This just in: Iceland has a cricket team. They might not have a pitch and they might not have the kit, but who cares. Iceland Cricket is serious, and they’re ready to spread the word about the sport in the face of adversity.
The tradition, barely twenty years old here, was conceived by Lee Nelson (of Sirkus Íslands) and friends back in 2002. After twelve years of clowning around, they decided to get serious, and now play at the international level.
“In 2014, we decided to come together and professionalise cricket here in Iceland. We set up two clubs, the Reykjavík Vikings and Kópavogur Puffins, and practice twice a week, whatever the weather,” explains explains Abhishek Chauhan, Events Manager and former president of Iceland Cricket.
From cricketing nations
Iceland Cricket is 35 players strong, and it’s way more diverse than you would expect. Abhi, like many in his team, emigrated to Iceland and missed the much-loved sport of his native India. The majority of players come from cricket-loving countries but there are also two Icelanders in the team.
“Everything is against us,” Abhi says of the challenges in building up cricket here. “ The weather is a big problem, we don’t have a pitch. There also isn’t a cricket shop in Iceland, everything we buy has to come from foreign countries. We hope to have more Icelanders in the team one day.”
Iceland Cricket made a name for themselves after international cricket star Michael Vaughan spread the word to his fans. When Iceland smashed England at Euro 2016, he jokingly posted on Facebook: “Oh God. They have a cricket team as well.”
Iceland vs England
“One of the biggest moments in our history came when Michael mentioned us on Facebook,” Abhi recalls. “Ever since, we’ve received invitations to play in England. In May, we played against Eton College—birthplace of UK Prime Ministers.”
So should England be scared? Iceland continues to punch above its weight—and it’s starting to pay off. “ We are making progress slowly but surely,” assesses Abhi. Last year we took part in the Pepsi Cup in Prague, a small tournament for small nations.”
“We didn’t come last! We defeated the Swiss clubs and came fifth (out of six teams),” he continues. “We were so excited about the tour that we forgot something fundamental—the balls. Fifteen of us went to Prague, and not a single one of us brought a ball. Our laid-back approach often gets in the way, as Icelanders are never on time. We almost missed one of the big matches.”
Progress may be steady, but the team are nothing but determined. Without sponsorship, or formal recognition from the European Cricket Council, everything they do, they do themselves.
“We have applied to join the European Cricket Council, but don’t meet a lot of the requirements,”Abhi explains. “We need four teams in this country, including a women’s team. We are a long way off but we will get there. When we go on tour, we have to pay for everything ourselves, even the flights.”
Is cricket about to kick off in Iceland? First things first—we need a cricket field.
“A lot of the team are used to playing in difficult conditions,” says Abhi. But still, “when foreign teams visit Iceland, they complain about the ground. It’s something we are used to, but it holds us back.”
Next year Abhi and his team hope to bring cricket to the curriculum by visiting schools in Iceland. “I still don’t think people are behind cricket here,” he muses. “It’s difficult to understand and a lot of people come and go.”
“We hope to make the sport mainstream by introducing it at an early age,” he continues. “We’re working on setting up the first ever cricket tournament in Iceland—like a mini football league. We’re calling it the Northern Lights Cup and hope that Icelanders will see the appeal.”
Iceland vs England, again
Can we do the unthinkable and smash England at yet another sport? Why the hell not? “England are intrigued after we beat them at football,” Abhi says of a possible grudge match. “They want to get revenge and beat us at cricket so we receive many requests. It’s all very exciting.”
Most recently, Iceland Cricket were contacted by the legendary Authors Cricket Club who’ve been “writing books and playing cricket since 1891.” Originally The Authors were (as the name implies), authors. Very famous authors, in fact, like P.G. Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle and the creator of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie. The team was reborn in 2012 with famous faces, and will be headed to Iceland in September 2017.
While cricket in Iceland is still in it’s infancy, this small nation mentality means that anything is possible. By 2020, Abhi assures me that there will be an avid cricket scene, and that Iceland will play in at least one International Cricket Council-approved tournament.
“That’s if we don’t miss the bus.”
You can follow Iceland Cricket on Facebook and on Twitter at @icelandcricket.