|Cricket has been a part of the Olympics just once, till date. There was only one game played, ever, between Britain and France. Britain is used here instead of England because that’s how long ago the match took place. 112 years, to be precise.
England and France are now getting ready for a rematch – two, actually, on June the 16th to help raise awareness of the game in France.
The last time they met was in 1900, it was a 12-a-side match in Velodrome de Vincennes, Paris. Britain won the game by an amazing 158 runs, with scores of 117 and 145 for 5 declared, while France had totals of 78 and 26. This match featured the Devon County Wanderers, a British side from south-west England, and a French team comprising of players from the Standard Athletic Club and the Albion Cricket Club in Paris, most of who were expatriates, a lot of them from England. The match though, was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) 12 years later.
France right now, has a little over 4,000 active players and more than 200 qualified coaches and hopes that the T20 and 50-over-a-side matches played by the two nations will help increase awareness, popularity and participation, while improving standards. The aim is to get more than 20,000 players by 2015.
One good thing is that they already have permission from the French Primary School Sports Association to train teachers in cricket. They will also aim to introduce the sport to 200 primary schools in 3 years’ time, hoping to get a lot of youngsters in as well.
Mark Moodley, the General Manager of France Cricket (FC), was quoted by a website saying, “It is a bit of a quirk that we are the silver medalists. When we talk to people about the sport it has become a bit of an ice-breaker before we have a more detailed in-depth discussion... (but) it is not something we boast about as it happened so long ago.”
When asked about the shortage the country had when it came to cricket grounds, he said that they had to be creative in approaching it in such a big way. “We may not have traditional cricket grounds but we do have gymnasiums so our idea is to develop indoor cricket throughout the year and then move outside where and when we can in the season. If this means playing three-a-side cricket in indoor tennis courts and then creaming the best players and making them into cricketers, then so be it,” he was quoted saying.
The matches played on the 16th will later pave way for a four-nation tournament, which starts on June the 20th. France will face Austria, Belgium and Gibraltar, the winner of the tournament going to Samoa in September for the ICC World Cricket League Division 8. This is the first step which could lead to participation in the ICC Cricket World Cup. Also, after cricket was granted full recognition by the IOC in 2010, the ICC is discussing the possibilities of participating in future Olympic matches and whether or not to apply for them.