Alexander Mackay padding up
Alexander Mackay, 48; "Cricket is a science"

ForumSport – SonntagsZeitung, 20. February 2011

 

<<For someone that does not understand the

intricacies, it can be boring>>

The English Cricket Expert Alexander Mackay on the attraction

and dangers of this game - and the “Bad Boys”

 

The local sports fan knows that the World Cup and Olympic Games attract the most TV viewers. The third most popular event on the other hand is beyond most Swiss: This is the Cricket World Cup,  translated into over 200 countries and has 2.2 billion viewers, which began yesterday and on 2 April reaches its final. Over the next few weeks among them will be Alexander Mackay. The Londoner moved to Switzerland in 1986 and joined the Winterthur Cricket Club. Today the 48-year-old is the vice-President, has served as treasurer for the Swiss Cricket Association and is a qualified Umpire.

Alexander Mackay, cricket has a reputation for being extremely boring. Why?
It is a game that does not have non-stop action. And it is steeped in tactics and strategy. For someone that does not understand these intricacies, it can be boring.

What is the fascination of this sport?
Cricket is a science: When a bowler comes in to bowl, he does not only think of the three stumps (the wooden sticks). He also considers the batsman’s weaknesses and chooses bowling variations and the speed of the ball accordingly. The batsman, on the other hand, tries to see through the strategy of his opponent. It is a team sport and yet everyone is an individual on the field.

I have the image of an old boys' sport.
Sure, it is not an endurance sport, but more like curling. In cricket there are skills learned and never forgotten. And a batsman only runs a maximum of 20 meters. An old man can manage that. But the professionals are fully-trained. They play into their 30’s, and then most have to stop because of injuries.

There are injuries?
The bowlers bowl at speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour. Long term this causes back problems. That’s why there are very strict regulations for the juniors. There are also a lot of broken fingers. When I started playing cricket I played without a helmet. Today, the women joke about it when they say: "Cricketers always considered safety between their legs. But it took years before they thought of the head."

Are women not attracted by this sport?

In England or Australia, women have their own leagues. In Switzerland they play along-side the men. But for many a game simply takes too long: The games in the World Cup will be played in "One Day" format. Test cricket, such as the "Ashes", the traditional clash between Australia and England, last five days. But the die-hard British fans travel everywhere creating a real party atmosphere. 

Alexander Mackay, undefeated 8no
Alexander Mackay, after an undefeated innings at the T20 in Berne (2010)

How established is cricket in Switzerland?
There are two umbrella organizations that have unfortunately fallen out. A total of 23 clubs exist throughout the country, Ticino is the exception. We have 450+ juniors and as many seniors. The youngsters are very competitive with the top nations at an international level.

Cricket is popular in Commonwealth countries. Are there Hugentoblers and Muellers, playing?
Of course. Kurt Ziegler and Karl Walter, to name just two, were Swiss internationals. About 20 percent of cricketers in this country are Swiss, of course, many with a foreign background. But that's the beauty: British, Indians, Pakistanis, Tamils ... All play together here and the political problems are forgotten.

But there are also horrific headlines: in 2009 the national team of Sri Lanka was attacked by terrorists in Pakistan.
It's always bad when sport is used for political purposes. The Pakistanis have been involved in most of the negative headlines; they seem to be the Bad Boys of cricket. Last year there was the betting scandal. Pakistan have been forced to withdraw as co-organisers of the World Cup - because of security concerns.

But the Pakistan are one of the favourites in the World Cup, along with Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. Where will you watch the games?
In the pub, I'll probably have to take a couple of days off work. I listen to the radio too. Cricket is an ideal sport for that. As I said, a match takes a long time and one cannot watch TV all day. The play, however, is described very well on radio. And when I listen to the radio I can still do something else.

 

Sonntags Zeitung interview (am) Zurich, 20 Feb 2011
Original newspaper cutting of the Sonntags Zeitung interview with Swiss cricket's Alexander Mackay on the eve of the opening day of the ICC World Cup.
SonntagsZeitungPortrait.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document [1.2 MB]
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