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Jul 11, 2017

You have to pitch in to promote cricket in Germany

Crispen Andrews looks at how artificial surfaces are boosting the sport

Two days after the German football team thrashed San Marino 7-0 in their end of season World Cup qualifier in front of 32,000 people at the Stadion Nurnberg, another German national team took the field, this time against Norway, at the Sportpark Laag Zestienhoven, a modest sports ground in Rotterdam.

The German football team was full of traditional German names, like Brandt, Hector and even Wagner, with a few like, Can, Mustafi and Younes, Turkish, Lebanese and Albanian names, places long associated with immigration to Germany. By contrast, all but two of the German cricket team that beat Norway in the ICC World Cricket League Europe Region Division One, were from Asian backgrounds. The other two were ex pat Australians.

Cricket has been played in Germany on and off, since before the First World War, when visiting British soldiers and academics brought their national game with them. In 1937, a team from Worcestershire toured Germany, an alleged show of solidarity between the two countries, which actually turned out to be a publicity stunt from the Nazi party, while in the background, Hitler and co took their first step towards, European domination.

There wasn’t much cricket in Germany during the Cold War period, but in the 1960s, the sport returned, thanks to visiting students from cricket playing countries.

Today, cricket is a minority sport in Germany, but it is growing. Particularly, in light of recent migration from cricket-mad countries in the Asian subcontinent.

There are clubs in all the main cities and the game is overseen by the Deustcher Cricket Bund, founded in 1988.

The German national league is divided into six regional leagues. The winner of each plays in the league finals. The national team plays in the ICC World Cricket League Europe Region Division One

Cricket in Germany is growing, but there’s a major problem. There are no cricket grounds, so teams have to share a field with other sports and organisations.

Synthetic surface specialists, Notts Sport, have been providing playing surfaces to German clubs for the past fifteen years. Sales Director, Zec Tomlinson, explains that a Notts Sport pitch, has a four or five inch solid base layer that provides the right sort of consistency of bounce for a cricket pitch, so the quality of play isn’t dependent on the original surface.

Tomlinson adds that when Notts Sport sells a pitch in Europe, it sends over one of its technicians, free of charge, to help install the pitch.

He said: “Clubs in Germany are not as well funded as they are over here. They can’t afford to bring in a team of specialist engineers, so to help grow the game over there, we provide the expertise, while they provide the muscle.”

Gottingen Cricket Club in Central Germany is a good example of the challenges some German cricket clubs face. The team plays on the University Sports ground, but are not allowed to cut a grass wicket or put down a permanent artificial strip. The youth team plays matches on the Gottingen All-Stars baseball pitch as the University will only let its students use the sports grounds.

Northamptonshire-based company, Flicx UK, have supplied portable artificial cricket wickets to Germany for some years. Flicx Business Development Manager Ashley Appleby says that Flicx pitches can be laid on to multi sports fields, used during a game or practice and then taken up and stored, freeing the field up for other users.

He said: “You don’t have to put a permanent concrete foundation into the middle of the field. The facility is left the same as it was before the game.

“The Flicx pitch can be laid onto any surface, with just a bit of preparation if the surface is uneven, grass cutting and filling in divots.”

Flicx are currently working with the newly formed Deutscher Cricket Union, a breakaway development group, who, amongst other things, are encouraging people from migrant and German communities to play cricket together and learn about each other’s culture.

Many of the new clubs in Germany have been formed by groups of friends and can’t afford, a proper pitch. The DCB has found, though, that coconut matting, laid onto wooden boards, plays well enough for cricket. The DCB has also found a supplier of these mats, in Germany, that charges equivalent of £500 per mat.

DCB’s chief executive, Brian Mantle, said: “It’s funny actually, we used to buy in these pitches from Pakistan, and they were more expensive, but then we realised that they were actually being sold to Pakistan from a manufacturer in Germany, so now we get them straight from the local manufacturer.”

Mantle admits that although cricket will never be a major sport in Germany; there are still over 100 clubs and more than 5,000 players and the game is growing fast.

Mantle said: “What we do want, is for the game to be known to everyone in the country and to have a structure in place that allows everyone who wants to play to take part.”

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