Wednesday, June 29, 2005 (Havana)
Youngsters in eastern Havana have been practicing with the plastic stumps and cricket balls, donated by the Canadian Cricket Association.
This is a vast improvement, considering that they took to the game using balls made of rags and cricket bats carved out of old doorposts.
While the Secretary of the Cuban Cricket Commission, Reina Mendez, promotes the game, her husband prepares the equipments.
And even though there aren’t always enough bats for everyone, it hasn’t stopped a growing number of Cubans from taking to the sport.
“I began observing this game in Guantnamo when I was just a baby, five or six years old, and then I enjoyed it. And now I’m trying to do my best for my ancestors,” said Reina Mendez.
Help from India
Also helping the Cubans develop their newfound passion is the Indian diplomatic community.
Not only do they donate some of the bats, balls and pads used, but people like Santosh Rawat, an attache with the embassy in Havana, gives coaching tips to budding cricketers on weekends.
“They seem to be picking up the game quite better. They are very good in fielding and throwing and batting. They are quite good on the leg side because it probably comes from baseball,” said Santosh Rawat, Indian embassy attache.
And there certainly seems to be an improvement. The game has more than 2000 converts in nine of Cuba’s 13 provinces.
Ironically, cricket used be a favourite in the country in the 1950s, but died down with President Fidel Castro taking the helm.
And even though the President is himself a keen baseball fan, hopefully he too might trade bases and mounds for stumps and bails.