Cricket in South America

“I would have no hesitation in recommending club cricket tours to Argentina. The cricket infrastructure is sound, well-run and interestingly the main nucleus of cricketers are locals rather than the ex-pat community. The Hurlingham Club has a wonderful ground, complete with grass tennis courts and excellent golf course, one of many thoughout Buenos Aires..... and then there's the restaurants, invarably excellent red wine and the best steaks in the world.”

Former England Captain, Mike Gatting

The pavilion at Belgrano Athletic ClubBarry Reed, former Hampshire batsman in action at St George's College for the Hampshire Hogs, 2006
 

At one time, the British community in Argentina was the largest outside the Commonwealth and it is therefore not surprising that the quintessential english game should come to flourish. A British army major, taken prisoner during the British capture of Buenos Aires in 1806 wrote at the time: ‘a repose of some days allowed us, full pockets and vacant time, to revive the national diversions of horse racing and cricket, for which we always carried the material’. But though the first cricket club was founded in 1831, the Argentine Cricket Association was not formed until 1913. A golden era came to an end with the outbreak of World War 2, with many players at the time reputed to be of English county standard.

Gradually there has been a renaissance, latterly in the form of a development programme initiated in 1996 and now firmly established. Domestic cricket is almost entirely confined to the capital Buenos Aires, where there are 12 grounds, of which four are turf. Highlight of the domestic season is the annual North v. South match first contested in 1891 and played over 3 days in March. A two divisional league is played between November and April and the 2005 / 6 season saw the launch of a 6 team 20 / 20 competition. All fixtures are to a certain extent flexible, particularly bearing in mind the dates and requirements of touring teams. At junior level, cricket is taught in over 20 schools as an extra curricular activity mainly in Buenos Aires and to a lesser extent Rosario, north along the Parana river. Coaching manuals and videos are produced locally, but a lack of any television coverage of the game makes it difficult to compete in a country where football predominates. A one week long tournament, the under 16 Pampero, is held annually and now well established, hosting teams from across the cricketing world, including England, South Africa, Australia, the USA, Canada and United Arab Emirates. Similarly, the over-40’s Carcamanes Cricket Festival started in 2004 goes from strength to strength, attracting veteran cricketers worldwide.

Touring teams

Since the devaluation of the Argentine Peso, the country is more affordable than ever and there can rarely have been a better time to visit a country where hospitality is a byword. Over many years, a host of strong teams have visited Argentina, including MCC sides, the first of these captained by Lord Hawke, who brought out a team containing many county players in 1912. Subsequently, Hubert Doggart, A.C. Smith and Paul Parker have led powerful sides. In early 2006, Sir Tim Rice was Tour Manager on MCC’s most recent visit - one evening at the Hurlingham Club was enlivened by a cabaret that enabled the author of the lyrics ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ to hear the song in the country that had inspired its creation for the first time. Shortly afterwards, the Hampshire Hogs played 7 games. Club President Bill Hughes commenting: ‘We thoroughly enjoyed our cricket. It was most important that we were matched against teams of similar ability as that made for some tense and competitive games. The game is really taking off in Argentina and there are some talented players out there. We were also made to feel incredibly welcome’. Other touring teams in recent times have included a British Airways X1, I Zingari and South African Country Districts. All tours are tailor-made to suit specific requirements with particular care taken to ensure well balanced games.  New national coach is Toby Bailey, appointed in 2009, formerly of Northamptonshire CCC.

 


Guyana 

Guyana boasts a rich cricketing heritage, having produced some of the greatest names in West Indian folklore, from Joe Solomon who featured in the 1st ever tied Test against Australia in 1960 through to Clive Lloyd who was captain during the 1970’s, up to the present with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan. Since the British introduced the game almost a century ago, cricket has been embraced by almost every ethnic group and over the years it has appeared almost to transcend the social mix. No fewer than 6 Guyanese captains have led the West Indies, most notably Lloyd, though it was the leadership of Rohan Kanhai that marked the arrival of West Indies cricket as a dominant force. The best known sports arena in Guyana is The Bourda, founded in 1858 and home of the Georgetown Cricket Club. A long tradition of Test Match cricket, first played here in 1930, came to end with the staging of 6 One Day World Cup matches in 2008 scheduled at the new purpose built Providence Ground, thereafter to become the new Test arena.

Cricket is easily the dominant sport, and thrives throughout the 3 counties, Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice. Despite a vibrant league structure based in Georgetown, many of the country’s best players have traditionally come from the rural areas. The Guyana Cricket Board is well aware of this and thanks to the US$280,000 investment into Guyana cricket by the now disgraced Antiguan financier Allen Stanford, the board will be seeking to unearth new talent. Colin Stuart, himself a former Test fast bowler and now the GCB’s Development Officer commented, ‘We are looking to upgrade facitilies throughout the counties, which will lead to an overall improvement. Grounds identified for immediate renovation work include outlying Albion and Bermine as well as Everest in Georgetown, traditionally used as a practise ground by visiting Test Match teams’.

Ideal time for visiting touring sides is either at the end of the northern hemisphere season in September or pre-season, in March or April. Regular tourists are Sunrise CC from New York, a team largely made up of expatriate Guyanese.


Chile 

Cricket can be documented back to 1829 when officers and men from Royal Navy ships played the game in Valparaiso, on the Pacific coast. Largely due to opening up of the nitrate industry, cricket was played widely during the 1920’s, ‘Plum’ Warner led one touring team, while former St Peters old boy from Santiago, Freddy Brown, went on to captain both Surrey and England in the 1950’s. In common with so many other centres where it had once flourished, cricket’s fortunes dwindled as the British community declined in the years following World War 2. Since 2001, there has been a revival with the formation of the Chilean Cricket Association. Chile is now an Affiliate member of the ICC, currently concentrating on development in the schools in a bid for Associate status by 2009. In addition to Vina del Mar, which has a team in the national league 2nd division, the northern resort town of Iquique is perhaps one of cricket’s most obscure outposts, where the game is played largely by the Pakistani community. Snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountains overlook idyllic grounds such the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago and even more so at the elevated Craighouse ground, with breathtaking views out over the city. Touring teams have included: Stowe School, Rosslyn CC, MCC, the Falkand Islands, I Zingari and Old Bedfordians, often as an add-on to Argentina.  Earlier in 2010, the Chile 'B' team broke new ground with a short tour to Colombia, both matches being played at Bogota Sports Club.


Surinam 

The Surinam Cricket Association was founded in 1931, with a 6 side league structure in place in both Paramaribo and Nickerie, the winner of each playing for the honour of overall champion team. Earlier in 2006, Surinam as host nation progressed to the ICC Americas Division 2, after defeating Brazil, the Turks and Caicos islands and Chile. Most recent visitors to play a series of matches were the ‘Still Going Strong’ team from Holland. A Dutch Over-40’s side are also regular visitors. Most players are of Indo-Guyanese descent.


Peru 

Lima Cricket Club was founded in 1859, but the first visiting team of any distinction did not arrive until 1927 when the MCC called in en route home from a tour to Australia.  Interest in the game tailed off thereafter until the 1960's when interest was rekindled by workers from British textile firms.  Derrick Robins’ X1 containing a number of county players that included Chris Cowdrey and Bill Athey visited Peru in 1979 easily defeating the locals.  At domestic level, a new T20 competition continues to thrive, while internationally, Peru participates in the ICC World Cricket League.  The 'Llamas' made their 2nd appearance in the ICC Americas Division 3 championship in Santiago in October, 2009.  Vishal Vaidya, originally from India, has recently been appointed Cricket Development Officer, while earlier in 2010, Esteban (Billy) McDermott, captain of Argentina and an ICC qualified coach, came to Lima to conduct a series of coaching lessons.  Peru is currently ranked 75th in the world.

The season runs from January to May.

 


Brazil

Cricket has a long history in Brazil. Over many years, the game was played in Recife and Fortaleza in the north east, down to Porto Alegre, plus various points in between. Rio de Janeiro Cricket Club was founded in Niteroi in 1872, where Emperor Dom Pedro II was a constant visitor at cricket matches. A few years later Sao Paulo Athletic Club was formed. In 1904, Englishman Charles Miller, an excellent cricketer of the era who also introduced soccer to Brazil, wrote: ‘We weren’t able to develop cricket much, it being restricted to the English colony, though we had various games against Santos Athletic Club. We were invited to play Argentina in Buenos Aires, but the results were somewhat adverse’. Cricket was never properly taught to the locals, but there is curiously a street version of the game, ‘taco’ or ‘betes’, perhaps copied from British rail workers opening up the interio during the colonial period. Thus young Brazilians came to understand the principles of catching a batsman out, defending the wicket, scoring runs and even runouts. Still largely an ex-pat affair, the Association of Brazilian Cricket was founded in 2001 with the primary aim of encouraging growth of the game in schools and universities. In Sao Paulo, games are held most Sundays from March to December, involving Indian, Antipodean and Rest of the World XI’s. The overall standard is respectable club level. Elsewhere the game is played in Curitiba and Brasilia, though the enormous distances in the country the size of the United States are a curtailing factor.  There has been a marked improvement in recent years in terms of both standard as well as expansion of the game, with the formation of an Under 13 squad in Curitiba and an Under 17 squad in Brasilia.  In addition, women's cricket is starting to take hold.  The 'Calengas', as they are known, are mainly university students, who competed in the 2009 ICC Women's Championship in Miami and are due to compete again in a T20 series in Chile later in 2010.  The last touring team of note to visit Brazil was the MCC in 2007, a side that included former Yorkshire batsman and former Scotland national coach, Jim Love.