Wednesday, May 29, 2019

World Beyond the Cup - Tete-a-Tete with Brian Mantle, CEO, Cricket Germany

Image result for german cricket teamThis interview is our second one with Brian. The first one was 6 years back.
We wanted to do a follow up interview go gauge the progress made by German Cricket in these years.

DHCF : What is the difference you see in German Cricket since the time of our last conversation back in 2013? How much has changed in terms of both numbers and structure?

BM: German cricket is completely different to 2013. The numbers have gone through the roof and we now have about 6000 people playing competitive hard ball cricket in Germany. We have an established women's structure with more and more teams and the amount of refugees from cricket playing countries, particularly Afghanistan, has seem men's cricket teams sprouting up all over the country. We have established performance pathways and are currently in the middle of the fifth season of the DCB Super Series which is our performance competition. This didn't exist way back in 2013 and it has seen an improvement in high level cricket.

DHCF: It is so refreshing to see Germany playing against Belgium/Italy not in a football match but a cricket match. What do you think has been the impact of T20I status been given to Associate nations? With official international matches on the horizon, what does it translate into in terms of support and growth?

BM: It intensifies everything we do. These games being T20Is adds meaning to all the games. There is also a clear and simple structure to ICC T20 tournaments and every country now knows what they have to do in order to reach the next stage of World Cup qualification and even to get to the biggest stage of all. In T20 cricket at least the glass ceilings have been taken out.

DHCF: Recent performances against Belgium were encouraging and Germany is now at 34th position. How is Germany planning to build on it?

BM: We are very ambitious and have high aspirations. We have a lot to do to reach these targets but like all ICC members we want to knock on the door of the countries above us in the pecking order. At this stage this means aspiring to beat the likes of Denmark and Italy in the same way that Denmark aspires to play and beat the likes of the Netherlands and so on. In order to do that we are changing many of the things that we have done in the past. This means rethinking our performance programmes, investing in the likes of strength and conditioning coaches for our national team players and offering better facilities. It is not always possible to do everything at once, but we are improving all the time.

DHCF: What are the short term, medium term and long term targets set out for the team and the board?

BM: For both our women's and men's teams the aspiration is to get to a global qualifier for the T20 World Cup and then compete against the top Associate nations. That may or may not happen this summer, but we are already looking at the next round of tournaments. In the medium term we want to be a top associate country on the field as well as off it and then move on from there.

DHCF: What is the domestic cricket structure like at present?

BM: We have a number of leagues at all levels all over the country. There are national championships for 50 overs and T20 for the men and a T20 championship for the women. We are also running our first ever national championship in tapeball cricket this summer. We estimate that there are more than 10,000 people playing this form of the game in Germany and we want to integrate them into our structures.

DHCF: Is the sport gaining in popularity? What measures are being taken to popularise it and improve the standard of cricket in Germany?

BM: It is tough to get Germans interested but it is slowly happening. To really make inroads we need to get cricket on TV. In terms of improving cricket for those playing the biggest issue will be to get better facilities. This means better grounds with better outfields and maybe turf pitches. We have a few ideas in this respect and hope to announce something in the next year or so.

DHCF: Many players from associate teams have made it big in T20 cricket with all these leagues taking place? Euro League is also on the cards. Are German players in contention to be part of it?

BM: I hope so. In order to do that our best players have to be performing at ICC events. They will have this opportunity in Guernsey in June.

DHCF: Has the infrastructural support and funding/sponsorship improved in the past 6 years?

BM: Yes, we get more support from ICC as a result of our participation growth and sponsorship has also grown. We still need to grow this area of German cricket so if anybody wants to put their name to a country that is growing sustainably, then they can get in touch.

DHCF: Last time you said - "Changing these attitudes and making Germans realise that cricket is a real sport with millions of followers is a hard challenge". How much progress has been made from this aspect?

BM: It is still one of our biggest challenges. The German sport scene has realised that cricket is being played but it is still a mystery to the average German in the street. This is a long term project.

DHCF: Last time you said - "Cricket is not struggling in Europe, it is booming". Do you stand by it? How much progress do you see in Europe as a whole?

BM: I now realise that maybe it wasn't booming in 2013. What has since happened with the refugees has been a boom. All of the European countries are competitive and are finding ways to improve. This in turn motivates other countries to up their game. Things are really progressing well but we need to realise that we have a million miles still to go.

DHCF: We guess you must be rooting for England this WC. Do you think they will finally make it happen?

BM: I think England have a great chance but you never know. I have tipped England to be joined by India and Australia in the semi finals and my surprise package will be the West Indies. It would be great if they did well.

Mr. Mantle, again, we 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!

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