Cricket lovers around the world often face an identity crisis, when critics question the global acceptance of the sport. Like soccer, the ‘gentlemen’s game’ may not have a mass appeal all across the world, but it too has its existence in all five continents, including the most distant parts of the world. The Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic are one such detached human settlements, where cricket still exists with its full glory.
Situated almost 300 miles away from the Southern tip of Argentina, the Falkland Islands are one of the southernmost parts of the world. Officially it is a British overseas territory, but Argentina still claims its right to the islands. However, despite this long-standing dispute, the cricket has survived, thanks to most of the islanders’ association with the United Kingdom.
The sport, meanwhile, is being played in this part of the world since the 1920s and 1930s, when, according to anecdotal evidence, one of the local company managers brought some stumps, bats and balls to the island from Britain.
“Several people remember playing tip and run as children on Victory Green and at Goose Green. Occasional matches were played between Stanley [Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands] and various visiting ships such as HMS Exeter and there was also mention in newspapers of occasional matches during World War II against the resident military garrison, the Yorkshire Regiment.
“Stanley Cricket Club was active during the 1960s and 1970s, playing matches against the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, the predecessor of the British Antarctic Survey, and virtually every naval ship that called into port. A Railway Club team from Buenos Aires came to Stanley from 1966 to 1968 period. Most were Anglo-Argentines whose parents worked for the Argentine railway system.
“Cricket then disappeared from the Falklands until 1989 when the Governor’s XI versus the Commander British Forces’ XI series started. This was one match, usually held around Christmas, and the Governor’s team would normally have a couple of practice sessions beforehand at the Community School field. This series came to be known as the South Atlantic Ashes,” says the official website of the International Cricket Council (ICC), while mentioning about the history of cricket in the Island.
Cricket was very popular amongst the British soldiers, who were posted on the island, following the Falkland war. They used to play occasional matches against the locals as well as against the crew members of passing cruise ships.
Formation of FICA
The Falkland Islands Cricket Association (FICA) was formed in 2001 by a group of local cricket enthusiasts, who used to organise a popular six-a-side cricket tournament on the island, in their earlier days. They even raised a little amount for the construction of practice facilities and for the purchase of cricketing equipment.
In 2003, FICA brought Warren Stott, a former New Zealand Test player in the country, for a two-week coaching camp. According to a report by the BBC, as many as 40 senior and 30 youth members out of a population of 3,000 took part in that camp.
In December 2004, the Falklands sent a team to the Santiago Cricket Festival and played three matches against Chile I, Chile II and I Zingari. The tour helped FICA to build strong relations with the Chilean Cricket Association and the bonding help them immensely to secure an ‘Affiliate’ membership of ICC in June 2007.
Falkland Islands played its first major international tournament in June 2010 when it took part in the ICC Americas Division Four Championship in Mexico. Their historic opening fixture witnessed a triumph over Costa Rica, with the skipper Elliott Taylforth claiming a hat trick. Meanwhile, after losing its next match to Mexico, it had to settle for second place in the table.
A subsequent regional Twenty20 tournament saw less success as the Falkland Island team lost all their five matches.
The South Atlantic Ashes
The South Atlantic Ashes is one of the flagship events of the Falkland Cricket. As mentioned earlier, it was started in the late 1980’s. Few reports also claim this annual fixture is being played between the Falkland Governor’s XI and the Commander of the British Forces Falkland Islands XI, since 1991.
Initially, this fixture used to be a one-day event, but since 2004, the South Atlantic Ashes has become a three-match series. The action takes place on the matting wickets of the Mount Pleasant Airfield Oval, which is the only cricket ground in the island.
In 2012, the Falkland Island team toured Jamaica to play a few exhibition matches. However, following that tour, there has been very little stuff available online, about the recent whereabouts of Falkland Cricket. A few sources claim, of late, youth and women’s cricket have started to develop in that part of the world. The senior team, meanwhile, has not done much in the regional ICC organised fixtures, but thankfully, FICA still has its ‘Affiliate’ status intact.