Cricket on ice?

Probably not well known is that the Swiss play cricket – and also play the game on ice. Not surprisingly the game was introduced by the English; and the earliest evidence of a match being played in the country is depicted in an 1817 painting of a game in Geneva.

There are now 15 teams playing league and cup cricket in Switzerland under the auspices of the Swiss Cricket Association (formed in 1980). Switzerland was granted affiliate status to cricket’s ruling body, the International Cricket Council, in 1985. The Swiss national cricket team regularly plays against other European countries.

The gentleman’s sport of cricket, an obsession on the Indian subcontinent, has been strategically used to drum up interest in Switzerland by promoters and tourist attractions. Get the world’s fastest ever bowler (Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan) to send a cricket ball whizzing at one of the most aggressive batsmen of all time (Virender Sehwag of India) and choose Swiss luxury ski resort St Moritz as the scene of the combat between sporting rivals.

This was the premise of the Ice Cricket tournament held on February 8 and 9. The match featured retired legends of the game from India, Pakistan, England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The two teams comprised:

Royals: Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Daniel Vettori, Nathan McCullum, Grant Elliott, Monty Panesar, Owais Shah, Matt Prior and Aidan Conor Andrews.

vs:

Badrutt’s Palace Diamonds: Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Joginder Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Rohan Jain.

Cricket on ice in St Moritz dates back to 1988 when Swiss anglophile Daniel Haering and his friends found themselves in St Moritz only to find there was no snow. They suddenly had the idea to play a game of cricket on ice and requested the nearby Lyceum Alpinum school to send players and equipment. The match was such a success that Haering set about persuading the local tourist authorities to give the tournament a space on the ice each year. The tournament snowballed into an annual event with teams invited from around the world. Players need to wrap up in thermals, gloves and hats and have footwear with a good grip to stop them from slipping on the outfield.

But St Moritz is not the only Swiss destination using cricket as a marketing tool. One of the highest cricket matches ever played was organised on the Jungfraujoch at 3,453 metres (11,329 feet) in 2009 (the world record is 5,752 metres on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania). It was a six-a-side exhibition match which lasted a mere 45 minutes but featured an Indian side led by 1983 World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev (along with Ajay Jadeja, Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny, Anshuman Gaekwad and Syed Kirmani) against a British team (featuring John Emburey, Chris Broad, Alvin Kallicharran, Geoff Howarth, Neal Radford and Collis King). India won that match 109-105.

For the aficianodos of the game Afridi led his team to a six-wicket win in the first of the two matches. Sehwag’s Palace Diamonds posted 164/9 in 20 overs with the former India opener smashing 62. Royals successfully chased down the target in 15.4 overs with former England batsman Owais Shah top-scoring with an unbeaten 74. In the second match, Royals beat Palace Diamonds by 8 wickets with Jacques Kallis scoring the highest for Royals with his unbeaten 90.

Ack: swissinfo.ch and ndtv.com for the information.