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My Alternative Guide To World Cricket

September 4, 2010

The past week has been a bad one for cricket and cricket fans, with words like ‘spot-fixing’ and ‘MazharMajeed’ entering popular vocabulary. Like others who love the game and cherish its traditions, I have been thoroughly depressed by the apparently blatant lack of respect shown for the game by some of its brightest stars, and subsequently by the Pakistan Cricket Board in their handling of the affair. (Surely a board can only back its players so far?). I look forward to the day when I can watch Pakistan, one of the great cricketing nations, and believe what I’m seeing. Instead, for now, I don’t think I’ll waste my money.

The scandal got me thinking about all the places that I’ve played cricket in since last October. No scandals, no betting, varying standards of cricket but always good sportsmanship. Here is my alternative guide to world cricket –  how to get a game of cricket anywhere:

1. A very cold 1st Century Fortress – Belgrade, Serbia

Wander into the (partly) 1st century AD Kalemegdan Fortress in the centre of Belgrade and you might spot opening bowler Slobodan, captain / self-appointed General Secretary Vladimir and other cricketers getting competitive far below on a path near the banks of the Danube. Former Rugby League player Vlad decided cricket was the game for him a couple of years back, and since then he has formed the Serbian Cricket Federation.

2. Blue Mosque – Isanbul, Turkey

Let’s face it, endless sight-seeing, even in one of the world’s great cities, can get tedious. Better to arrange a meeting with a local government minister, ask nicely for permission to have a game of cricket in a pedestrian zone between Istanbul’s two most famous monuments – the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia – and invite the local press. Find a few Aussie tourists, a couple of members of the Turkish national team and rope in some passers’ by and you’ve got a game of cricket, a fundraising event, and at the end of it you might have found a sofa to kip on for the next few nights.

3. Rubbish Dump – Damascus, Syria

In Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, cricket doesn’t get great exposure. You’ll struggle to get the press along, but nip into a travellers’ hostel, pick up some bored looking backpackers and scour the city for a suitable wicket. You’ll be lucky if you do better than a rubbish dump, but you might find the refugee workers are intrigued enough to want to wander over and have a bat and a bowl.

4. Nubian Desert – Wadi Halfa, Sudan

At least they wear (kind of) whites. Don’t try to play cricket with Sudanese merchants unless you count patience amongst your skills. Also, don’t introduce a football to the wicket half way through unless you want bat and cricket ball flung to the ground. The Sudanese are mad about football and I give the future of the game of cricket in the country very little chance.

5. Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Nanyuki, Kenya

Warning! Kenyan cricketers sometimes carry knives – well…if they are rhino experts in a game reserve they do. David and Moses played cricket at school. I didn’t ask Moses why he couldn’t hold the bat properly despite his experience. I’ve never seen such cricketing enthusiasm on the field of play / in a rhino enclosure.

6. Google HQ – Hi-Tech City, Hyderabad, India

If you find yourself posted to India with work, upon arrival at your office building, park your car in the basement and go looking for the cricket pitch. You won’t miss it. It’ll take up half the car park, will be netted, will have marked creases and a supply of bats / balls. You might to required to wait a while for a hit though – games are typically taken more seriously than Test Matches (This photo was taken at Google HQ in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tech City).

7. Corridor Cricket – Calcutta, India

Find some students in Calcutta and ask them if they fancy a game of cricket. When they tell you the Jadavpur Intra-Faculty Corridor Cricket Tournament only reached its conclusion last week and that there are still some scores to settle, suggest a game. You will never have seen a more competitive game of cricket involving both sexes. Fact.

Last Sunday I had a very normal game of cricket, with a leather ball, gloves, pads and even a few Australians. A week today I have another normal game, in the hills above Bogor, Indonesia. I will report on both next weekend, but for now, get back to worrying about where professional cricket goes in the wake of the Pakistan spot-fixing affair – it’s worth worrying about.

I am leaving Singapore tomorrow morning bound for Indonesia. Yesterday I received confirmation from Elders that they have an empty cattle boat leaving Indonesia on 15th September. It arrives in Darwin 6 days later. I’ll be on that boat – I’m quite excited about that little adventure. Please keep donating – the Cycling To The Ashes charity golf day that was held yesterday in England raised an awful lot for my chosen charities – thanks to all involved. But there is still a long way to go…..4,000 kms and £80,000!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Marian permalink
    September 4, 2010 12:04 pm

    I’m with you Oli! What great photos showing pure enjoyment and comradeship in cricket and life generally. Give those hardworking legs a good rest for 6 days. We’re all with you in spirit. x x xx

  2. September 5, 2010 10:09 am

    Great post Oli. Shame about the spot fixing – the story seems to be growing and growing at the moment!!
    Can’t believe you’re nearly in Oz after all this time. Good luck!

  3. September 9, 2010 10:59 pm

    Enjoyed your pictures! Glad to see you using a Mongoose!

  4. February 3, 2011 3:26 pm

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