Cricket in Estonia has taken a step forward in recent times, a small cricket programme which is now producing a schools programme, the Eastern European nation is about to host the ICC European Division 3 Championship.
ICC Europe talk to four Estonian players about their journey into cricket. 23-year-old batsman Mario Tammoja, opening bowler Kalle Vislapuu who is 22 years old, all rounder 25-year-old Remo Raud and 21-year-old wicket keeper who is also Estonian Women's Team Coach Marko Vaik .
When did you start playing?
Tammoja- I've been playing cricket for about three years now and in the last year I have become far more committed.
Vislapuu- I started playing cricket for the first time in winter 2009, together with my classmate Marko Vaik. First training sessions were indoors but after a few months we moved outside to Hipodroom (horse race track in Tallinn and host venue for Division 3) and the amount of sessions increased; playing league games all summer.
Vaik- I had the same introduction as Kalle (Vislapuu).
Raud- About three years ago, but last year is when I became very interested.
How were you introduced cricket?
Tammoja- My cousin Mart (Tammoja) who is the president of Estonian Cricket Association asked me one day if I wanted to come along, ever since then I loved it so much I started coming all the time.
Vislapuu- I heard about cricket on a local TV show.
Vaik- I saw the same TV show as Kalle, it was great at encouraging those to join.
Raud- I watched some ODI and T20 matches on TV at the beginning of last year and I really became very interested.
How has cricket on TV been important to developing the game?
Vislapuu- heard Tim Heath the Estonian national team captain introducing the game and called new local people to take part in free training sessions. The first time I went, I met a great bunch of people who were very professional and at that point I realised that cricket is a great game and decided to take it up seriously and this was all down to the local TV show.
Raud- After watching the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011, the great coverage gave me a better understanding of the game and I wanted to be a part of it.
What are the key achievements from Estonia in recent months?
Vislapuu- One of the biggest achievements is Estonia as Host Organiser of the ICC European Division 3 Championship, which will give current and new players extra incentive to train and play even harder than before. Our national team coach Ryan Heywood has put a lot of hard work into the national team and the team ethic is paying off. From a developmental point of view the fact that cricket will be in the official PE program in Tallinn English College is fantastic after very hard work from our side; it has given a lot of positivity to all who are involved with cricket in Estonia.
Vaik- Lately our guys have been working mostly with schools which is great since lots of new players have been attending the training sessions. We have also organised a womens team, which is going to compete in the Netherlands and we had a great winter indoor competition.
ICC Europe- Oh yes, The Ladies Tournament in Utrecht, Netherlands from 25-28 July 2012.
In relation to the schools programme, how do you think this will help to develop the game across Estonia?
Tammoja-The School programme is very important because it gives them a taster within their education and will involve more people in cricket, rather than just asking them to attend training sessions.
Vislapuu- The more students or people who are generally involved in cricket the faster it will spread. So the more schools that are added to our schools program, the more students will take part in the trainings.
Vaik- This is going to help develop cricket in Estonia lots because the more schools you visit, the more people see the game, talk about it and invite friends and relatives to play. In that way we can get lots of young and talented players involved and start to train them properly at early age. They can make their own clubs all over Estonia and play wherever they want, not just only in Tallinn.
How interested do you think the people of Estonia will be in the tournament and what legacy is hoped to be left behind?
Tammoja- I think that people want to see new games such as cricket in Estonia.
Vislapuu- I think that all the spectators will be interested in watching the games, most of the Estonians of course don't know this game but as something new it is bound to create interest. We will of course try to win the event in front of our home audience as well.
Vaik- Whatever happens, this ICC tournament is going to leave us a lots of memories about good cricket and it's a big honour to organise it.
How do you think it will feel to play on home soil in tournament?
Vislapuu- Playing on home turf, in front of our own people will be great, I am sure of that. As we know our own field and its peculiarities it might give us a small advantage but there will of course be pressure of playing in front of our local supporters as we have a lot of expectation to win the event!
Raud- I think the feeling is going to be great. Every sportsman's dream is to represent their country and to be able to do it in front of home supporters will only make the feeling better.
Vaik- It's going to be a fantastic feeling because there is nothing better to play at the home ground, which one you know the best. On that ground we are self-confident and unbeatable.
For the ICC European Division 3 Championship website click here