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Iceland Cricket Team plan to participate in an ICC tournament by 2017

Iceland's cricket still has a long way to go but they are going about it with a plan

Iceland’s cricket still has a long way to go but they are going about it with a plan

The Icelandic war cries that have been raised in France this month on occasion of the Euro Cup have reverberated all through the world, and are will be accompanying soundtracks to English nightmares for a while to come. The English media have been eager to brand their team’s 1-2 loss to Iceland in the Round of 16 match as the worst in their history, but a look at Wisden’s pages shows that this is hardly the first time a British team have been subject to a disgraceful and unexpected defeat in a team sport to Iceland.

Cricket has had a relatively late introduction in the country of Iceland, with the first wafts of the professional sport reaching the northernmost cricket playing country during the 1999 World Cup. Letters were written to the European Cricket Council, and Iceland began their path to being accorded affiliate status. The weather in the country, among other things, have posed challenges to the growth of the sport, but like football, Icelandic cricket has also been going from strength to strength.

In the present day, Iceland have affiliation for playing T2OIs, but claim that ICC’s rulings will not allow them to become members any time soon. Speaking on behalf of Iceland Cricket Team, their President and Event Organiser told Sportskeeda, “We have applied to the European Cricket Union. It's very hard for us to get ICC status as they have lot of requirements which we can't fulfill. Cricket was stopped in Iceland in 2008 because of dwindling resources and interest. It has been restarted in 2014 and we have laid out plans for the immediate future. We plan to participate in an ICC tournament by 2017.”

When Iceland beat England in cricket!

Iceland’s big splash in cricket came in the year 2001, when a Manchester barrister and aspiring politician Jonathan Rule decided that a picturesque valley outside Reykjavik would be the place where he would enjoy a game of cricket against the locals, with a team of British amateur cricketers. No cricket match had been known to be played as close to the Arctic before this.

There were an unusual number of reporters and cameras on the day to mark the historic occasion of a team with an Icelandic national identity play for the first time, but what was happening on the field did not reach the highs that the occasion warranted. The pitch was more like a bumpy football ground, and the English team were reported to be swaying on the field as a result of their activities on the previous evening.

None of these, however, can take anything away from the magnanimity of the newspaper headline that came out the day after – “Iceland beats England in cricket.” (Wisden 2001) The Iceland team scored 107, before the travelling English side managed to crawl to 94 in decreasing light.

Talking about the historic day, Iceland Cricket Team’s Event Organiser says, “People often get surprised by the level of cricket we play here. Our team’s skipper is currently Icelandic, and there are two more native Icelandic players in our side now.”

ICC recognition might be a bridge too far right now, but Iceland’s cricket ambitions are headed for the right direction. “We will soon participate in a tournament in Prague, from 7 to 12 September., the Pepsi Cup. Other small teams like Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic will be the also participating.”

Literary and historical references to Icelandic cricket

The Wisden recorded during the most troubling years of the war in 1944 that two matches were played in a Reykjavik Football Stadium between the RAF and the Royal Navy, both won by the airmen, by 36 and 24 runs respectively.

One of the players to have turned out for the RAF for those two matches was a player called John Battersby Crompton Lamburn, who is notable more for a character that he inspired than any cricketing glory he inspired on that day – he was the brother of author Richmal Crompton, and is widely believed to have been the source for the character of William. Whatever mischiefs William was up to in the books, it is funny to imagine that he was trying to negotiate the uneven bounce of an Icelandic cricket pitch in the August of 1944.

However, this is not where Iceland’s strange tale of cricket ends. Despite the modern form of the game having been introduced quite late, the Nordics have been known to play one of the earliest known ancestors of cricket, known as knattleikr, a game that finds mention in the literary sagas of the country as well.

Knattleikr involved hitting a hard ball with a stick, could be played for many days, but the rules and spirit of the game seem to be more of a bohemian nature than cricket. There have been several cricket historians who have tentatively made the link between this medieval sport and cricket, but Iceland Cricket are more decided about this – “We have no idea about knattleikr,” they say.

Not many opponents shake in fear right now at the thought of an Icelandic opposition on the cricket field, but as feared in jest by former England captain Michael Vaughan, the day might not be very far when the English national team get a similar shock from Iceland that Jonathan Rule’s club side had received.

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