San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

C.R. Plays Official Cricket Tourney

Costa Rica participated in its first-ever sanctioned international cricket event recently, and the squad managed to come back from the tournament with one win and a Most Valuable Player award.

The Costa Rica Cricket Federation joined Mexico and the Falkland Islands – Cuba was scheduled to play but dropped out of the tournament – for four cricket matches in Mexico City as part of the inaugural International Cricket Council (ICC) Americas Division IV tournament June 14 to 18. Costa Rica won one match and lost three. Batsman Ben Smith was the tournament’s MVP.

“It was a giant step up for us,” said Richard Illingworth, president of the federation. “It wasn’t necessarily better than any of our own tournaments that take place in Central America. But it’s a giant step forward because it was official.”

Although Costa Rica has been an affiliate member of the ICC since 2002, this was the first official international tournament in which the country has played under the cricket world governing body.

Cricket first came to Costa Rica in the late 1800s, with Jamaican immigrant railroad workers in the Caribbean province of Limón. It sustained popularity until dying out during World War II, Illingworth said.

The federation hopes this tournament will symbolize a new era of cricket in Costa Rica. Illingworth said his organization is working on expanding the number of clubs in the country and finding more permanent practice grounds.

The team itself has an interesting mix of players – including English, Indian, a New Zealander, an Australian and three Ticos from the Limón region. Illingworth said the team’s top player ended up unable to attend the tournament in Mexico. However, Illingworth concluded that while the team “should’ve done better, it was not a disgrace itself by a long way.”

There were two formats: 50 overs one-day internationals, which last about six hours, and Twenty20 (overs), which take about 150 minutes. Costa Rica lost both 50 overs games, but defeated the Falkland Islands by 65 runs in the Twenty20. Mexico defeated Costa Rica by 76 runs in the Twenty20 match. The Mexican national team finished the tournament undefeated (4-0).

In the 50 overs game against Mexico, Smith managed to earn the man-of-the match award despite the loss. He produced a century (104 runs) in the Mexico contest, and finished with 201 runs overall.

Costa Rica has looked to reinvigorate the cricket tradition in the country since the ICC started attempting to increase its membership in the early 2000s. Funding from the ICC helped the federation build a foundation. Illingworth is now building on that base. The federation is bringing in an ICC-funded instructor to host camps offering basic cricket instruction in Limón. The Roblealto camp, a cluster of temporary shelters for close to 100 children near Heredia, north of San José, also gives cricket lessons, and the sport is taught and played in many other parts of the Central Valley.

“We’re re-establishing the game,” Illingworth said. “We’re revising the game in this country. It’s one of the first sports played in the province of Limón and therefore one of the first sports played in the entire country.”

For more information about cricket in Costa Rica, e-mail, or call Richard Illingworth at 2268-2903 or 8981-7710 or Sam Arthur at 8705-8097.

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