On Tuesday 10th August the Argentinean Cricket team were due to play MCC at Wimbledon Cricket Club. As the rain fell however it became less and less likely that a ball would be bowled and so to help prepare this National side for the ICC World Cricket League competition, which will be played in Italy next week, Mike Gatting, MCC match manager, answered Argentine questions on everything from mental preparation for batting, how to play spin and the best way to recover from a day in the field.
Cricket has been played in Argentina since 1806 with the international side making its first appearance in 1868 against Uruguay. The first First Class match was played against MCC in 1912 and a strong relationship has existed between the two sides ever since with MCC tours visiting Argentina in 2001, 2006 and 2008.
Argentina - Cricket v Football
CEO of Cricket Argentina Grant Dugmore, who is also a player in the national side, spoke about the position of cricket in a country dominated by other sports and the difficulty in achieving a league structure with depth. Dugmore explained: "Cricket has an amazing history in South America but has been side-lined by more popular sports such as rugby, golf, tennis, polo and football.
"Children are taught cricket in a handful of schools, particularly in the capital, Buenos Aires, where most of the clubs are based. However it is not the resources or breaking into a bigger market where we struggle but maintaining the talent we have. Children who have been brought up through the system will often lose interest particularly as cricket has no media coverage in Argentina."
MCC match manager Mike Gatting, who captained the MCC tour to Argentina in 2006, also highlighted the Spirit of Cricket which exists in Argentina. Gatting stated that he "was pleasantly surprised by the local people, their enthusiasm and organisation. They had some excellent games in 2006 and played on some lovely pitches particularly that of the Hurlingham Club in the Buenos Aires Province of Hurlingham."
The MCC team due to play against Argentina consisted of eight players who toured there in 2008. When asked if this was intentional Gatting explained: "MCC tours aim to form relationships with clubs as well as people and a chance to renew friendships through cricket is always welcomed by both teams. The standard of these cricketers (Minor Counties) reflects the level of these Argentines and is a sign of respect to their ever increasing ability."
Cayman Islands, Nepal and beyond
With the help of Coach Toby Bailey, a playing member of MCC, Argentina hope to do well against the USA, Tanzania, Italy, Nepal and the Cayman Islands next week, particularly as these matches are part of only a handful of games they play each year. Despite their lack of match practice Bailey commented that "The Spirit of Cricket certainly exists within these players, they want to perform well and as such are prepared to train outside in 2 or 3 degrees. They expect me to be used to the cold as I am from England - but I have never had to train in outdoor nets in the winter!"
Bailey goes on to explain that he realised his calling when he captained an MCC tour to Mozambique."Seeing the enthusiasm in the team we played compared to the level of coaching and facilities they had available made me see how I wanted to direct my cricket career and since the job came up with Argentina Cricket last year I have never looked back."
As the rain continued to fall after lunch it became less and less likely that these teams would play each other. However, keen to prepare the Argentinean side for their campaign next week Gatting ran the question and answer session with the players and also reminisced about captaining in the World XI vs. MCC XI telling stories of glory wickets and a captains innings.
Although a ball wasn’t bowled the day proved that the Spirit of cricket was strong within the Argentine players and, for the dedicated group of players present at Wimbledon Cricket Club it is a vital part of their life despite being a minor sport in their country.