The term ‘giant-killers’ has become synonymous with the Iceland football team over the last couple of years. For a country with a population of just 334,000, a victory over England in a Round of 16 match of the 2016 European Championship, or, a 1-1 stalemate against Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a Group-D fixture of the recently concluded FIFA World Cup, were nothing less than fairy tales. Their ‘Viking Thunderclap’ celebration has entered popular folklore and is emblematic of the Icelanders’ relentless competitiveness in different walks of life.
Maybe, it won’t be too long before we hear Iceland’s trademark thunderclap on a cricket ground too! Yes, you’ve heard that right. The Icelandic cricket team—led by twenty-five-year-old Guyana-born off-spinning allrounder, Derick Deonarain—will be seen squaring off against another relatively unfamiliar cricketing nation, Switzerland, in a couple of international matches in the UK later this month, in what will be a historic moment for both teams. With Iceland yet to achieve accreditation from the European Cricket Council, people within the Krikketsamband Íslands (as the Icelandic Cricket Board is known in the local tongue) set-up, will be eyeing the upcoming UK tour as a means to mark their arrival on the global stage.
Cricfit.com correspondent, Ritam Basu recently had the opportunity to speak to the Iceland captain, Derick Deonarain and discuss the roadmap for the future of cricket in Iceland.
Here are the excerpts:-
Q: You originally hail from Guyana. At what age did you move over to Iceland and why?
Deonarain: I moved to Iceland when I was twenty-two-years-old and got married to my friend Annie who is an Icelandic citizen.
Q: Tell us about your formative years in cricket. Did you have any role-model when you started playing the game?
Deonarain: I started playing cricket when I was ten years old as an off-spinner. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was my idol.
Q: The official Twitter profile of Iceland Cricket bears the claim that the game was founded in Iceland in 911 A.D and that, it is the ‘’birthplace’’ of cricket. However, in an interview with the Sports360 website, Jakob Roberston, chairman of Krikketsamband Islands, had said that cricket first came to Iceland only in 1999. Which of the above statements is true?
Deonarain: The first one as the Iceland Cricket president was not born during that era.
Q: There are only two domestic cricket teams in Iceland: the Reykjavík Vikings and Kópavogur Puffins. Is there any effort on the part of the Icelandic Cricket Board to increase the number of domestic sides in a bid to promote the game in the country?
Deonarain: The Icelandic population is much lesser compared to some of the other cricket-playing countries. This year we are planning to organize a super sixes tournament to promote the game in Iceland.
Q: The Pepsi Cup, held in Prague in 2016, was the first major international assignment for the Icelandic Cricket Team. Talk us through Iceland’s journey in that tournament.
Deonarain: It was our first proper cricket tournament where we got to switch sides and play on a proper oval field. It was a big opportunity for all the members associated with the team to showcase their talent in front of the world. We were so excited that we forgot to take any ball with us! We asked other teams to give us leather balls for practice.
Q: Reports suggest that Iceland will embark on a tour to England in July to play four matches, including one against the Swiss Cricket Team. Has the tour been finalized? Kindly furnish us with some details regarding the proposed tour.
Deonarain: Yes, the tour is confirmed. Iceland will play an ODI, a T20 game and a hundred-ball game against Switzerland on July 27th and 28th. We are also slated to play against the MCC and the Authors Cricket Club in order to gain some match practice.
Q: The weather is a major obstacle to playing any sport in Iceland, let alone cricket. What are the adversities that cricketers in Iceland are confronted with, especially when the indoor facilities are not that favourable for cricket unlike football?
Deonarain: Weather is always a major issue for us. There are no permanent indoor facilities for the team, nor is there any permanent professional coach, who can stay with us all the time.
Q: How many cricket stadiums are there in Iceland at present?
Deonarain: Zero at the moment, but we play on astro field turf sometimes.
Q: Iceland Cricket has generated quite a buzz on social media platforms of late—all thanks to their innovative content and witty comments. Is there any professional administrative system in place that oversees the promotional and marketing affairs of Iceland Cricket?
Deonarain: It’s a secret, but we will keep entertaining you all the time.
Q: Who, apart from you, are the pillars of the Icelandic Cricket team at present?
Deonarin: Abhishek Chauhan, our event organizer (Iceland); Iceland Cricket president, Jakob Wayne Robertson; Kit Harris, our tour organizer, and our coach, Darren Talbot.
Q: The Icelandic team mainly comprises expats. Is the game at all familiar to the native masses of Iceland?
Deonarain: We have two natives in the team at the moment: Jakob, who is both the president and a player, and Iselifur, who has just started playing cricket.
Q: Earlier this year, a crowdfunding campaign was launched by Iceland Cricket in a bid to raise money for meeting the expenses of the proposed UK tour. Is the sponsorship money contributed by a host of Reddit users (around 69,000 of them) expected to provide a major boost to Icelandic cricket in general?
Deonarain: Money always helps in whatever sport are you play. It helps cut down on the playing and travelling expenses and helps us purchase cricket gear. We have to import each and every gear from the UK and India as there are no shops supplying cricket equipments here in Iceland.
Q: Iceland Cricket, I believe, is planning to organize a T20 competition along the lines of the Indian Premier League. Even the acronym of the proposed event is the same as that of the cash-rich league. Can you furnish us with some details on the same?
Deonarain: Yes, of course. We are planning to organize a five-team tournament called the Islensk Premier League (IPL). It is modelled on the Hong Kong Super Sixes and the primary aim will be to spread the game in Iceland.
Q: The Icelandic football team has established its reputation as ‘giant killers’ on the international football circuit. How big a thing is it for the people of Iceland when their football team defeats England, or draws against Argentina, for instance? Are you satisfied with Iceland’s performance in this World Cup?
Deonarain: It was the first time that they qualified for the World Cup and they did an amazing job by managing a draw against Argentina, who boast such a rich history. People of Iceland breathe football akin to how Indians breathe cricket.
Q: Funds will be a crucial factor if cricket in Iceland is to come out of its crib and embrace the wider world. How do you think the ICC can intervene to promote the game in Iceland and what, in your view, should the blueprint be for Iceland Cricket in general, keeping the next five years in mind?
Deonarain: The ICC can help us by providing proper infrastructure for practice, as currently, we have to wait for the footballers to end their practice sessions before we can start our own. It’s all because we share the same field. We want to practice three to five times a week, and for that, proper training facilities—especially a ground of our own—will be a must.
Q: My last question. As captain of the Icelandic cricket team, what are your expectations from 2018?
Deonarain: The UK Tour will be right up there in my list as far as priorities are concerned. We have already been there once in 2017 and hence, we have a fair idea about the conditions over there and our players’ strengths and weaknesses in those conditions. We should give them a good fight.
We shall also go on a Prague tour later this year, which would be our third tour to that place. I expect ourselves to finish among the top four teams or proceed even further. We know how different it is to play in Prague as compared to other places. It promises to be a fruitful year for us.