World Champions of football, but can Spain ever be World Champions of cricket

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 9:46 PM

Sport in Spain seems to be flourishing, with a long list of successful sporting champions including Rafael Nadal, who as the Number one tennis player in the world has completed the grand slam of all four majors; Fernando Alonso former Formula One World Champion; and the current Football World and European Champions, but could they ever be champions of cricket?

It seems an idealistic view, but if a European country can be so successful at all these other sports, why not cricket especially with such links across the sporting landscapes. Cricket in Spain has a strong and rich history.

The first record of cricket in the history books came in the year 1809 when General Lord Wellesley's soldiers first engaged in the sport. The game started to gain momentum in Spain however, with the founding of Madrid Cricket Club in 1975, with mainly British and Indian ex-patriot members playing, but soon West Indians and Spanish members joined.

The real breakthrough came in 1982, Phil Smith one of the founders of Madrid CC relocated back to Barcelona and there he set up the second club, Barcelona CC. The first match between both clubs took place at the Polo Club in Barcelona, just before the opening of the FIFA World Cup 1982 hosted by Spain.

Phil Smith explained the history and reasoning behind the choice of the Polo Club. "An ex-captain and president of FC Barcelona, had organised a game of cricket against a British merchant ship in 1913 at the Equestrian Club down near the Port. In 1982 I heard that the President of the Polo Club, El Conde de Reus, was a Monarchist.

"I had a friend, who was a member of the Polo Club and he got me some time with El Conde. When we met I told him that the English always played cricket on the Queen's Birthday and could her subjects living in Barcelona do the same on the polo ground. He was most impressed and called in the Manager of the Club to tell him to let us play on the polo ground whenever it was convenient."

This was a significant step in Spanish cricket as for a day at least cricket was there to be celebrated with a World Cup being hosted by another global sport.

The number of clubs increased dramatically with three formed in 1985, three in 1986 and then The Malaga Cricket Association in 1987. The Spanish Cricket Association (Asociación Española de Cricket - AEC) was formed on 24 June, 1989 and its executive committee met for the first time in Madrid. Finally in 1992 the AEC got the recognition it deserved when it became an affiliate member of the ICC.

Since the initial creation of clubs around in Spain in the late eighties, the introduction of coaches, structures and of course the Pepsi ICC Development Programme has allowed Spain to develop and improve the grounding of the clubs.

The significant effort to grow the game since the turn of the century has been evident to see and to involve the indigenous population in the game.

In 1997, Spain became a member of the European Cricket Council and they elected a Development Officer who took takes advantage of much of the funding made available from ECB, MCC and ICC. Kwik cricket advanced a great deal; a Spanish National Cricket League which was established involving eight teams; and the solidarity cricket tournament was introduced to raise money for UNICEF.

The MCC legacy grant has helped a great deal as Spain hosted a MCC tour; they could use the funding to support their junior cricket projects, trying to get more juniors into cricket and help increase the participation and standard of coaching at that level. Spain has also focused on the junior side as a result and has an exciting new player in their squad.

Christian Munoz-Mills a Spanish born all rounder, who travels to Belgium next week with the national team, takes to the field at the age of 19, looking to make a great impression on his most important tournament to date. Having come through the Spanish ranks, a former captain of the junior side and selected for the ICC Emerging Players' Programme 2011, he is a great talent and product of Cricket Spain's development programme.

The ICC European Division 2 has a combination of balanced teams who are all hoping to hit the ground running in Belgium, there are many teams who are developing at the same level as Spain, who all know that one great tournament can promote them to ICC European Division 1 in Jersey and Guernsey, with two nations being promoted from there to the ICC World Twenty20 Global qualifier next March in the UAE. Momentum is a key factor to realising the successful path to the ICC World Twenty20 2012 in Sri Lanka.

It?s a very clear pathway and one with genuine opportunity for success; Twenty20 cricket brings a natural buzz with it, potentially some fantastic cricket could be on display next week, and maybe one step closer to that dream of Spain being crowned World Champions in another sport.

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