When Sports & Spain is mentioned the first thing that comes to mind, Is the world-famous La Liga with global football giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid household names around the world. However, Cricket is now on the up in Spain, A competitive structure in place and with the conclusion of the very successful Midweek T10 league, We can safely say that the future of cricket is bright in sunny Spain. This week Mo Zubair had an exclusive interview with Mr John Howden the CEO of Cricket Espana the man responsible for bringing a new dawn to Spanish Cricket.
Tell us a little about the history of cricket in Spain?
Cricket is first recorded as being played in Spain in the year 1809 by soldiers of General Lord Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). It was during the Peninsular war that the soldiers played the game in and around Ciudad Rodrigo, Lugo and Orense. From that date there are many recordings of the game being played by visiting British land and sea forces, either between themselves or against local British expatriate communities.However, the game really started a new era in Spain with the founding of Madrid Cricket Club in 1975. It was based on British and Indian players, but soon crossed other national lines when West Indians and eventually Spanish members joined. That was only the beginning, as many other clubs have found out trying to persuade Spaniards to part with land for a sport with the classic “When you’re in, you’re out” explanations was soon found to be unworkable; and that was only one of the difficulties.The new Millennium saw Spain organise its first ECC Tournament, the 2000 Indoor, which saw Associates compete for the first time in this Competition. Spain finished a creditable 4th at this its first attempt.
Since then we have been regular participants in ECC/ICC Junior and Senior competitions, and this year we will be hosting one of the three Regional Men´s T20 events in Europe, along with Finland and Belgium.
How many cities is cricket played in?
The main concentration of cricket is on the East Coast of the country, from Barcelona in the North to Malaga in the South. There is also a cluster of clubs in Madrid and also cricket played regularly in the Balaeric Islands and the Gran Canarias.
Do you have a league structure?
Yes the league structure is based on a regional basis, with Leagues in Cataluyna, and the East Coast and Central League (ECCL including teams in Valencia and Madrid). We also have leagues in Madrid, the South of Spain and on the island of Lanzarote.
What are the major cricket clubs you have in Spain?
There are numerous major cricket clubs in Spain with about half the National team playing their cricket in the Cataluyna Leagues and the other half in the East Coast and Central League. Examples of successful clubs in these leagues are Cataluyna CC and Minhaj CC, who have been, and will be Spain´s representatives in the European Cricket League (ECL). In the East Coast and Central League Madrid are the oldest club and travel almost 500 kilometres for their home games and Sporting Alfas just successfully hosted a Spanish Regional T10 midweek series.
How many months is the cricket season on for?
Because of our cricket we play all year round. It is not unusual for teams to have inter-club matches over the Christmas period.
What sort of development structures have you put in place to ensure the growth of the game?
We continue to support the development of youth and Women´s cricket and are part of the ICC Entry Level Programme(ELP) which encourages kids to try the sport for the very first time and teachers to teach cricket through a structure of eight basic sessions. The cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are piloting this programme.
Who are the stars of your national team?
We play as a team and win and lose as a team. I will let your readers decide who the stars are. Yesterday we named our squad for the two T20I matches against Germany at Desert Springs on March 8th and we also have a four day series on home soil against Finland just before we host the ICC event in May.
To date what has been Spain’s greatest achievement in cricket?
On the field we are improving all the time and we have had some notable successes in ICC tournaments and T20I´s. Off the field we are very proud of the way we hosted the inaugural ECL (European Cricket League) at La Manga last year, and are looking forward to the challenges of hosting a 16 team ECL and an 8 team ICC event at the same venue in 2020.
Where do you see Spanish cricket in the next five years?
The Cricket España executive committee feel strongly that cricket in Spain is progressing nicely but there is a lot more we can do. We would love to be ranked at least in the Top 40 of the ICC rankings so we get our own voting rights and we are also working on our corporate image so we are more recognised on the World stage. On a local level we would also love to get more Spanish born boys and girls playing the game at a domestic level.On the International stage we are aiming to have an established Women´s team and a Men´s side that are challenging for entry into some of the top ICC competitions in the world. Junior cricket is probably the main area we will look to focus on so that there is a successful pathway for boys and girls to follow from when they very first play cricket as a youngster to playing hard ball cricket for the National teams in prestigious events. For more information on Spanish cricket please go to http://cricketspain.es/
Cricktalk T20 would like wish our friends cricket espana,all the best in their future endevours and looking forward to seeing the growth of cricket in spain.