Cricket is now one of the fastest growing sports in Norway, with its own national team, and it also is said to help players integrate into society and find work. In general, though, Norwegians have not really been bowled over by the game, which is largely played by minorities.
Norway is not a country used to hearing “the thwack of leather on willow” during its (often too brief) summer months, but the sport is gaining striking popularity, largely thanks to minority communities with backgrounds from cricket-playing countries.
“Cricket helps people to be included, getting them back into work, and giving them more of a social life,” according to Yousuf Gilani, secretary general of the Norwegian Confederation of Cricket (Norges Cricketforbund).
Player numbers tripled since 2009
There are now 12,800 players registered in the country, a big increase from just 4,000 four years ago, and there are now a total of 54 clubs. The majority of players are first- and second-generation immigrants from Pakistan and other South Asian countries, as well as some players from Australia and Britain. The game initially came to Norway with the first immigrants from Pakistan in the 1970s, and the first club team was established in the 1980s.
“Cricket is a way of carrying on or recreating important aspects of the popular culture that exists in the countries that the immigrants come from,” Thomas Walle at the Norwegian Folk Museum told newspaper Aftenposten. Walle, a social anthropologist and senior curator, has written a thesis on the sport’s significance for identity among minorities.
“The sport gives people information about organized Norway, and that can then open up access to other arenas,”said Walle. Games at the amateur level are usually played over the whole day, giving plenty of opportunity for socializing, and networking, often with family and friends on the sidelines.
Norway also has a National Cricket Team that has been a member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 2000. Their greatest performance to date was victory in Division Two of the European Championship in 2006, earning them a place in Division Five of the World Cricket League. They were subsequently relegated to Division Eight due to relatively poor performances, but have since included some new and younger players to the team, and are reportedly now playing in better form.
In 2007 the Norwegian Confederation of Cricket became part of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (Norges Idretts Forbund), giving the game further official recognition within the country.
Players at the Ekebergsletta cricket ground in Oslo told Aftenposten that they would like to see more ethnic Norwegians trying the game as well. “We hope that Norwegians will start to play, then we can become better acquainted and learn about each others’ culture. We’re not normally around Norwegians. In cricket you have a good time to get to know each other,” said player Izrar Ahmad from Sinsen Cricket Club, one of the oldest clubs in the country.
Cricket remains relatively exotic in the country, according to Walle. This is partly, he believes, because of the shortage of facilities, and partly because cricket is so much more than just a game. “It constitutes a space that an often marginalized group has control over and gets pleasure from,” he said.