From London to Belgrade – A Short History of Cricket

October 23, 20111

by (1) 

As the last rays of sunshine finally give way to the beckoning call of autumn and winter the hypnotic sound of wood against willow eases its way into the recesses of memory. Sadly another season of cricket has fallen with the last wicket and for the ardent of players and spectators alike the winter days are counted one by one until spring flourishes paving the way for yet another year.

The precise origins of the game of cricket it appears are lost in the darkest corners of time.  References to the early game indicate it originating within the south east counties of England. Sheep were kept and reared on the sprawling expanse of downland pasture and the constantly grazed, short grass made it possible to bowl a ball, crudely made from wool and rags at a target.  The target would be the gate which gave access to the confining stone wall of the sheep enclosure and were simply known as ‘wicket gates’. The wicket gate would be defended with a bat, originally in the form of a crooked shepherd staff.

The game slowly caught on and as the 17th century approached had become a popular pastime amongst the working classes of the rural counties.  By the 18th century the game became widespread and was developed into a competitive sport amongst the higher classes of society living in the affluent southern counties around London.  Records show of an organised match being played at the Artillery Grounds at Finsbury, London in 1730. Despite its rising popularity however, cricket lacked a consistent set of rules, each area often adopting their own direction of game play.

By the mid 18th century the most influential and organised cricket club was formed at Hambledon in the county of Hampshire. Aided by sponsorship from local wealthy patrons, players from the local communities were quickly attracted. Despite its wealth and rising status, players came from the lower ranks of craftsmen and farmers, seeking out leisure from the rigours of their labour.  The cricket club flourished and soon began to develop revolutionary techniques of batting and bowling which are still maintained today. History now gives out a page to Hambledon as being the very ‘Birthplace of Cricket.’

Despite the club’s success, London soon became the hub of power and before long the Marylebone Cricket Club was formed, having its headquarters at the now world famous Lord’s Cricket Ground.  From Lord’s came the first recorded formal laws of the game. Many of these laws still stand largely intact to this day despite the technological advances in techniques and world wide popularity.

The public, high class schools such as Eton and Harrow gave a much welcomed boost to the sport. So popular did the game become amongst the wealthy students that an annual match called ‘Gentlemen versus Players’ took place at Lord’s Cricket Ground between 1806 to 1963. The amateur “Gentlemen” from the schools and universities played their semi-professional counterparts; the “Players” in a match that was a highlight of the season.

Today major cricket matches can last as long as 5 days, each side having to bat twice, or innings as they are commonly referred.  Modern alternatives, encouraging more appeal to spectators are the limited over matches. Each side having to bowl a set amount of overs, one over being six balls bowled by the bowler.  Most amateur matches consist of forty six overs being bowled by each team.

The game of cricket is now played worldwide, and despite occasional successes (more often in recent years), it is fair to say the real power in the game has shifted from England to nations such as South Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan, and the West Indies.  In England the major focus of the game are still the county championships, with both four-day and one-day competitions running simultaneously during the summer months. Traditional village cricket is still played in towns and villages all across the United Kingdom attracted both young and old players alike.

So there you have the history, condensed as possible to enlighten the newcomer to the most gracious sport the planet can offer.  I now scan Serbia with a keen eye, and the aid of Google Earth. I admit, yes, although not the lowlands of Southern England, the country is well equipped to offer substantial areas for the game to evolve and prosper into international status.

Serbia playing in Bucharest

I see with interest the Serbian Cricket Federation are promoting the sport with zest and have played matches throughout the summer months. Although not entirely perfect a setting for this almost alien sport, football grounds have been adequately converted for the order of play.  With raising popularity it can only follow that the sporting bodies within Serbia can focus clearly on what is to be expected for the international stage, and progress the game to meet, fulfil and hopefully overcome the century’s old expertise the old cricket world holds dear to its chest.

As time goes by the Cricket Federation of Serbia will develop its own investment and opportunity to take the game to a new level. Cricket matches are spreading across not only Serbia but the other Balkan states. Investment can only be reinforced with interest. Children now need to be taken away from the fixed ‘one vision’ of sport the nation has to offer. Cricket has all the attributes needed to teach and nurture even the youngest to prevail and become sportsmen in their own right.

Football teams of Belgrade, Zagreb and Manchester, to name just a few, rely on the million dollar market to sustain their continued existence.  Serbia however requires only the optimism and dedication of the mind to lift its own internal Cricket development into new realms. New realms which I have no doubt will see the Serbian National Team play upon the sacred turf at Lord’s.

As we sit, amongst friends and foe alike (spectator opposition is not yet known between opposing supporters), just exactly what we do for afternoon tea?  We still remember the gentlemen of old.  Old cricketers, taking respite from the heat of summer, with the offered delights of cucumber sandwiches and sweet tea to divide the set of play.

How wonderful, as the beleaguered batsmen return from their fall of wicket if we were to be offered now Pljeskavica, Djevrek and srpska salata. The old gentleman would surely turn in their bats of old, preferring now to give the game away to their new found rivals, savouring the delights inter – Balkan cricket has to offer.

Serbia has the capacity and resources now to hold its head high in the cricket community. Continued perseverance will take the game forward.

Just One Exciting Read from Serbia’s Cricket for 2011
The ‘curse’ of Petrovčić – victorious for Victorias
05.10.11

After winning two games against Ruislip Victoria, our teams have, unfortunately, ended the last weekend of the season with a partial success. Mirijevo CC and Vračar CC didn’t’ manage to repeat the game of BeoAsian Assassins and Belgrade XI, and so the teams of the capital lost both T20 matches that were played in Petrovčić on Sunday. A little reminder – back in June, on the same ground, the teams of Čačak and Stari Grad were also defeated in matches against New Victoria CC, team from Lancashire.

The first duel was between Mirijevo and the Londoners. Having just the right amount of confidence, secured by the fact that they had won the 6-a-side cup just a few weeks before, the Mirijevo players felt that the victory could be theirs. However, the extremely bumpy grounds had taken its toll and all the batters were out at the score of 74 runs (David 14, Tošić 13), which allowed the guests to relax and easily beat that in the second innings. The team of Vračar had put a bit more fight, and their performance resulted in 103 runs (Nasir 28, Đurić 22), but the Englishmen managed to reach the score in only 13 overs, with great performance of Lala and Ansari, whose partnership resulted in more than 60 runs.
The day continued with some traditional food of the Srem district. Afterwards, the kind hosts form Petrovčić took all the guests on a tour of the village and the nearby famous fishpond.

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One Comment to “From London to Belgrade – A Short History of Cricket”
  1. Vesna Kovac says:

    Nice Andy…keep up a good job…Vesna

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