Playing and promoting cricket in Peru is not without its challenges: 99% of the population has little or no idea what the game is about, hence the confusion with polo, croquet, or more understandably, baseball; there is only one cricket pitch in the entire country (albeit 150 years old), and football is played over it for eight months of the year; the nearest away game is some 2,400 km away in Santiago, Chile and the nearest shop selling cricket equipment is in the USA.
So, it was with a sense of awe and wonder that in June, 2009, I found myself at the spiritual home of cricket, Lords Cricket Ground, in London, attending the International Cricket Council (ICC) Centenary Conference, as the lone representative of Cricket Peru. This was the first time in history that all 104 member countries of the ICC had been invited together to discuss and celebrate the game of cricket, and some people had made a Herculean effort to get there: two representatives from the Atlantic island of Santa Helena had made a five-day boat journey to South Africa in order to catch a flight to London!
It was a chance to reflect on the global expansion of the game of cricket, which can now confidently claim to be the second biggest sport in the world. The powerhouse of cricket is now India, whose vast population has a fanatical adherence to the game, and whose economic rise and human diaspora is further evangelizing cricket.
Meanwhile, the growth of women’s cricket was being feted and promoted: for the first time a Women’s Twenty20 World Cup was held in conjunction with the Men’s, culminating in a joint finals day at Lords on June 21st. I was by no means the only one to be very impressed by the skill levels on show in the female game.
As we learnt of strides being made by USA, and even China, to promote cricket in their countries, Cricket Peru’s progress in developing an annual, domestic competition and re-introducing cricket to a handful of British schools in Lima seemed rather insignificant, but it was a real privilege to be allowed to sit at the top table, if only briefly; and the goodwill towards Peru was tremendous, bringing home the fact that this country captures the imagination of people from a wide variety of nationalities.
It was also a great pleasure to be able to sing Lima’s praises as a destination for cricket teams to visit, highlighting the fact that no play has ever been lost to rain, along with the well-known tourist attractions.