16 May

Cricketers in Germany are celebrating the announcement that they can return to practice. Some states may allow friendlies within weeks, with the national competition scheduled to start in June and some of the games may be shown on YouTube via the European Cricket Network.

Immigration to Germany has led to a surge in interest in the game. “We’re the fastest-growing cricketing country in Europe,” Brian Mantle, chief executive of the German cricket board, told The Times. “We’ve gone from 70 teams five years ago to 360.”

Mr Mantle comes from Shrewsbury, but emigrated in 1996 and now lives in Essen.

The advent of the internet was a pivotal moment, as immigrants from India and Pakistan, as well as British soldiers, connected and leapt at the chance to play. Further migration from cricketing countries has had a big impact on one of the game’s most important aspects.

“The tea is different,” Mr Mantle said. “In England it’s about who does the best sandwiches and cake. In Germany it’s about who does the best biryani.”

There will be no biryanis for a while, though. Covid-19 regulations ban socialising after matches. Play will also be affected: fielders must stand at least five metres apart and the umpire must stand three metres further back. The team kitbag has also been outlawed, with shared helmets and gloves deemed unacceptable.

The more average players will be sure to purchase extra protection, particularly because the standard varies so wildly. Mr Mantle said: “With so few teams in Germany, it is possible that you could be an average player and you could be batting against a guy who used to open the bowling for Afghanistan.”

He is referring to Izatullah Dawlatzai, 29, who dismissed the future England World Cup winners Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler at the World T20 in 2012 and now plays for the German national side.

It has been a long road for Mr Mantle, a former consultant, for whom running the game of cricket in Germany is now a full-time job.

His journey nearly stopped after two balls in his first match. “We were playing on a coconut mat,” he said. “I was bowled second ball. It pitched and kept so low that I nearly gave up. My wife said, ‘Give it a try again.’ The second week we played on a very good army pitch at Mönchengladbach and I scored some runs and then I stayed.”

John Stephenson




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