Cricket is now the second most popular sport in the world after football.

No summer village green back in Old Blighty would be complete without a cricket match. Having first made an appearance in South East England in the middle of the 16th century cricket is now experiencing something of a boom even here in Spain. 

In September there will be a commemoration match to celebrate 40 years since the first game was played in 1982 between Madrid and Barcelona.

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According to John Woodward, President of Madrid´s Cricket Club there are now 5 teams based in Madrid´s new grounds in Moratalaz and the sport is gaining popularity all over Spain such as Santander, Vitoria and in Granada where are a new ground is underway in addition to Cártamar near Málaga.   

Woodward also reports increasing interest from schoolchildren where he leads an activity programme to introduce cricket into Spanish schools.  “Kids love it as they can just grab a bat and smash a ball. After a few sessions skills can be built up over time” explains Woodward as he plans to take the sport into dozens more schools this coming year. 

Woodward is also in the process of getting the sport federated and is particularly encouraged by the interest in youth cricket as young Spanish children embrace the game. 

 Cricket is also appreciated by local sub continental communities resident in Spain as exemplified by the significant following in Barcelona.

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Fortuitously, having once been the preserve of colonists, India´s cricket team is consistently rated within the top 5 teams of the world and unlike the UK where football has supplanted much of the fervour associated with cricket, in India support is increasing. 

India has long-been a recurrent destination in my family with erratic results. When my brother announced he intended to travel there with a schoolfriend aged 17 my father wasn’t very keen on the idea so he baulked at the cost as he had set a maximum holiday budget of £300 per child. Knowing my brother´s determination against all the odds I was not surprised to hear him explain smugly that he had found flights on Afghanistan Airlines for £250 which would leave him £50 for a month’s travelling expenses. 

In 1985 this could have been deemed sufficient for an extremely parsimonious backpacker. Left without a retaliatory argument my father was forced to concede so off Alasdair went.

Suffice it to say, the flight was not direct. After a quick stopover in Moscow the plane headed towards Kabul, the pilot aborting the landing at the last minute as the airport evaporated in plumes of smoke. There was a hurried announcement over the tannoy informed passengers that Kabul wasn’t such a good idea after all and that they’d aim for Karachi instead. 

After a tortuous yo-yo trip round most of the sub-continent they finally landed in Delhi in monsoon season. It didn´t take Alasdair long to fall down the odd storm drain, run out of money, have a car accident and curtail his trip armed with lots of life lessons and wonderful photographs. Fortunately, before Alasdair was beset with all these disasters he did manage to fulfil my grandmother´s request.

A few days before he left London she asked him to procure a photograph of the tombstone of her great great uncle, Captain Henry Handcock who had been killed by a tiger in Bankipor in 1858.

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Slightly perplexed and in the knowledge that this part of India wasn´t anywhere near his itinerary through Rajasthan, Alasdair promptly phoned up International Directory Enquires and asked for the telephone number of the largest international hotel in the vicinity. Minutes later he was on a call to the reception desk of the Holiday Inn in Ooty, explaining his predicament. The receptionist was delighted to help if he could post them £20 for their trouble as they’d have to send someone deep into the woods to find the tomb. Alasdair duly posted off the money and two weeks later, to my grandmother’s delight a polaroid was dispatched to London. The addition of flowers being a very emotional, heartfelt touch.

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Fortunately Bankipor, or rather now Bandipur, as it now known, is actually a tiger reserve actively involved in preserving the species so there will be less chance of further victims being surprised by our stripey feline friends whilst out hunting them.

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