Uruguay’s Indian cricketers searching for a permanent home

Aerial view of a cricket match played by Indians living in Uruguay, along Montevideo's seaside promenade on February 10, 2019. (AFP / Pablo Porciuncula Brune)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Uruguay’s Indian cricketers searching for a permanent home

  • Descendants of Indian immigrants carry banner for Uruguay in the cricket field

MONTEVIDEO: Every Sunday, close to a statue of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, a group of Indian ex-pats take over a patch of land in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo for a game of cricket.
Tucked in between the Rio de la Plata estuary and the long promenade known as the “rambla” that stretches from one side of Montevideo to the other, Avijit Mukherjee prepares to bat, watched eagerly by his Uruguayan girlfriend.
“I played in my country but with a lot more infrastructure,” said the 28-year-old Mukherjee, whose girlfriend Veronica is the main reason he has stayed in Uruguay.
“There are stadiums and many places to play in India, whereas here we only have one.”
Although cricket was first played in Montevideo by British expat workers even before the foundation of the independent republic in 1828, its practice died out in the 1980s.
But following an influx of Indian immigrants to Uruguay at the turn of the century, cricket steadily returned to Montevideo.
First there were one-off matches. Then, the players organized their own league and even set up a Uruguayan national team.
At the end of last year, Uruguay, whose team was made up almost entirely of Indian expats, finished second in the South American championships in Colombia.
While the cricketers are now established on their little patch of land, their initial appearance was not entirely welcomed by local footballers playing on an adjacent pitch.
“We came like spiders and rebuked them,” recalls Daniel Mosco, a local resident who has been playing football in that field for 30 years.
The issue was quickly resolved, though, and the cricketers agreed to start playing only once the football matches had finished.
With no fixed cricket markings, players use flour to draw white lines.
Now, bat can be heard crashing against ball until sunset.
Even though they’ve been here for years, the shouts of “howzat!” and “wait on” still elicit glances from locals making their way along the rambla.
They make a curious spectacle for people little accustomed with either cricket or India.
Mosco, for one, was surprised that the players speak to each other in English.
And there’s another surprise in the form of 29-year-old doctor Saied Muhammad Asif Raza: he’s from Pakistan.
“Between the governments and in (professional) cricket there are always problems, but the people get on really well and within the team the are no problems whatsoever,” said Asif.
He left his home town of Multan, 10 hours from Islamabad, at 19 and moved to Cuba thanks to a Fidel Castro scholarship.
After returning home, he found he couldn’t readapt to his own culture.
“I didn’t come here to find a better life economically, I had a better life in my country because in my family we didn’t lack for anything,” said Asif.
“The thing is that when you live many years away, nowhere is home, and cricket brings me close to it.”
Although now at home on their small patch, finding something more permanent is crucial to Montevideo’s cricketers.
“We’re looking for a permanent ground,” Beerbal Maniyattukudy, the Uruguayan cricket association’s secretary, told AFP.
“We have 120 players this year. On top of that we’re starting some women’s teams and for now we have 20 people interested. We also have plans for an under-15s league.”
The solution may lie with Uruguay’s most popular football team: Penarol.
Penarol started life as the Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club (CURCC), founded by British railway workers in 1891.
It was a multisport club — but just over 20 years later, its football section broke off and was absorbed by a newly created team, Penarol.
The original club’s cricket section disappeared as football became the main focus — but it was relaunched a week ago.
And crucially, Penarol are planning to build a cricket pitch an hour outside Montevideo.
“When we raised the idea of cricket, there wasn’t much to sort out; everyone was aware of what it meant to the history of the club, we just needed to work out how to make it happen,” said Leonardo Vinas, who is heading up the project.
While many club members signed up to be involved, very few have ever played cricket.
Vinas says the project will take time, not just to spread interest in the sport, but also for the club’s staff to get their heads around the rules of the game.
“Even now, we’re still not clear about certain rules.”


Philippines clinches top two spots in Saudi Arabian women’s bowling competition

Updated 20 May 2019
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Philippines clinches top two spots in Saudi Arabian women’s bowling competition

  • Competitors from Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Philippines, the US, India and Saudi Arabia joined the tournament

ALKHOBAR: The Philippines claimed the top two spots in a bowling championship in Saudi Arabia.

Kryztine Cruz and Irene Pua emerged as champion and runner-up at the Women’s Bowling Championship, which was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation and held on Saturday at the Al-Gosaibi Bowling Center in Alkhobar. Saudi Arabia’s Nahla Adas finished third.

Competitors from Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Philippines, the US, India and the Kingdom entered the tournament. The field was cut by half to 26 after the preliminary round. The top 13 in the first round advanced to the semifinals where the top three qualified for the stepladder finals.

In the first match of the stepladder, Cruz beat Adas 212-158 to earn a shot at No. 1 qualifier Pua. The Eastern Province-based and second-seeded Cruz brought down Pua 243-189 in the title match.

Adas has participated in local championships in addition to competing in the Arab Championship held in Egypt earlier this year. She said she had found “true pleasure” in bowling and that the competition was very vigorous at Al-Gosaibi. 

“I am proud of the presence of Gulf women and the increased awareness and acceptance of winning and losing in the spirit of the game,” said Adas.

“The atmosphere was different and, for the first time, we hosted a bowling championship in our homeland with this number of skilful players of several nationalities. The presence of the first Saudi bowling team by my side in every shot has played a big role in crucial rounds. I’m also grateful for Kuwaiti and Bahraini support until the very end. Jeddah players were also present for the first time ... which means that the competition will become more vigorous in upcoming tournaments with the presence of three Saudi women’s teams.”

The Arab Bowling Championship was won by the hosts Egypt, with Oman claiming silver and Bahrain the bronze. The Saudi women’s team of four finished in seventh place in the team event, but were hopeful that the experience could prove to be a springboard to future success and greater participation of Saudi women in the sport.

Razan Baker, a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Bowling Federation, said after the event that she was “honored” to supervise the team during its first tournament outside the Kingdom.