Croquet and Cricket Club of Costa Rica Takes Cricket Championship

June 3, 2005

BELIED by the lack of fanfare and thesidelines bereft of spectators, the 11th anddeciding cricket match of the first season ofthe Costa Rica Cricket Association May 22was a milestone. The final two teams of theupstart four-team league, both built on afoundation of Brits, young and old, sprinkledwith a few other cricketing nationalitiesand – the novelty – a handful of CostaRican youths, politely battled for the championshipon a pitch in the grassy hills of LaGuácima, west of San José.The Croquet and Cricket Club of CostaRica, composed primarily of expatriates ofan average age of 38, mightily defeated theEdGaps, a club named for its young CostaRican players affiliated with EducaciónPlus, an organization that works with high riskchildren in the shanties of San José,and British students in their gap year, theyear between high school and universitythat students often take off to travel.The culmination of this gentlemanlyfirst season is a landmark for Costa Rica inits new status as an official affiliate of theInternational Cricket Council (ICC) – oneof 10 such affiliates in the Americas.Costa Rica joined the ICC in 2002through the efforts of dedicated cricketerRichard Illingworth and a handful of expatriateenthusiasts. Though they have onlyone season behind them – and even that isnot officially finished pending a 12th matchthat will not change the outcome of thechampionship – Illingworth is leaping mentallight-years ahead to the day when thecountry might move up to the rank of associatewith the ICC, joining the likes ofCanada, the United States, Argentina,Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, the otherassociates in the Americas. That day mightbe only two or three years off, he guesses.THOUGH the EdGaps lost 30-180,defeated by the highest score in the season,the young Costa Rican players the team isdeveloping are the buds of a cricket appreciationin the Central Valley that, while itmight not supplant the soccer fervor here,could someday coincide with it.Using plastic bats and other lightequipment, Andrew Ewbank, who volunteerswith Educación Plus, is teachingdozens of youths to play.“You introduce it as the grandfather ofbaseball and they know what it’s aboutbecause you have a bat and you’re hitting aball,” he said. “They are naturally talentedplayers; they just need to be shown how toplay this new sport.”For his work, Ewbank was awarded the“Best Spirit of Cricket Initiative” prize atthe ICC Americas Annual DevelopmentForum, held in April for the first time inCosta Rica.He and the other cricketers are resuscitatinga tradition that had deep roots inCosta Rica’s Caribbean region, transplantingit to the Central Valley and ensuringthat Costa Ricans are a part of it.The league is “no longer just a bunchof aging expatriate Brits indulging theirhomesickness with cricket and a pint ofbeer,” Illingworth said.THE game is undergoing a revival inthe Caribbean as well, with venerablecricketer and coach of the Limón teamWilliam Augustus Lewin.Like the game itself, Lewin moved to the Caribbean port town of Limón fromJamaica – though he made the move in the1970s, while cricket crossed the sea in the1800s with Jamaicans looking for work onthe United Fruit Company’s railroads.Sometime after World War II, cricket’spopularity dwindled in the Caribbean, butLewin is among those cultivating a newgeneration of bowlers, batsmen and fielderson pitches under the palms.“It’s going to build up,” he said. “Theyoung fellas like it. It’s going to build up.”For information or to get involved, callIllingworth at 268-2903 or 381-8736, or emailhim at trillingworth@yahoo.co.uk.

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