This article, by Adam Sage, is reprinted from The Times, June 5, 2010
For centuries it was dismissed by the French as an incomprehensible activity practised by British eccentrics and the inhabitants of other nations that had had the misfortune — or the poor judgment — to fall under British influence.
Now France has decided to take us on at our own game, aiming for nothing less than humiliation for les Anglais at Lord’s — albeit within a few decades.
The rise of cricket has been marked by its introduction to primary schools where pupils are getting to grips with le coup d’équerre (the square cut), la balle courbée vers l’extérieur (the outswinger) and a triumphant cry of et alors (howzat).
A state cricket diploma is expected to receive official approval this year in a step towards France’s first professional cricket coaches. “We have several buds which we are nurturing,” Tony Banton, the chairman of France Cricket, the national cricket association, said.
The rise of the sport in France comes 70 years after it was banned as alien by the Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazi occupation. It follows an influx of Britons and of Pakistanis, Indians, West Indians, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans, who probably form France’s biggest cricket-loving community.
The newcomers are responsible for forming 42 clubs but the sport is also attracting Gallic interest for almost the first time since 1900, when a French side was beaten by England in the Paris Olympic Games final.
France has a national side, which plays in the European second division, and 1,200 registered players — a number that is rising by about 10 per cent a year, according to Adrien Geille, the general manager of France Cricket. About 40 per cent of the players are French. “Our goal is to have a semi- professional tournament by 2015,” Mr Geille told The Times.
The ambition has been strengthened by the arrival of cricket in primary schools. To date, four schools in central France have agreed to put le cricket — or rather, le kwik cricket, a version played with plastic bats and balls — on to their weekly sporting curriculum this year.
Teachers elsewhere, notably in northern France, are expected to follow in their footsteps from September this year, after France Cricket taught them the basic rules and techniques.
David Bordes, the national technical director of France Cricket, said that coaches had gone to primary schools about once a week to introduce pupils to the sport. “We get more requests than we can meet,” he said. “We try to pick those where the intervention is likely to be followed up afterwards.” About 40 enthusiasts have obtained a certificate to coach cricket on a voluntary basis.
Mr Bordes wants to go a step further by persuading the authorities to create a cricket coaching diploma, which would enable holders to demand remuneration. He said that after a six-year struggle the Ministry of Health and Sport was poised to accept the move.
Just in case France’s new coaches struggle to understand the 42 laws and five appendices published by the MCC, France Cricket has translated them and published them on its website for the first time.
Thus it is that the wicket-keeper is now officially known as le guardien de guichet and lbw as jdg (jambe devant guichet).
There was much head-scratching over the best way to translate “not out”. After what one insider described as a lively debate, a consensus emerged in favour of “rien”, which literally means nothing and which will no doubt be accompanied in practice by a classic Gallic shrug.
Terms of engagement
Fielder chasseur (literally, hunter)
Batsman batteur (drummer)
Bowler lanceur (thrower)
Bouncer rase-tête (head shaver)
Donkey drop balle en cloche (bell-shaped ball)
Duck zéro pointé (zero points)
Four touche indirecte (indirect touch)
Six touche directe (direct touch)
Googly bosanquet (after Bernard Bosanquet, the inventor of the googly)
Stump piquet (post)
Wicket maiden vierge couronnée (crowned virgin)
Corridor of uncertainty le couloir du doute (corridor of doubt)
How the English game of French cricket is played
The aim of this traditional game is for the bowler to hit the legs of the batsman with an underarm delivery. There is only one batsman, whose sole aim is to stay “in” for as long as possible by shielding his or her legs with the bat.
In some versions of the game, runs can be scored by passing the bat completely around the body until the ball has been fielded.
Batsmen (or women, for that matter) can move their feet only after they have hit the ball — if they miss, they must stay rooted to the spot and defend their legs as best they can.
As far as The Times is aware, French people do not play French cricket.
Frogsiders Footnote: Could this mean there’ll be jobs available in Northern French schools for English cricket coaches?