WHILE many sports in Spain have been playing on a sticky wicket during the pandemic, one is booming – cricket.
It may come as a bit of a surprise to many, but the quintessential English game is rapidly taking a hold in the land of sun and sangria.
Traditionally, its strongholds are Catalunya and the Costa Blanca (with a special mention to Madrid and Murcia) but the game is now spreading.
There are even set to be full blown international games soon with Almeria’s Desert Springs ground just being granted accreditation from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to host one day internationals and ‘T20 matches’.
Now the Costa del Sol is following suit with an international tournament designed to boost the profile of the game in Spain.
Hosted at the picturesque Cartama Oval, near Malaga – where British ambassador Hugh Elliott once strapped on his pads – the European Cricket Championship (ECC) will run from September 13 to October 8.
In total, 15 nations will take part, including an England Amateurs squad and Scotland A.
Speaking at the launch of the event at Benalmadena’s Sunset Beach Club, The European Cricket Network (ECN) CEO Roger Feiner told the Olive Press: “People don’t realise it, but cricket is the fastest growing sport in Europe, and second fastest in the world.
“In Germany there are now 350 clubs – there were only a handful a few years ago.”
Despite the pandemic, the European Cricket Series – where games are designed to last around two hours – has now seen matches played for 180 days in a row across 30 affiliated countries. Matches are televised and streamed on YouTube and have attracted an incredible 130 million viewers.
Jay Wild, of the Costa del Sol Cricket Club, based at Cartama added: “We see this as an opportunity to develop the game not just in Andalucia, but across Spain.
“We need more juniors and want to diversify the player base – and this tournament will have a direct impact on that.
“While we have a reasonable schedule of matches – we are playing Gibraltar next – we really want to grow the game. We need more juniors and want to diversify the player base – and this tournament will have a direct impact on that.
“Many people don’t realise that cricket is even played in Spain – I am sure once they find out many people will come along, and hopefully bring their kids as well.”
The Cartama Oval will also play host to the ECN’s European Cricket League – dubbed the Champions League of European cricket..
Originally set to be held at La Manga Club in Murcia last year, it was postponed due to pandemic travel restrictions. The second edition of the tournament will now take place in Cartama starting from February 7, with a finals week set for March 21-25 next year.