Article by Pierre Guillou, site editor of the Indian Poker Portal fundoopoker
Believe it or not cricket has been played in Estonia for the past 12 years. Many people ask where is Estonia? It is a small European country in the Baltics, just south of Finland, with an interesting history having been occupied by the Soviets.
The game was first played in 1998 by some enthusiastic ex-patriots living in Estonia, and watched by a few local spectators that must have thought these foreigners are crazy! Since the early days of a couple of fun knock arounds, Estonian cricket is now run professionally by the Estonian Cricket Association (ECA) and has joined the International Cricket Council (ICC) as an official cricket playing nation.
At first the Estonian team played against visiting touring teams from Holland, Finland and the UK, who came to visit the Baltics and take in some local culture, on their end of season tours. Some well known teams that took on the Estonain Eleven included; The MCC, Finland, Lords Taverners, Sir Tim Rice and his Heartaches. It was these earlier games against good opposition that has helped develop the game and spread cricket to local Estonians.
2007 saw the start of a domestic league in Estonia, with four teams making up the league; Reval CC, Tallinn Old Boys, Kalev CC and Tallinn Cricket Club. Reval Cricket Club won the first Estonian cricket domestic league and was fittingly captained by an Estonian, Andres Burget.
Cricket in Estonia is played in the capital city, Tallinn, in the centre of the city’s horse racecourse – The Hippodrome. The ICC has helped the ECA develop their playing facilities with artificial pitches, for ease of maintenance and nets for practice. This year the ECA developed a second playing field to cope with the growth of Estonian cricket and provide the ability to host cricket tournaments.
During the cold winters where the lakes freeze over, Ice Cricket is played by enthusiasts and tourists, who come to try a different playing surface and have fun. And perhaps Estonia has become more known for their Ice Cricket World Cup than the normal cricket that we know.
During the summer of 2008, Estonia won a T20 tournament in Wales, beating teams from Russia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Wales. They also won the Helsinki 6’s tournament for the first time, beating their much fancied neighbours. But the pinnacle of the year was traveling to Greece to take part in the ICC Europe Division 5 tournament – their first official ICC tournament. They played against Sweden, Czech Republic, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Recent sponsorship by 888 Poker, has given the national Estonian Team a further boost for the preparation of their bid to try and qualify for the T20 World Cup. A long chance, but a chance none the less, as the ICC has opened the qualification process to all associates.
The development of cricket in Estonia has been due to the hard work and enthusiasm of Estonian cricketers and whilst they may be very low in the World rankings, and even European rankings, the spirit within the Estonian team will carry them far – a team to watch for the future, especially in T20!