Krikket — Iceland’s ‘game of thorns’

There is a growing scope for cricket — Krikket, rather — in the scenic Scandinavian nation of Iceland. But even as they take on the Swiss in their maiden international 50-overs outing, the tiny band of cricketers in Iceland are still exploring ways to cultivate interest among the government and citizens.

Updated - July 28, 2018 12:20 pm IST

Published - July 27, 2018 05:48 pm IST

Day or night, cricket under Iceland’s midnight sun is rarely stopped by bad light. |

Day or night, cricket under Iceland’s midnight sun is rarely stopped by bad light. |

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Iceland, the country of ice and fire, is that extreme part of the world where long murky winters are followed by nights basking under summer’s midnight sun. Interestingly, along with its picturesque landscape — volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields — a handful of people know, this island is also the northernmost check-post for the game of cricket.

In a country which doesn’t get enough daylight for almost nine-and-a-half months of the year, the English game of willow and leather ball (known as Krikket in local Icelandic language) has somehow managed an invasion, mainly through some cricket enthusiastic immigrants.

Abhishek Raj Chauhan, the vice-captain of the Icelandic national team is one of them. He moved to Reykjavík from India back in 2014 and currently is a citizen of Iceland. Abhishek is one of the 35-odd cricket players in the entire country, who make time from their primary professions, sacrifice financial gains just to keep the Viking flavour alive in this so-called commonwealth sport.


“Four years back, when I attended the first-ever practice session in Iceland, there were only five players. Now we have around 35. It is some sort of an encouragement for us in the Krikketsamband Íslands [he managed to pronounce it without much hassle, justifying his citizenship] as Iceland’s cricket body is known,” says Abhishek in an exclusive chat.

“I’m a bartender. In fact, most of the guys [cricketers] are working in the hotel industry. I think we have players from almost all the Test-playing nations. West Indies, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka, you name it… Coming from different backgrounds, we are bound by the common interest, cricket.”

So, what is it like to play cricket in Iceland?

For Abhishek, who played a certain amount of competitive cricket in his teens back home in Delhi, it is the same sport — except — played on a different planet altogether.

“Due to the extreme weather conditions, there is no turf wicket. In the summer months, we play on an astroturf football field in Reykjavík, our capital and one of the few parts in the entire country where human civilisation exists. However, to play on the football field, we need to acquire the required permission. Generally, we get 3-4 hours on the weekends. During winter we shift to indoors.

“Also, playing on astroturf is a different challenge altogether. Every ball by a fast bowler rises up to the batsman’s shoulders. So, as a batsman, you tend to play everything on the backfoot,” he explains.



Iceland is the only place in the world where one can play at midnight without any need of floodlights, during the summer. But Abhishek and co. have a different reason to cherish the midnight sun.

“Sometimes, in order to avoid the hassle of getting permissions, we schedule our session at midnight as the field is not occupied at that time. Also, playing in the midnight is perfectly suited to our work schedule. For us, midnight cricket is not just fun; it is a necessity,” clarifies Abhishek.

In the recently-concluded FIFA World Cup, the Iceland football team made a stunning debut with a drawn game against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Now, on July 28, another Icelandic national team will make its debut on the international stage — on the cricket field. A 50-overs encounter against Switzerland, followed by a T20 against the same opponent on the next day at the Weybridge Cricket Club on the outskirts of London.

“One thing is certain; this time there won’t be any travelling van,” Abhishek says with a touch of wit (quite similar to the person who handles Iceland Cricket’s Twitter page). “In fact, let me tell you, when native Icelanders first watched us playing outdoor cricket, they reacted exactly how you would react after meeting an alien. They had absolutely no idea what we were doing. So, I guess for the people back home, these matches hardly hold any significance. But, for us, it is going to be the most remarkable moment of our lives so far.”



Nevertheless, the entire Iceland squad, which is currently in the United Kingdom, is self-funded. None of the players will earn a single penny from this trip, despite the recognition from the government. Instead, all of them had to take unpaid leaves in order to represent their country on this momentous tour.

“You cannot achieve everything in life. Our passion is our remuneration. But, it is unfortunate that we don’t get any support from our government. It is a pity that a couple of our important players couldn’t manage to get [days off from work] and had to miss out on this trip,” laments Abhishek.

Englishman Darren Talbot coaches the Iceland team. He is an England and Wales Board certified coach and has vast experience of training different sort of players, belonging from different levels. For him, guiding these Iceland players is not a tough ask, the challenge lies in other aspects.



“There is no shortage of talent. Most of our players have played cricket in their native countries. I feel this Iceland team can compete in the second or third division of London’s club leagues. According to me, the most challenging part is the infrastructure,” said Talbot.

“There is not a single cricket equipment shop in Iceland. So, when I travel there I take some kits with me. The players also arrange it from their native countries.

“Furthermore, even for any full-time professional cricketer, adjusting from those bouncy astroturf pitches to these normal cricket wickets in England is a tough ask. And these players are just amateurs, who hardly get to experience normal cricketing conditions. So, it is not easy to be a cricketer in that part of the world. It is indeed Iceland’s game of thorns.” So saying, Talbot provides me the punchline I am looking for.

So, what is the current goal of the Icelandic cricket community? An International Cricket Council (ICC) affiliation?

Unfortunately, neither Abhishek nor Talbot believe that Iceland Cricket will be in a position, in the near future, to fulfill ICC’s membership criteria, which requires at least eight senior teams playing at least five domestic games a year across on proper cricket grounds in the country. Even if we ignore the difficulty of getting the necessary funding, in a country of 350,000 people, it is an audacity to think of having 200-odd domestic cricketers, especially considering the geographical hindrances.



Currently, only two teams participate in Iceland’s so-called domestic cup, the Volcanic Ashes — Reykjavík Vikings and Kópavogur Puffins. Naturally, Talbot as well as the Icelandic cricket fraternity want to take one step at a time.

Currently, they are raising money through crowdfunding to install some basic cricket-specific infrastructure, like an artificial pitch, and promote the game, especially amongst the school-kids. The fraternity knows that in order to develop a cricket culture in Iceland, participation from natives is essential. Talbot is looking after this project and according to him, the response has been satisfactory so far.

Earlier this month, Iceland Cricket also arranged the inaugural edition of the Íslensk Premier League, a six-a-side tournament along the lines of Hong Kong Cricket Sixes. They even managed to get Reddit Cricket on board as sponsor.

“Iceland’s FIFA World Cup campaign has actually given us [Iceland cricket] some limelight. People around the world now are aware that even a country like Iceland has a sporting culture. Now, we have to work this to our advantage,” opines Abhishek, who believes in the theory that any publicity is good publicity.

On the whole, there are still obstacles to overcome, but one gets the feeling that Iceland Cricket is on the right path. So, when you next visit Reykjavík, just be a little more careful on the streets. There is a chance that you might get hit by a cricket ball.

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