La Cricket - The Life of a French Cricketer
Cricket in France is generally confused with croquet or polo. By the time you've finished explaining what it is, most French just say: “Ahhh, yeah like baseball!”. But you do find the odd person who knows what it is and finds it interesting and is prepared to give it a go. Cricket has only recently been introduced into the primary schools sports curriculum, but so far with a lack of teachers with a knowledge of the game, it has only a few schools that are fully engaged. People from a cricketing country might be surprised that cricket is played at all, in countries like France. On the other hand they might expect it to be the same standard as it is in their country. Both would be surprised. In the U.K. pretty much every club has permanent nets. Here in France the best we can manage are nets that we put up each training session. In fact I have not come across any permanent nets anywhere here. There are perhaps only two clubs with actual grass tables/wickets, with a few others just cutting a strip on the local football stadium, which results in boundaries of only 30 meters or so. A little known fact is that France are the current silver medallists for cricket in the Olympics, yes cricket was once an Olympic sport, but we are going back about 100 years and most of the 22 players were English. If only the powers that be, would allow cricket back into the Olympics, it would mean that countries like France would have more finical backing. At the moment, take for example Jersey, they get more money from the I.C.C.[because they are more successful then France] but they have to spend so little on travelling to training, etc given the size of the island.
When you think of the sheer size of France ( twice as big as the UK) you might be surprised but there are only about 50 clubs in the whole of France, and most of them are located around Paris. In England you can travel 20 miles and pass 2-3 or even more cricket clubs, but in France that is not the case. For example, one of France's oldest clubs: Saumur CC has to travel a minimum of 90 minutes before finding another club. If Saumur want to put out their best XI, a scorer and an umpire for a home game, the overall travel distance is about 1600km, such is the extent of their catchment area. Some might be put off by the travelling but you soon get used to it when you live in France. Clubs in and around Paris play in 3 different leagues and in the Bordeaux area there is the South-West league. The other teams are dotted far and wide, and play a lot of their cricket against visiting English teams. There are no more than 30 grounds in the whole of France. However most of the French that get involved with a club make a lot of effort to develop it and draw in more people. The make up of clubs through out the country varies considerably, with some clubs being predominately ex pat, others being based on nationality. There are exceptions and at Saumur they have had players from 12 different countries over the last two years. Very few clubs have age group teams.
For us ladies it's even worse. The are now only 2 women's teams in France. Thoiry Cricket Club is based in the outskirts of Paris and the other is Nantes Cricket Club based in Nantes. Both are very enthusiastic about the sport and they play each other on a regular basis. When it comes to the national Ladies League they have a 50% chance of wining. Who wouldn't want those odds ? There are a few other women that play here and there with other clubs but they play with men. In a way the ladies section is like one big club but divided by 300km. The ladies all know each other as they play on a regular basis both indoors and outdoors. France even has it's own national Ladies Cricket team also known as the Dames de France. There first matches were in 2011, against Jersey. Since 2013 the national team has played each year in the unofficial division two European tournament, and their best result was coming 3rd out of 7 teams at the Berlin tournament in 2014. This year in early August, they are off to Denmark to participate with 5 other teams.
All cricket is administered by 'France Cricket' and all players have to be licensed they also have to
have an annul doctors examination/certificate confirming their fitness to participate. The Parisian clubs who play in the leagues are now required to have 6 female license holders, but as yet not one club has come up with a full ladies or girls team. Cricket in France, both for men and women, has a long way to go, before it becomes comparable to the U.K. Only when all the schools nationwide start playing cricket will it start to truly develop. France is a very sporty nation and given that even all the small towns have a gymnasium, and a floodlight stadium for football, who knows maybe one day they might also have a cricket pitch and maybe one day the Dames de France might even be playing at Lords! .