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Cricket legends take game to new heights

Cricket stars took their sport to a rather unconventional venue - the snowy heights of the Jungfraujoch

(Keystone)

Swiss mountains are more used to skiing than cricket but former stars, including Indian legend Kapil Dev, have brought the sport to the top of the Jungfrau.

Kapil led his side of ex-India players 3,454 metres up the famous mountain in the Bernese Oberland on Saturday against an international cast of a British all-star team during an exhibition match. India won 109-105.

The teams competed in the rarefied air and snow on an artificial pitch specially flown in from India.

Conditions were far removed from the usual cricket venues of Madras, Cape Town, Sydney and Barbados.

The brainchild behind such an unusual concept is Urs Kessler, chief executive of the Jungfraubahn railway, which takes tourists from the picturesque town of Grindelwald to the Jungfrau plateau.

Two years ago Kessler arranged a successful exhibition football match on the mountain, featuring many household names of the sport to promote both the region and the Euro 2008 championship, which was co-hosted by Switzerland.

Tourism

"In such difficult economic times it is vital to promote the tourist destination to key markets. When I visited India I noticed the huge popularity of cricket and the appeal of its star players," Kessler told swissinfo.ch.

"In India, Kapil Dev is revered like the footballer Maradona in other parts of the world. I put this information together with our successful football match on the Jungfrau to create this concept of a cricket game in the same venue."

The six-a-side exhibition match certainly attracted the attention of the media in India, with more than 50 journalists being ferried over by event sponsor Swiss International Air Lines.

In addition to Kapil, the 1983 World Cup winning captain, the Indian side included names such as Roger Binny and Ajay Jadeja.

The British opposition contained former England stars John Embury and Chris Broad, but also West Indian Alvin Kallicharran and former New Zealand captain Geoff Howarth.

Swiss history

"My first thought was to stage an India versus Pakistan match but the political situation between the two countries made that too difficult," Kessler told swissinfo.ch. "Britain is also an important market for us, so we decided to form another team from there."

Cricket is no stranger to Switzerland, with the first known club established in 1872, in Geneva. The Swiss Cricket Association has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the game's global governing body, since 1985.

Some 20 clubs, spread between Geneva, Winterthur, Basel, Bern, Geneva, Zug and other venues, compete in annual league and Cup competitions. The Swiss national side also competes in ICC competitions at senior and junior level.

Switzerland also has a tradition for playing cricket – normally a summer sport –in the snow. The frozen lake of St Moritz has played host to an annual tournament since 1988, sometimes played even in blizzards.

This event attracted famous cricket faces including David Gower and Allan Lamb, but it is doubtful whether so many big names of yesteryear have congregated in Switzerland at the same time.

Matthew Allen, swissinfo.ch

The big match

The Indian team, led by Kapil Dev, took on an all-star team from Britain on the Jungfrau on Saturday, August 15.

The Indian team: Kapil Dev, Ajay Jadeja, Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny, Anshuman Gaekwad and Syed Krimani.

The British team: John Embury, Chris Broad, Alvin Kallicharran, Geoff Howarth, Neal Radford and Collis King.

A playing surface 100-metres long and 70-metres wide had been prepared on the Jungfrau plateau. An artificial wicket was flown in from India.

The match lasted approximately 45 minutes.

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Cricket in Switzerland

The first recorded game of cricket in Switzerland was staged at Plainpalais, Geneva, in 1817.

The Geneva Cricket Club was formed in 1827.

The inaugural meeting of the Swiss Cricket Association was on March 9, 1980. The SCA became an affiliate member of the ICC in 1985.

Twenty clubs are associate members of the SCA and compete in annual league and cup competitions.

The senior and junior national sides take part in international ICC tournaments.

There are around 500 adults and 700 juniors actively playing cricket in Switzerland.

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