Our goal is to get more people to play cricket and raise the standard of the national teams – Brian Mantle, CEO of German Cricket Federation

For a sport that was first introduced over 150 years ago, Germany is not a country that is associated with cricket. A powerhouse in the football world, Germans never fail to make their voices heard at sporting venues and have some of the most passionate supporters in the world. The influx of people from different backgrounds, especially from the Indian subcontinent has played a big role in cricket gaining some relevance in the country, but it still has a long way to go to become one of the more ‘popular’ sports, especially amongst the younger generation.

In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Brian Mantle, Chief Executive Officer at the German Cricket Federation speaks about promoting cricket, grassroot development, overcoming challenges, raising the standard of cricket and his future goals and aspirations.

Q 1) Germany is known for its fantastic atmosphere in football stadiums, especially in the Bundesliga. How is the German Cricket Federation working towards promoting cricket amongst the younger population?

We are currently in the process of rolling out a completely new process in schools. It is a project that has been organised and developed by the ICC called CRIIIO. This is an entry level programme for total beginners to learn cricket for the first time. It has been translated into the German language and we hope to go to 200 schools every year to introduce German children to cricket because children and junior players are probably the only way to bring cricket to the masses here. We think cricket has a lot of benefits for Germans. It is different and interesting for the people here, for example it is not Football which of course is very dominant here.

We also believe it develops intercultural communication because if you play cricket you’ve got people playing from India, Pakistan, Australia and England as well as Germans so it is very interesting in that regard. Additionally, the spirit of cricket, good manners and good behaviour, I think is very important for young people. We are doing a lot of that but we are also doing a lot of other things. Things related to marketing for which I can not go into too much detail at the moment but you will see some very interesting things happening on our social media over the next two or three weeks. Things we are doing to get more German people to know about cricket. It is not known here. I think everyone here knows it exists but it is not really in the public consciousness but we are getting there slowly.

Q 2) How is the German Cricket Federation working at the grassroots to pave a way for aspiring cricketers in the country?

The first level is the schools and clubs I already told you about earlier where we get them to play Cricket for the first time. We also run leagues such as softball leagues and hardball leagues in various age groups and various parts of Germany. Some of them are very small, some are growing, and some are quite big. Then from that we take the most talented players and we give them special training through the German Cricket Academy run by an Indian, Abhijit Khan. He provides top-level performance cricket for the best aspiring cricketers. We hope that some of these players will play for Germany one day. In fact, from our national team at the moment, several of the players played for youth teams and youth structures in Germany.

We have been successful in the past so we have to make sure that it continues to happen in the future as well. That is not just for the boys but for girls’ cricket and women’s cricket is a massive part of what we do. Maybe, in some ways even more important than the men because we feel that womens’ cricket is a way for us to profile ourselves. In our Womens’ National team about 50-70 percent of the players are German born and bred and they have learnt cricket for the first time here and our women are ranked 25 in the world at the moment.

Q 3) As Chief Executive Officer at German Cricket Federation, what are the various challenges that you have faced? How did you overcome them?

Well firstly, cricket is a small sport here played very often by expatriates. People who have learnt cricket in their home countries which is why we have a lot of Indian and Pakistani students here. We also have many people who work in the IT sector or as engineers. We have a lot of people who come here as refugees, specially in the last 5-6 years from Afghanistan so integration is a big part of it. Getting people to play together.

The other challenge is ofcourse finance. We are very thankful that the ICC supports the associate nations with grants, but obviously we are trying to increase our income so that we can improve all of the things that we do. The biggest problem that we probably have is facilities. A cricket ground is twice as big as a football ground so to get a flat field where the grass is cut short and is the size of two football fields is very difficult in Germany.

I'll give you an example, we have two cricket grounds at the Olympic stadium in Berlin. The greenkeepers there are exactly the same people who do the stadium next door and they will not cut the grass short enough because they say that it is not good for the grass. There is a little bit of a lack of knowledge from people who are incharge of the facilities about what we need to play cricket.

screenshot-2021-06-30-at-20718-pm Our goal is to get more people to play cricket and raise the standard of the national teams - Brian Mantle, CEO of German Cricket Federation

Q 4) How much of a boost has the national performance centre in Krefeld been to raise the standard of cricket in Germany?

It has been massive because this club has a big piece of land which is very well manicured and is big enough to play international cricket on. Our players are now playing proper cricket, if they play a shot, the ball goes to the boundary rather than getting caught in long grass. The other thing is we have an indoor centre with a three lane net facility and bowling machines which gives all of our national teams the opportunity to train regularly, especially during winter as in Germany, we have long winters and people can't go outside. Now our players can go to the sports hall and face the bowling machines and play cricket as often as they want so it's definitely a huge impact. Next Thursday, we have the first T20 Internationals there with our women's team who are playing against France. Indian fans can watch the game live on Fancode. There are 5 T20Is in this series and it will be the first time we will be having international matches. In T20Is a game between Germany and France now has the same status as a game between England and India. We know that the quality is not as good, but we are getting there.

Q 5) For a country that is a powerhouse in the football world, do you envision German cricket to one day become as popular?

No. Absolutely not, it's unrealistic as German football is huge. The German Football Federation is the biggest sports federation in the world, we are very small in comparison. All we want is that Germany gets into a situation where everyone in the country knows that cricket exists. Everybody who wants to participate in cricket, whether it's a man, woman, child, maybe even veterans, umpires or scorers – everyone has the opportunity to participate in cricket and that we cover the whole country and age groups, that's our target basically. In terms of performance level, we want to get close to being one of the top associates in the World. At the moment we are maybe at the second group of associates, but we want to go upto the top level at some point in the next ten years.

Q 6) What are your goals and aspirations for cricket in Germany in the future? How do you plan to achieve it?

We have six parts. We have a new strategy which came out about three months ago. It consisted of six main parts with the first one being more participation – we want more people to play cricket. We have about 7000 people playing hardball cricket in Germany, but if you add the people playing softball cricket, it would be about 15,000 people and we want to increase that year on year. We want more umpires, more scorers and more coaches. We also want women's cricket to develop and have the intention of quadrupling the amount of teams playing women's cricket. We need more women's coaches and girls cricket to develop with under 19 structures for girls. We want more children playing cricket at all levels right from the youngest age to the under 19. We want cricket to have a higher profile and want our national teams to be successful, so that, like I mentioned before, when people talk about top associate nations they mention Germany in those conversations as well. For example, our men are playing the European Finals this year in the European T20 World Cup in Spain in October. We want to qualify from that tournament so that we can go to the global qualifier next year where we will be playing against some of the top countries in the world.


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