Real Madrid and Barcelona to launch professional cricket teams
Hands up time, we made up everything you see below (as most people who read the article might have guessed), as our small contribution to the celebration of telling untruths that is April Fools' day - we hope you enjoyed it. And we’d happily admit that we would love it if it were true: we’re big cricket fans and we think it would be great if Barcelona, Real Madrid and other LaLiga clubs actually did get involved in the sport.
Contrary to popular belief the sport is actually played here in Spain, with Spain being an affiliate member of the ICC, and also see www.cricketspain.es/. There are clubs dotted around the country, here in Madrid there’s lots going on at the Madrid Cricket Club (see @CricketInMadrid on Twitter). Overall it would be great if there was more cricket around - the weather is certainly conducive!
Here’s our April Fool as it went up:
The exhilarating thud of leather on willow...at the football cathedrals of the Bernabéu and the Camp Nou. Attracted by huge global audiences for cricket, club bosses at Real Madrid and Barcelona are planning to launch professional cricket teams “in the near future”, according to a source close to AS, though they are yet to decide in which competition their XIs would play.
The idea of Real Madrid clashing with Barcelona in Cricket Clásicos, or Cricketos as they will be marketed, is seen as a way to massively increase the global appeal of both clubs, with the summer sport having the second biggest worldwide audience after football itself.
In a bid to prepare their local fans for this new venture, with most Spaniards having little idea about the game, the clubs are planning to play two exhibition matches against each other at the Bernabéu and the Camp Nou this summer. And in order to ensure the games are attractive to home fans bosses have decided it will be the players who make up the current first team squads who line up to take part in the matches.
In fact Cristiano, Messi, Benzema, Neymar and their team-mates have already been learning the ropes of the game, with an hour set aside after every football training session to play cricket, with covert nets and wickets having been installed at both Real Madrid City and the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.
“These guys are all natural sportsmen”, said one of the coaches at Real Madrid, Australian Paul Yaleg, “they’ve taken to it like ducks to water… once they realised that trying to field solid cricket balls going at 100mph with just your foot can be very painful.”
At Madrid, Welshman Gareth Bale is being seen as their secret weapon, given he played the game as a school-boy, and he's been instrumental in explaining the cricketing lingo for his team-mates, though apparently Marcelo just cannot get his head around ‘googlies’.
Meanwhile in Barcelona, “Messi is loving batting”, says Barça cricket coach Whadai Isit, from India, “though he kept getting run out at first as he’d go off on these scampering zig-zag runs between the wickets. He’s got the hang of running in a straight line now though”.
The Argentinean’s arch-rival at Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, has taken enthusiastically to the pursuit of yet more hat-tricks, and is showing great promise as a fast bowler. The only problem, as can often be the case in cricket, is etiquette: “Every time he thinks he’s taken a wicket he screams ‘Siiiiiiiiiii!’ at the umpire, and we’re still trying to teach him that it should be ‘Howzat’”, said Yaleg.
James is proving a dab hand with a bat, though is apparently a little weak square of the wicket. He much prefers playing straight and is said to be an "explosive driver".
In preparation for this summer’s Cricketos, which have been approved by the Spanish Cricketing Affiliate Members group, the groundsmen at both the Camp Nou and the Bernabéu have been working overtime to prepare for the new sport. A change can be seen in both centre circles, which are now cut somewhat differently in preparation for being turned into wickets, with the games scheduled for the start of this summer's pre-season.
Some are delighted by the change, with Xavi apparently calling from Qatar to recommend the entire Camp Nou be as well trimmed as a cricket wicket because “anything else is just too rough to play real passing football on”.
One potential fly in the cricketing ointment would be if the sides wanted to play test matches against each other. Current ICC rules say that the five-day version of the game must be played in white, something that is “just not going to happen” according to a Barça source.
Both clubs will be revealing more details of this summer’s exhibition matches and their cricketing plans at 12 noon (CET) today.
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