In Joseph O’Neill’s majestic meditation of the life of a Dutch immigrant in New York City, Netherland, the author finds comfort in the company of fellow immigrants who are tied by the bond of cricket. Instead of the hyper-active, hyper-mediated sport as played and witnessed in the Indian subcontinent, O’Neill presents the sport in a context where England’s finest export is a quiet binder of disparate strangers in a strange land. But hang on. Did we just say ‘England’s finest export’? It turns out that O’Neill’s Dutch cricket-loving protagonist’s home country, Flanders, is the original home of ‘creckette’.
An Australian and German research team has analysed a poem, ‘The Image of Ipocrisie’, written in 1533 by English poet John Skelton, and has concluded that cricket was brought to England by Flemish weavers who settled in the 14th century.
Even as the names Jeroen Smits, Tom de Grooth and Geert-Maarten Mol don’t resonate as cricketers in cricket-crazy India — let alone in their own country, Holland — the knowledge that cricket’s birthplace is not Lord’s or its vicinity but somewhere in the Dutch lowlands is humbling for Anglophiles across the world. Not to mention the irony of this fact being discovered by an Australian and a German.