BUILDING MEXICO’S CRICKETING FUTURE : CRAIG WHITE

BUILDING MEXICO’S CRICKETING FUTURE, Mexico might be one of the last names that ring in your mind when you think of a cricketing nation, but with the initiation of programs and major developments in the sport over there, it’s one of the fastest growing cricket teams in Latin America.

Today we had the opportunity to delve deeper into Mexican cricket with a fruitful chat with Craig White, the Secretary of Cricket Mexico, who has continued to a play an instrumental role for all things cricket in Mexico.

1. Can you tell us about yourself and your initial journey into cricket?

It’s funny, I never really liked cricket growing up. I got into cricket in 2005 when I stumbled across the Ashes on Channel 4 by accident, and I’ve been obsessed by cricket ever since.

I just love it and I think it’s the greatest things ever invented. There is nothing better. Like most cricketers, I’m not very good, but I try! More than anything I just enjoying watching the game and reading about the history of the sport.

I’ve been in Mexico since 2011 and I’ve Secretary of Mexico Cricket Association since 2017. I do the administration, paperwork, and the legal and fiscal stuff, coordination – I really enjoying doing all this!! I feel so proud and privileged to be part of Mexican cricket. Mexico is my home and I want to leave a legacy – that cricket is an established, popular sport in the country.

2. Was coming to Mexico a cultural and lingual shock initially? How were you able to cope up with it?

I came to Mexico without a word of Spanish, and I learned the language as I went. It was a shock and I missed home, but after a while I became accustomed and I built a new life here in Mexico.

BUILDING MEXICO’S CRICKETING FUTURE

You are writing a book on the history of cricket in Mexico. Can you give us a glimpse of what readers may find in it? How did the idea of writing a book a come about? How was the research experience like?

The book is about the first one hundred years of Mexican cricket, from the 1820s to the 1920s, and in it the readers will find the Emperor of Mexico playing cricket, Test matches, a cricket championship, proposed tours to United States, Canada, and Jamaica, and cricket being played as fighting was going on in the hills around Mexico City.

I’m reconstructing the history by researching the English-speaking press at the time and the accounts of the British residents of Mexico, because the original scorebooks and other records have been lost or destroyed.

However, the one thing that struck me was just how much cricket was being played in Mexico in this 100-year period, it is incredible! Research also showed me things haven’t really changed between then and now either – there were complaints about the standard of cricket, quality of pitches, umpires; players very much enjoyed the social side of cricket more than actually playing.

The idea came from when I wrote my MA thesis on Porfirian and Revolutionary Mexico and I came across a reference to cricket being played and I decided to take it further. That was 12 years ago mind, and I’ve been researching and writing the book on and off ever since. I’ve used the time at home because of the Corona Virus to push on with the book and I’m almost there!!

4. If you had to name one thing that has greatly improved in Mexico’s cricket structure and one that needs major improvement, what would it be?

One thing that has great improved is the pool of male players and the competitiveness of men’s cricket because since 2017 we have expanded out from Mexico City (where we had and still have a four team male league at The Reforma Athletic Club) to incorporate into Mexican cricket two teams from Guadalajara, one team from Monterrey and one team from Queretaro.

The four cities play each other in regular bilateral series throughout the season and once a year over a weekend we have a National Championship contested by the four cities.

One thing that needs major improvement is coaching. As we cannot afford a coach, we rely on well-meaning volunteers (but not certified) to coach the women, children, and male national teams and to go into schools when we have an opening. They do a great job but cannot teach more than the basics and the technical skills needed because, but they are not qualified to ICC or other cricket board standards. In addition, as our volunteers all have full time day jobs, it is very difficult for them to get time of work to go into school (and nor can we expect them to, as after all making a living comes first).

In short, we need a full-time paid coach to train the national teams and go into schools day in, day out if we really are to grow and develop. However, we cannot afford a coach! We are always looking for ways to overcome this challenge.

BUILDING MEXICO’S CRICKETING FUTURE

5. What were the goals in mind at the time of the formation of the Women’s team? What difficulties were faced when the program was started?

The Committee made the decision at the 2017 Annual General Meeting to start a women’s cricket programme with the goal of sending a national team to the 2018 South American Championships in Bogotá.

The difficulties we faced were that we were in effect starting from nothing, as we had no players, no women’s equipment, and very little money.

We attracted players by social media, talking to friends and contacts, and through a recruitment drive in The Reforma Athletic Club.

Our male players trained the women at weekends, equipment was donated, and The Reforma Athletic Club financed the uniforms. Little by little we got there! Seeing the Mexico women’s team play for the first time versus Brazil at the South American Championships in Bogotá has been my highlight and favorite moment of being involved in Mexican cricket.

I felt so proud and happy! And then they took Peru to a Super Over and then beat them in the second game between the sides!

6. At the time of the CAC 2019, what were the challenges faced by Mexico as a host?

I think we pulled off a great Central American Championships in 2019 and we put on professional show, but there were two main challenges we had to overcome to get there.
As that edition was the first to have women’s participation (Mexico and Costa Rica) on top of a five team male tournament (Mexico, Marylebone Cricket Club, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama), we needed to find an additional ground to fit all the matches in. We only have one permanent ground in Mexico City and that is The Reforma Athletic Club (the home of Mexican cricket since 1894), so we had to search high and low for a second ground. The options we found were either: (i) not available at the time we needed, (ii) too small, (iii) needed a lot of maintenance work (iv) or the cost to the rent was astronomical. It really was touch and go for a while, but eventually we got access to a second ground at Dos Caballerizas.

As the Mexico Cricket Association is run by a handful of volunteers, organising and running the Central American Championships put a great strain on everyone involved, because they were doing this on top of full-time day jobs. For example:

I organised and coordinated the hotels the teams stayed in, trophies and medals, local ground transport to and from the grounds and to and from the airport, the ICC eligibility paperwork.

Our Chairman single handedly installed, cut, and painted a temporary cricket pitch at Las Caballerizas. He also organised lunches for the teams.

Our Treasurer spent hours, hours, and hours on the finances and budgeting and then redoing the finances and budgeting as circumstances changed and evolved.

Organising the tournament (four months) and running the thing (four days) was honestly the hardest period of my life, I can’t tell you the amount of stress and sleepless nights it generated, but it was worth it in the end. It was such a wonderful feeling when the last team went off to the airport!!! All that tension disappeared!!!

7. The game is unknown to many in the country, so what are the different programs that have been undertaken to raise awareness about the sport?

To raise awareness of the sport in Mexico, we have two strategies that we are currently pursuing:

We are in the process of becoming an official sport in Mexico recognised by the federal government. When we obtain this and thus becoming the Mexican Cricket Federation, we will: (i) get access to the tools, training, stakeholders and support from the government to develop and raise awareness of cricket: (ii) receive some financial support; (iii) we will be part of the National Commission of Physical Culture and Sport (CONADE) and Mexican Olympic Committee. This is what we are really going for and achieving this will literally be a game changer for us.

We are trying to do a lot more work of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to raise awareness.

BUILDING MEXICO’S CRICKETING FUTURE

8. What do you feel is the current aim for both the men’s and the women’s cricket team for the future?

I’d say the current aim for the men and women’s team are to keeping being competitive in the South American and Central American Championships and keep climbing the ICC T20 rankings.

9. Can you name your favourite international cricketers?

Men: Daniel Vettori (New Zealand)

Women: Anjuli Ladron (Mexico)

10. Tell us your motto in life that inspires you to do better each day.

I don’t have a motto in life, I just try to be a good person and do the best I can.

Thank you Craig for choosing to interact with us on this platform. We, at Cricktalk20, wish you and the entire force behind Mexican cricket all the best in all your current and future endeavours.

BUILDING MEXICO’S CRICKETING FUTURE

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