Baltic Reports reporter Jared Grellet ventured to Tukums on Sunday to make his international cricket debut. Here’s his account of the mayhem he encountered.
TUKUMS, Latvia — Being from a former British colony and living in the Baltics is, in the eyes of some, enough to qualify you to play cricket for your adopted Baltic state. The fact that you may actually know little about cricket is lost on most.
I can at least claim to have a sound knowledge of cricket but this does not convert into skill when it comes to playing the game.I tend to lack two or three of the key skills required for cricket — coordination, patience and timing.
Needless to say, telling my friends back home that I am going to play cricket is met by hearty bouts of laughter.
Unlike other sports such as rugby, which also expanded as a byproduct of British colonization, cricket has been unable so far to capture the imagination of locals living in the Baltics. Instead it is almost the exclusive domain of expats living here.
When someone from the Subcontinent, Australia, England or New Zealand arrives in the Baltics one of the first things they are told is when and where the national cricket team is training. Questions regarding their talents or if they have in fact played before come later, if at all.
So sure enough I made the trip to Tukums on Sunday for the inaugural match of 2010 when my team Latvia played hosts to Lithuania.
The Latvian team largely consists of Sri Lankans, Indians and Pakistanis who have either made Latvia their home or are studying at the medical school in Riga.
The Lithuanian team tells a similar story, made up of Aussies, Pommies and those from the sub-continent. They do however have one trump over Latvia — a born and bred national amongst their ranks.
It is not only the ethnic backgrounds that vary in these ‘national’ teams but also the age and physique of the players. In cricketing speak some are solidifying their innings in their twenties whilst others are quickly approaching their half-century.
While some players show signs of regular fitness, others show signs of regular sessions on the local ales. The skill levels also greatly vary with some players having played to a respectable level whilst others such as myself are still reliving a 5 wicket haul as a 13-year-old and a swashbuckling 35 (others will argue it was 33) as a 15-year-old.
Their is one constant across all players and that is the competitiveness amongst them. There is no point reminding anyone that it is only a friendly and we are playing for our adopted countries almost by default — this is serious stuff.
After a stirring speech from our captain about sharp fielding and no loose balls we take the field first and perhaps as a side effect of the chilling conditions tend quickly to forget the stirring words of our captain. The Lithuanians show varying degrees of batting prowess but it is our wayward bowling providing more runs the batters themselves.
Regardless, we are confident of chasing down the 123 we are set, especially following the tactic of filling up our opposition on delicious home-made curry and (just to remind us we are in fact in the Baltics) sasliki before they take to fielding.
However our confidence soon begins to wane, given to some fine bowling from the Lithuanians and some safe hands in the outfield. What had once been a small score to chase becomes larger every ball and it soon becomes clear that Lithuania will triumph on this occasion.
The friendliness returns following the game as pleasantries are passed on and well wishes of a safe trip home are well received by the Lithuanians. Promises are also made of a return match some time soon.
Hopes are high to get more locals involved in the sport but attempts to date have proved rather fruitless with the locals struggling with the concept of the game and also the longevity of most forms of the sport.
It is yet to be seen what sort of payoff if any will come from the coverage cricket is currently receiving on Eurosport 2, which is showing a game each day from the 20/20 world cup being played in the West Indies.
20/20 is the most exciting and shortest form of cricket and the best vehicle for trying to attract new participants to the sport.
If anyone is interested in becoming involved in cricket (or for that matter rugby!) in the Baltics feel free to e-mail Jared at Jgrellet@msn.com. He will only be too happy to connect you with your local team.