If you ask most Americans if they think that cricket is a European sport, they will be like, of course it is! And they will lump it in with rugby and soccer and be done with it. But cricket is most assuredly not a European sport. It’s huge in England, of course, and Ireland is now a Test nation though I am not convinced it is all that popular there, and there are smatterings of popularity in a few countries on the continent, but other than: zilch. It’s mostly England, and England’s former colonies: India, the Caribbean, Australia, etc. And based on a vote from a couple years back the majority of English don’t even consider themselves part of Europe anyway so there you go. It’s a global sport based on an old dead empire. Not European.
But, like I said, there are smatterings.
France, for instance, won a silver medal in the cricket event at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris — the only time that cricket has been featured in the Olympics (this is something else that confounds Americans, but that’s a post for another day). And there’s some circles of historians who think the game was actually invented in France — though the texts in question were probably referring to croquet, not cricket.
In 1789 the Marylebone Cricket Club was supposed to tour France but the French Revolution got in the way (the match was finally played in 1989, during bi-centennial celebrations of the Revolution). Then a century and a half later World War 2 decimated most of the clubs. In the last 30 years the game has seen a bit of a renaissance but it’s by no means what one would call a very big deal in France. The national team is an associate member — the same status that the US was just promoted to — and have been since 1987. They play some T20Is and compete in the European Division Championships and they do fine.
And then there’s the Netherlands. They do a little better than France. They’ve competed in four ODI World Cups, and currently have full ODI status. They also won a World Cup Qualifier tournament in 2001 and played in three T20 World Championships. AND their national teams plays in England’s one day domestic tournament.
Their most notable player is probably Ryan ten Doeschate — who has been called the best batsman not playing for a Test nation. He holds the highest batting average in ODI cricket with more than 20 innings — an impressive feat! Because of the ICC’s closed system, though, he’s turned into a bit of a mercenary, flying around the world to play in whatever domestic league will take him: Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa, Bangladesh. Lots of folks see him as the scary nightmarish future of cricket, but that’s probably a bit unfair.
What’s next for the Dutch? They failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup at the qualifying event back in the summer, so now their eyes are on the 2023 World Cup in India — qualification for that begins in 2020 and culminates in 2022.
I have always found European Cricket to be a fascinating part of the game. Players playing for little or no money on frozen northern European pitches in front of 0.0 fans just for the love of the game and the dream of a trip to a World Cup qualifier. There’s a great deal of consternation among Cricketing “people” — you know the vague shadowy government — about how to grow the game (or whether or not they even want the game to grow, but again that’s a story for another day) and I think it’s things like European Cricket that are going to do so. These little domestic leagues in Norway and the Netherlands that keep the game ticking, over by over.
A good site to keep tabs on what’s happening in Europe is CricketEurope.com.
Note: I am traveling Jan. 11-19 to Amsterdam and Paris, so Cricket for Americans will be going on hiatus until Jan. 20.