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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Expanding Cricket - Serbia and beyond !

What IPL did not – BPL did….  As I had written earlier, Cricket is a great game, which helps us to understand many things – the game, of the people, the language skills and some Geography too.  It may not be truly a global game for it is played by a handful of countries, but sure has the potential for an exponential growth.  

Remember - Ryan Neil ten Doeschate who played for KKR in IPL.  He is a South African-born cricketer who plays  for Nederlands, due to his Dutch ancestry.  As of Feb 2012,  ten Doeschate has a ODI  batting average of 67.00 from 33 matches. This is presently the highest batting average in ODI cricket by a batsman with more than 20 innings, a considerable margin ahead of second place (Hashim Amla, who averages 56.35).   This big hitting right hander plays for Essex and for KKR in IPL.  If one’s memory is good, Ten doeschate  made two hundreds in World Cup 2011. At Nagpur against England,  he made a stroke filled 119 off 110 balls with 9 fours and 3 sixers helping Dutch post a commanding 292.  In the match of  minnows, Netherlands  set an imposing 306 thanks to the century of Doeschate [106] and Borren who made 84.  Ireland chased that score and won by six wickets is history.  

Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Pannonian Plain and the central part of the Balkans.  Serbia is landlocked and borders  many countries including - Hungary,  Romania,  Bulgaria. The capital of Serbia is Belgrade.  Historically,  Serbian Kingdom obtained recognition by Rome and Constantinople in 1217 and was annexed by the Ottoman Empire

Serbia is aspiring to dot the Cricketing map – could be a long long road ahead before any of its players make it big.  Before they could do that on International arena, there is possibility of some of them making a mark in club cricket of IPL nature. In cricket though national origin still makes a difference, there are instances of players playing for their native country or opting to play for a country where they emigrate to – Riaz Poonawala turned out for UAE;  WD Balaji Rao, the leg spinner who played for Tamilnadu represented Canada; Kepler Wessels played for Australia and then led South Africa; paki all rounder Azhar Mahmood later became entitled to play for England.

Read an interesting article in Cricinfo written by Tristan Lavalette on how in Serbia cricket is slowly taking a hold among the indigenous population.  Here is some extract of the same :

Walking around Belgrade for the first time feels akin to entering a time warp. Its drab exterior is littered with dilapidated buildings appearing on the verge of collapse. The eyesores, tarnished with dark holes and crumbling interiors, are stark reminders of Serbia's bloody history and the NATO attacks on its capital city just 13 years ago. Scathed sites remain from the spectre of World War II. Decrepit Yugo and Zastava automobiles serve as relics of its socialist past. "Pretty" isn't in the lexis when describing the former Yugoslav capital. Grungy but gritty is a stereotypical description by transients.

Admittedly, other European destinations offer more aesthetically but few can match Belgrade's zeal as it reinvents itself as a mini Balkan version of Berlin, with its rich culture and energetic nightlife helping flee its turbulent past. In 2009, travel bible Lonely Planet ranked Belgrade as the No. 1 party destination in the world. Contrary to perception, it is believed to be one of Europe's safest cities. Belgrade surprises but is still relatively untapped by the throng, who maraud popular neighbour Croatia. Few are aware of Belgrade's allure. Less would be aware of cricket's expeditious development here.

Serbian cricket has evolved from the infamy of being an international punchline, exasperated in Angus Bell's hilarious madcap travelogue Batting on the Bosphorus (2006).  After several aborted attempts, cricket began its Serbian journey in 2007. A group of puzzled locals were introduced to the quaint British sport, derided in these parts as the English invention for procrastination, on the grass patch in front of the historical Belgrade Fortress, situated at the confluence of the River Sava and Danube.

Belgrade native Vladimir Ninkovic is an assiduous pioneer of Serbian cricket, wearing the varying hats of Serbian Cricket Federation (SCF) general secretary, national team captain and Serbian language cricket commentator for Eurosport television channel. Serbia does not have ICC affiliate membership, prompting Ninkovic and his band of dedicated followers to seek financial assistance.

"There is more money in the east. The government recognise cricket is a big sport in India. If we could develop relations with India it could in turn help develop the sport here."  There are other views though - "Cricket in a communist country was perceived as a tool of English colonialism," says Dajc, a history lecturer at the University of Belgrade. "It was never encouraged.

Now getting back to the  important difference between IPL & BPL.  IPL richly benefitted players of AustraliaSouth Africa and a few from England and Newzealand but none from  Associate nations, with exception Netherlands allrounder Ryan ten Doeschate.   Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), however, was  a different proposition.  One of its  rule required each of the six franchises to buy at least one player from an Associate country, a nod to Bangladesh's own history as an Associate.  The players who benefitted thus were : Alex Kervezee (Netherlands), Kyle Coetzer (Scotland), Rizwan Cheema (Canada), Niall O'Brien (Ireland), Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan) and Freddie Klocker (Denmark). For them, the league provided an opportunity to showcase their talents alongside international stars and in front of packed stadiums. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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