Etching culture on cricket bats

The Guardian recently published a series of photos based on the works of Prefab77, a Newcastle-based collective of artists, who have laser-etched vintage cricket bats with various designs, to represent themes inherent among English cricket fans.

AUGUST 09, 2013

Cricket in unusual places

Cricketing postcards from Estonia

In an article for Wisden India, Sara Torvalds, a Finland-based cricket fan, recounts a cricket tour that began with a comment to an online over-by-over session, of England's third Test against India in Kolkata, on the Guardian, and ended with three teams on a cricket pitch in Tallinn, Estonia. Along the way, she also shares her evolution from a person who knew nothing about the game to a person who became a Steven Finn supporter 'in a land of Finns'.

It took me more than a year of reading the cricket reports of various British papers. I started following the over-by-over reports on the Guardian's site, and found that the pace of the game opened up for me there. Wikipedia explained words like 'crease' and 'duck', and the various manners you could be 'out' according to the Laws of the game. And then, during England's tour of West Indies in early 2009, I suddenly understood cricket.

"Brilliant. It's utterly brilliant. It's like chess, but with real people," I remember thinking. "And you have to factor in the weather and how the ball behaves in different countries, and the fact that grounds are not uniform in size…" It hadn't been love at first sight, but I was in love now.

APRIL 11, 2013

Indian cricket

Tendulkar set for PITCH debut

Sachin Tendulkar has been on TV screens around the world for over two decades but he's now set to make his debut in animated form - as part of a new series called 'Master Blasters.' Tendulkar will travel the world in his "spaceship cum stadium", playing cricket matches with and against some of the best cricketing talent on offer. He even has his own arch rival, Peter, who looks to humiliate the hero at every turn.

In the series, Tendulkar is appointed by the Programme for International Training of Cricket Heroes (PITCH) to run a training camp for the finest young cricketers around the world. Tendulkar will feature along with an assortment of twelve kids, with the series promising elements of comedy, life coaching, and of course, cricket. Tendulkar says he was a Superman fan in his youth; here's his chance to live yet another dream.

MARCH 02, 2013

Australian cricket

Madeira's latest sporting star: Moises Henriques

Chris Barrett from the Sydney Morning Herald explores Moises Henriques' connection to his Portuguese birthplace, Madeira, which he shares with star footballer Christiano Ronaldo.

Australia's tour of India might not be a water-cooler topic at Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium, where the world's second-best footballer makes his living, but the Australian all-rounder's exploits are not going without recognition on the Portuguese island from where he and Ronaldo hail.

The round-ball game, not cricket, is the leading sport on Madeira, off the west coast of Morocco. Yet word of Henriques's outstanding Test debut on the subcontinent will make its way to that part of the North Atlantic if his father has anything to do with it, no matter if no one there knows reverse-swing from a reverse-sweep.

JANUARY 17, 2013

Cricket news

A sub-zero World Cup

Come Sunday, six teams will compete for the sixth unofficial Snow Cricket 'World Cup', in Montreal, Canada. Organised by the Pirates of the St. Lawrence Cricket Club, the tournament will see more than 60 members of different nationalities take the field in sub-zero conditions.

"The challenge is as much about not losing fingers as it is about maintaining line and length," says Angus Bell, the founder of the Pirates club. Bell is no stranger to odd cricket pitches. He first played on cricket on ice in 2005, inside a former Soviet missile factory in Estonia while researching his book, Batting on the Bosphorus: A Skoda-Powered Cricket Tour Through Eastern Europe.

The six teams in this year's tournament - Canada, England, Australia-NZ, African Alliance, Asian Bloc and the Celts - will play each other in a Super Six group. A Kyrgyz lady and an Andorran cricketer are expected to take the field on Sunday, giving the tournament a global feel. Bell is backing Canada to win this year's edition. "All the men have been growing beards to protect their faces from the cold, so I know they're taking it seriously," he says.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012

English cricket

Cricket's parting of the waves

While not quite a miracle, it is certainly an unusual occurance that allows a cricket match to be played in the middle of the sea. Every year, the tide in the Solent estuary recedes sufficiently to reveal 200 yards of the Brambles sand bank.

Since 1950, Island Sailing Club from Cowes and Hamble-based Royal Southern Yacht Club have ventured out in boats, waiting for their pitch to appear to begin an eight-a-side contest in the middle of a shipping lane.

With the pitch likely to deteriorate, teams favour winning the toss and batting first, although the outfield is likely to become damper in the second innings, affecting the quality of the ball.