San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cricket Starting to Bowl Over in Popularity

Can’t tell a wicket from acrease? A bail from astump? Not to worry, itdoesn’t stop a “day at thecricket” from being an amiable,absorbing, if at timesbewildering, occasion.A STRAY hound, a couple of dozenBrits (along with other intrepid nationalities)seemed to personify Noel Coward’srefrain, “mad dogs and Englishmen go outin the mid-day sun” during a recent SundayCricket match in Puerto Viejo, on thesouthern Caribbean coast.A record number of 27 cricketersbraved the searing heat to compete for thefirst Talamanca Trophy – a matchbetween the San José side, captained byRichard Illingworth, and the Caribe Surteam, covering the Caribbean’s Limón toManzanillo, captained by MichaelCannon.The high turnout is just one of the indicationsthe game is being rescued fromoblivion and continues its steady comebackon the Costa Rica scene, thanks to theefforts of Illingworth and Cannon.Surprisingly, there is a cricketing traditionin the country – it was introduced byJamaicans brought in to build the railwaybetween Puerto Limón and San José at theend of the 19th century.To West Indians, cricket is a nationalgame followed with as much passion andhero worship as soccer is by most Ticos. Atthe height of its popularity, Costa Rica’sCaribbean could call on 45 teams playingin three leagues. After World War II, soccer’sincreasing popularity and the spreadof a more Latin-American culture sawcricket decline in Costa Rica with onlysporadic matches being played in the1980s and 90s.In 2000, Illingworth and a small groupof enthusiasts decided to revitalize this tradition.An early match in the Central Valleyproduced a rag tag of young, old and creakinglyunfit expatriate players dressed in afree interpretation of ‘regulation whites’ ona borrowed school soccer field. Lackingenough players to make up the 11-a-sideteams, fielders swapped with batsmen thusdenying any chance of spectator comprehensionamong the bemused but tolerantonlookers and supporting families.THE first try was an enjoyable socialevent and enough interest was generated toform the official Costa Rica CricketAssociation (CRCA), which later becamean affiliate member country of theInternational Cricket Council (ICC) inJune 2002. A grant from the ICC helpedprovide practice bowling nets, artificialFlicx pitch and new bats, balls and pads tohone the players’ skills, although asIllingworth insists, “It is enthusiasm, notprior experience, that is needed,” and anyone,no matter what nationality, is welcometo come and play.The sentiment has been taken to heartby Andrew Ewbank of the child sponsorshipprogram Educación Plus, an organizationworking with high-risk children andfamilies in San José’s shanty-town areas.With an old kit bag of gear donated byCRCA, Ewbank has started training sessionsin the city’s La Sabana Park with theprogram’s approximately 500 children andis delighted with the enthusiastic responseof his young players.“They are naturals, like ducks to water,and are relishing the chance to play realmatches,” Ewbank commented.Educación Plus Director FranklinGuerrero, himself a former street kid, playingcricket for the first time ever, wonaccolades in the recent Puerto Viejo matchby catching three batsmen out.DURING Guerrero’s first match, spectators stood under a makeshift palm-thatched‘pavilion’ and nearby trees, whilebatsmen and fielders sweated it out in afour-hour battle on the town’s soccer pitchthat ended with a narrow victory for theSan José side by 15 runs. To avoid accusationsof ‘cruelty to cricketers’ or the inconvenienceof participants passing out fromdehydration, there were timely breaks forcooling drinks and a picnic lunch for playersand onlookers with appetizing refreshmentsprovided by area restaurant proprietorAndrew Bacon, of Chili Rojo.So, what’s in the game?“It requires skill, patience, honor andcunning,” said Cannon, who set up theproject ProCriCarib in 2002 to promote thegame in the Caribbean region.But how can you take a game seriouslythat talks of “bowling a maiden over”(no runs made) and “being out for a duck”(batsman out with no runs)?CRICKET, to the uninitiated, is amystifying sport pioneered by colonialBritain that can go on for days but alwaysstops for tea (as was evident on the Sundayafternoon sporting basting high temperatures).The relaxed atmosphere was sharedamong the spectators and non-playingbatsmen who relaxed around the fieldchatting to friends, enjoying a beer or softdrink and ice-box snacks.“The game’s leisurely pace andthoughtful nature lends itself perfectly tothe Caribbean mentality and way of life,”Cannon said. “You can even have a napunder a tree without in any way spoilingyour enjoyment of the game.”Two British school leavers haverecently arrived as part of their pre-university‘gap year’ to teach English in areaschools and encourage cricket among thechildren.PETER Corbett and Ruairi Revell,both 18, are full of ideas about startingafter school cricket clubs and organizingtournaments. With a donation of basicequipment, they aim to use their six-monthterm to establish cricket as a permanentfeature in the country’s sportingcalendar.“We have only just started teaching infour schools in the area,” Corbett said,“but we really hope to get this off theground.”The next battle of bat against ball isscheduled for Oct. 17 between San Joséand Limón at the JAPDEVA employees’club in Filadelfia before Limón. All arewelcome.For directions or more information,contact match secretary Johnnie Lambertat 841-3853 (ext. 925).Howzat? The Rules of the GameCricket is complex, but essentially the game involves two teamsof 11 players each with two umpires. Each team has one turn at battingin the field and one turn at bowling or fielding. The batting teamwants to score as many runs as possible between two sets of uprightpoles or (stumps or wickets) during its turn (called an innings). Twobatsmen go in at one time and when one batsman is out, he isreplaced by the next batsman and so on until all players are out.The bowling team want to get all the batsmen out and to limit totalruns as much as possible. The bowler bowls six balls to make oneover. A bowler cannot bowl two consecutive overs but must alternatewith another bowler. He tries to get the batsman out by hitting thewicket past the batsman’s guard, or causing the ball to be caughtonce the batsman hits it, or by knocking down the wicket as the batsmenrun between wickets, to name a few possibilities. Players willshout, “Howzat!” (How was that?) to the umpire to confirm a validcatch or stumped wicket.The length of an inning is agreed on beforehand and is usuallyset by a limited number of overs per team. However, internationaltest matches are played for five days. Whichever team has the mostruns at the end of the match is the winner. A full list of the rules ofcricket (The Laws) can be found on the ICC Web site: To Make It Quite Clear…“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s ingoes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until heis out. When they are all out, the side that’s been out comes in and the sidethat’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes youget men still in and not out. When both sides have been in and all the menhave been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men havebeen in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.”

Comments are closed.