17 Jul

St Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean, with a population of around 6,000, has not recorded any COVID-19 infections to date and as a result the passion for cricket is thriving in the community.

St Helena Cricket Association (SHCA) became an Affiliate Member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2001. The senior men's team featured in the ICC T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier C in Gaborone, Botswana, in November 2018 and captained by Scott Crowie, they put up a decent fight, finishing third out of the seven teams that participated.

Cricketers are restricted to indoor nets and shortened games during the off-season. The national team is currently training for the Africa T20 World Cup Qualifier in South Africa next year.

Cricket on the island is remarkable not just for the remoteness, but for the terrain. The island has almost no flat land: everything is uphill, or downhill, and usually pretty steep. Apart from the airport, for which land had to be flattened to accommodate the airstrip, the only piece of ground of any size that is roughly flat and can be used as a playing field is on top of a 300-foot rock face, which boasts a picturesque heart-shaped waterfall on the right side and is next to the island’s secondary school, Prince Andrew School.

Cricket in St Helena has been around since the 1800s, played by the many British soldiers stationed on the island during the Napoleonic era. Legend has it that in 1885 a sailor lost his life while playing against a local team. When chasing a ball, he could not stop himself and went over the precipice.

Cricket was not formally recognised until a league was founded in 1903 by a local businessman, Humphrey Solomon. Today it is one of the two main sports for participation and spectators on the island.

In 1995, Governor David Smallman, a member of the MCC and the Queen's Park Cricket Club in the West Indies, became president of the St Helena Cricket Association (SHCA) and through his efforts, in 2001, SHCA became an Affiliate Member of the ICC.

As all players have full-time jobs, cricket is usually played on the weekends. The St Helena cricket tournaments are restricted to only seven months a year, December to June, as the only playing field is used by footballers during the other six months.

Just as they did in 2018, St Helena will be looking to cause a few upsets at that qualifier when cricket finally resumes.

John Stephenson


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