Saturday, June 1, 2013

In conversation with - Brian Mantle, Manager of the German Cricket team

With this post, Karan has made a steady debut at interviewing men who matter!
This one, is with Mr. Brian Mantle, the Manager of the German International Cricket Team (Officially known as the DCB- The Deutscher Cricket Bund) . Well, it is only fair that I start off by thanking him for being kind enough to take some precious time off his schedule to answer my questions about Cricket in Germany. It was due to the plain curiosity to know about the challenges faced to promote Cricket in a predominantly Football-crazy country, that I approached Mr. Mantle. And sure enough, he was generous to oblige this new Germany fan, with an interview.
Getting down to business, here’s what ensued from the questionnaire I had prepared for Mr. Mantle..You would ask,”um… Germany? Do they even play Cricket?” Yes, though they may not be among the world’s best teams, Deutschland is making progress through leaps and bounds. They are currently ranked 37th in the ICC rankings and I hope we see them in the top-twenty very soon.
To make matters familiar with you, Cricket in Germany has been like Football in India, except, these Germans are way better at their Cricket than we are at Football. But yes, the challenges to promote the sports are pretty much the same.
KP: My first and foremost question, Germany is not very known for its Cricket per se. What is the difference you see in German Cricket between the time you joined the DCB and now?
BM:  We have grown in numbers and are developing structures. The structures
means allowing more cricket to take place at youth and adult level and
developing a pathway from junior into senior cricket. It is still early
days but we hope that the decisions being taken now will bear fruit in
one or two years.
KP: What are the kind of things that are associated with the administration side of German Cricket?
BM: The geographical size of Germany makes administration a little
complicated. The distances between clubs is difficult sometimes for the
players in terms of travelling times, but also for the DCB in terms of
getting around the country, meeting people and sharing experiences.
KP:  What are the challenges you face to rope in sponsorship and to get bring this team the attention they deserve from the German media?
BM: Cricket is not well known in Germany and the media that does show an
interest tends to focus on the eccentric side of cricket, it is either
the English sport played by aristocratic gentlemen or the Indian sport
played on the other side of the world. Changing these attitudes and
making Germans realise that cricket is a real sport with millions of
followers is a hard challenge, but we are making progress. Sponsorship
is difficult to find but we have made inroads here in the last few
months. We believe that cricket in Germany is an excellent product that
will only grow over time.
Changing these attitudes and making Germans realise that cricket is a real sport with millions of followers is a hard challenge
KP:  I was curious to know what pool of players does Germany get to choose from? University-level players? Or City-level players?
BM: We have players all over the country. We have British soldiers, Indian
IT experts, Pakistani students and so on. There is an ever increasing
number of Germans playing the game too. We have children playing the game in many clubs and about 40 schools all over the country, we have a
successful women’s team and also opportunities for veteran players to
indulge in their passion for the game.
KP: Do you see youngsters coming through who can match the present team or even surpass them in the future?
BM:  We hope so. We have a talented crop of Under 19s at the moment. It is
realistic to expect to see some of them break through intto the national
team in the next two or three years. At an even younger age, the numbers
are much higher than in the past so I am sure that we will see this
develop in the future as well.
KP:  I wanted to know, why is it that Cricket isn’t followed as much as it should be in Europe? Is it because the game faces condescension from the ‘bigger brother’ (football) or is it just because of the apathy of the general public that the game is suffering from?
BM:  It is none of that really – it is just a case of cricket not being a
part of the culture and having no tradition here.
Of course, football is so big in Germany that all other sports struggle
to compete, but that is not the reason why cricket is not so big.
Cricket is not struggling in Europe, it is booming. I know this from my
colleagues in other countries. Our base was almost nothing, but we are
all expanding very quickly.
Cricket is not struggling in Europe, it is booming.
KP:  Okay, let’s make this one little tougher..
Do you think you have a responsibility to expand this not-really-huge Cricket bandwagon in Germany, not as Brian Mantle the fan but as Brian Mantle, the Gen Manager of a National team?
BM: Of course. Developing cricket is my job, but without a real passion for
cricket, especially German cricket, it would not be possible to attain
good results.
The entire DCB committee takes this role very seriously and we are aware
that we have a huge responsibility to the sport here in Germany.
KP:  What exactly do you think that Germany needs to make it’s Cricket more substantial?
BM: More of everything. More money, more time, more facilities, more
coaches, more umpires, more volunteers in administrative roles.
We try to work on each of these points on a step by step basis.
KP: What according to you, does the future of the game hold for both, Germany and Europe?
BM: In ten years we would like to have established ourselves as a sport in
Germany so that everybody knows what cricket is. We have doubled our
participation in the last five years and we want to continue this growth
in the future.
I am sure that the other European countries are trying to do the same.
KP: Your country is tied with The Bahamas and Mozambique at 37th place in the ICC world rankings    currently. Where do you see the team 2 years down the line?
BM: We would like to have more youngsters coming through the system into the
national team, that is a big target for us.
KP:  How avidly do you follow top-flight Cricket? Which team do you support?
BM : I am English, so avidly support the English national team and I
support the Kent County Cricket Club too. But if by way of a miracle Germany ever played
against England, I would support Germany.
KP:  Which are the players do you really admire and hope that you had one of their sort for Germany?
BM:  My heroes as a kid were Alan Knott and Ian Botham, probably like any
English kid in the 70s and 80s. I am also a big admirer of Shane Warne
who actually has a German mother.
Well, so that’s about it.
Mr. Mantle, for one last time, I can’t thank you enough. Not only for your invaluable time, but also for the great service that you are doing to the game which we all love the most and nurturing the sport in a country where it needs to grow!
Karan Praharaj for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow him on Twitter @IntrepidIndian

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