It is little known that cricket is one of the oldest of the modern sports in Mexico and the Mexico Union Cricket Club (MUCC) in Mexico City is one of the oldest cricket clubs in the world outside the British Isles. The MUCC was founded in 1827 by British merchants and diplomats living in Mexico, just six years after the fledgling new Republic had gained independence from Spain. Since the creation of the MUCC, cricket has had an eventful history in Mexico. The Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian von Habsburg, turned his arm over and wielded the willow at a game in 1865.
A four-team cricket league based on the English County Championship was created in 1900 and around this time plans were afoot for a Mexico team to tour the United States and Canada. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Mexican government and elites took to the game. The Finance Minister Jose Yves Limantour was the Honorary President of the Mexico City Club (MCC) in 1900 and the sons of prominent Mexican families played cricket.
Cricket survived the Revolution of 1910 – 1920, and Mexico welcomed England great Fred Trueman to the country as part of a touring British Airways team in the 1970s. In the March of this year the other MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) visited Mexico for the first time and brought a side featuring Scottish internationals Alasdair Evans and Con de Lange.
Cricket is still going today and the Mexico Cricket Association, the governing body for all things cricket in Mexico, is gearing up for another busy season, which begins in late September and ends in late May. The Mexico Cricket Association has been part of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 2004 – joining as an Affiliate and becoming an Associate this year - and is included in the ICC Americas region.
The home of the Mexico Cricket Association and the place where league and social matches are played is the beautiful, picturesque Reforma Athletic Club in Mexico City, a mere 2,500 metres above sea level. The Reforma Athletic Club has the second highest turf wicket in the world and the high altitude, according to Ben Owen, the Chairman of the Mexico Cricket Association, means that “after about an over and a half, most quick bowlers are waiting for the end of their turn”.
Underpinning the Mexican cricket season is a 20-over league in which the venerable MUCC, the Reforma Athletic Club, the Aztecs, and Aguilas play for the Lincoln Clarke Trophy. The trophy is named for Mr. Lincoln Clarke, a gentleman from St. Vincent who did so much to run and develop cricket in Mexico in the 1970s and 1980s. Mr. Clarke hooked Fred Trueman for four during the England paceman’s visit to Mexico and he still holds the record for the highest ever score in Mexico – 217 not out in a team total of 240 in a 30-over game.
The current champions are the MUCC who will be looking to defend their crown this season. Interspersed around the league matches are a variety of friendly 20-over social fixtures, such as the Ambassador’s Cup, India vs Pakistan, ANZAC Day, Cricketers vs Footballers, and Asia vs Rest of the World. Social games are open to all, regardless of ability, which is just as well as some of us wouldn’t be able to get a game otherwise. The Ambassador’s Cup is a season highlight in which a team representing Mexico and teams representing Britain, India, and Australia captained by their respective ambassadors play each another over a long weekend of cricket.
Games are generally played on a Sunday afternoon. Before the matches take place, Sunday mornings are devoted to the Mexico Cricket Association’s junior development programme – Las Iguanas – where boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13 ages are taught cricket, including hand eye coordination skills, batting, bowling, and fielding technique, and the spirit of cricket, in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment.
Cricket is also taught to school children in Tequisquiapan, a small town to the north of Mexico City in the state of Querétaro. This year a mixed junior Mexico team will make their first ever overseas tour when they go to Santiago for games against youth teams from Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.
The Mexico Cricket Association is working hard to get more Mexicans involved in the game and expand the small player base beyond players from the traditional cricketing nations. There are plans to introduce cricket into schools in Mexico City and to start women’s cricket in Mexico City’s universities as an alternative to football and basketball. The Mexico Cricket Association hopes one day to field a women’s team to represent Mexico at international events.
The international men’s team, meanwhile, regularly takes part in the 20-over South American Championships and the 20-over Central American Championships. In October, Mexico will take part in the 2017 South American Championships in Buenos Aires against the hosts Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and a Uruguay XI, and will be looking to repeat the success of 2014 when it won the championship in Peru.
The 2014 edition of the South American Championships was Mexico’s first appearance in the competition and it overcame Chile in the final by 20 runs. The Mexico Cricket Association was instrumental in setting up the first Central American Championships in Belize in 2006 and then went on to host and win the tournament the following year. Mexico came second in the 2009 edition and won the tournament again in 2013. When Mexico won the 2014 South American Championships it was, therefore, both the Central and South American champions simultaneously!
As well as participating in international tournaments, the Mexico Cricket Association has hosted touring sides from different countries. Over the 18 and 19 of March of this year the Marylebone Cricket Club were in town for a series of 20-over matches at the Reforma Athletic Club before heading off to Belize with Mexico to contest the 2017 Central American Championships. The Mexico Cricket Association is looking to build on the success of the MCC’s visit and is actively looking to host international teams every year in Mexico.
Cricket is not just confined to the capital Mexico City, although it is the strong hold of the sport in Mexico. A thousand miles away to the south east as the crow flies in the Yucatan peninsula is the Cancun Cricket Club in the tropical tourist resort of Cancun. In the Western Pacific region, there are plans this year to organise cricket in Mexico’s second city of Guadalajara, the birth place of Mariachis, tequila, and the West Ham footballer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
The season opens in Mexico City at the Reforma Athletic Club and closes in the sleepy pueblo mágico (magical town) of Tequisquiapan in the state of Querétaro for the Tequis 6s. A definite rival to the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes, at the Tequis 6s the junior and senior players, their families and pets, and all those connected to the Mexico Cricket Association whose hard work and dedication have helped to make the season possible come together on a weekend for friendly sixes games and a barbeque. The Tequis 6s is a wonderful social occasion and a great way to unwind and reflect on the season just gone, but no sooner has the weekend ended than planning starts anew for the new season!
Craig White is the Secretary of the Mexico Cricket Association and a specialist in Mexican history