The jet-set Swiss resort of St Moritz is famous for its skiing and Cresta Run, but the frozen lake is also the unlikely venue for an annual winter cricket tournament.This content was published on February 8, 2006 - 09:48
The 1988 brainchild of a Swiss anglophile, the Cricket on Ice tournament has enticed teams from India, Hong Kong and South Africa to play in sub-zero temperatures.
This year, the 17th time the tournament has been held, the Swiss side Winterthur Cricket Club lifted the trophy after a closely fought triangular contest against London club Old Cholmeleians and pupils from the Lyceum Alpinum international school in nearby Zuoz.
Tournament founder and organiser Daniel Haering told swissinfo that Cricket on Ice was born 18 years ago when he and some English friends arrived for a skiing holiday in St Moritz, in canton Graubünden, only to find there was no snow.
"We were trying to figure out what to do with ourselves when we suddenly had the idea of playing a game of cricket on the lake," he said.
Haering, a former pupil at Lyceum Alpinum, asked the school to send a team and equipment, and a spontaneous idea came to fruition.
The match was such a success that Haering set about persuading the local tourist authorities to give the tournament a space on the ice each year.
The tournament snowballed into an annual event with teams invited from around the world, including a British Army XI and a side comprising police officers from Cape Town, South Africa.
"The South Africans had never even seen snow before and suddenly they were playing cricket in a blizzard at minus 20 degrees Celcius," Haering said.
"They hadn't thought to bring any gloves and their fingers were so frozen they couldn't catch the ball. I had to run around the town to find 11 pairs of gloves so they could play properly."
Former England international cricket stars David Gower and Allan Lamb have also played in previous years. Gower had the misfortune to park his car on a thin patch of ice, which had to be rescued before it sank to the bottom of the lake.
The bat and ball game is traditionally played in summer on grass from the village greens of England to the Asian sub-continent, southern Africa, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.
But the dazzling white surface of the frozen lake framed by spectacular alpine mountains in February is one of the most unlikely places that anyone would expect to see the quintessentially English sport.
"The unique setting is part of the charm of this tournament," said Haering. "We always draw a good crowd of cricket fans and bemused Swiss who scratch their heads wondering what's going on.
"The games are always played with a marvellous spirit and the tournament is as much about the social occasion as the matches."
Players need to wrap up in thermals, gloves and hats and have footwear with a good grip to stop them from slipping on the outfield.
"The first thing players have to get used to is the cold and the thin atmosphere at this altitude," Haering explained. "You need to move to keep warm, but it's not so easy to keep running at 6,000 feet.
But despite the unusual conditions, the event is the season's highlight for many clubs, including regular attendees Old Cholmeleians, former pupils of London's Highgate School, which has a close connection with Lyceum Alpinum.
"Cricket on Ice has become the highlight of our calendar," said captain John Zani. "Where else can we play cricket in such a spectacular setting and have so much fun?"
swissinfo, Matthew Allen in St Moritz
Cricket on Ice has been staged on the frozen lake of St Moritz since 1988.
Swiss side Winterthur Cricket Club from canton Zurich won the 2006 triangular tournament.
The other two teams to take part were Lyceum Alpinum international school from Zuoz and London team Old Cholmeleians
The next Cricket on Ice tournament is scheduled for February 2-3, 2007
Cricket was introduced to Switzerland by the English and the earliest evidence of a match being played in the country is depicted in an 1817 painting of a game in Geneva.
There are now 15 teams playing league and cup cricket in Switzerland under the auspices of the Swiss Cricket Association (formed in 1980).
Switzerland was granted affiliate status to cricket's ruling body, the International Cricket Council, in 1985. The Swiss national cricket team regularly plays against other European countries.
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