I’ve been back in Australia for nearly six months after living for ten years in Germany. My trip overseas was a unique experience, and I wouldn’t swap those years for anything, even though they didn’t quite turn out as expected. One of the reasons for that was that I spent most of my time in the land of the long, grilled Bratwurst playing cricket. Yep, you read that right – cricket in Germany.
I played in representative teams everywhere from Hamburg to Munich and also in the local leagues of Berlin and the western German state of North-Rhine Westphalia. I bowled off-spin in snow-covered streets and batted in overcrowded German trains. I even did a fielding session in front of the German Reichstag once. It was cold most of the time, but it was a feeling of home.
Once I fulfilled residency requirements, I was also a regular in the German national team for about five years, visiting countries like Kuwait, Botswana and the Channel Islands with the German adler on my playing shirt. I worked as German cricket’s press spokesman and was a commentator on live TV for the country’s first ever cricket broadcasts. It’s fair to say I was one of Germany’s few minor cricket celebrities. It was an honour, although a bit surreal.
However, being back in Australia this summer has been a huge reality check. Instead of playing in international tournaments in exotic places, I’m now pulling on the whites in the lower divisions of Sydney’s uncompromising Grade Cricket competition. These days, rather than running coaching clinics or posing for photos with confused local politicians, I’m treated to a weekly verbal barrage from some 18-year-old youngster – often at the end of yet another all-too-brief stay at the batting crease. The cricket is tough, disciplined and highly skilled.
So with all the debate about cricket’s changing identity in Australia at the moment – as the focus moves away from test matches to Twenty20 bash and crash – I’m not too concerned about the health of cricket here really. I can assure you, it’s all a long way from Berlin – in a good way.
André Leslie is the author of Batting for Berlin.