Cricket a 'foreign import to England'?

Cricket is considered the quintessential English pastime. But, a new research has claimed that it is actually a foreign import to Britain.

updated: March 01, 2009 09:24 IST
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Cricket, the most widely played sport in the world, is considered the quintessential English pastime. But, a new research has claimed that the gentleman's game is actually a foreign import to Britain.

Researchers have uncovered evidence that cricket was imported to England by northern Europe immigrants who settled in the country from 14th century onwards and that it was first resisted by the local population.

In fact, this claim by the researchers from England's traditional cricketing rival Australia, clearly challenges the traditional theory that cricket evolved from children's games played in Britain since Anglo-Saxon times, leading newspaper 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

They have actually based their findings on an analysis of a 1533 poem which they uncovered. It has a reference to the sport in a 1533 poem, attributed to John Skelton, in which he links it to immigrants from Flanders, in modern day Belgium, France and Holland.

In the work, 'The Image of Ipocrisie' -- much of which is a diatribe against parts of the Church, Skelton appears to rail against the Flemish weavers, who settled in southern and eastern England from 14th century, labelling them dismissively as "kings of crekettes".

Skelton writes: "O lorde of Ipocrites/ Nowe shut vpp your wickettes/And clape to your clickettes!/A! Farewell, kings of crekettes!"

The poem is the earliest known reference to the sport and adds weight to claims that weavers brought the game with them and played it on fields close to where they tended their sheep, using shepherd's crooks as bats to hit ball, said lead researcher Paul Campbell of Australian National University. Added Heiner Gillmeister of Bonn University who guided Campbell: "The discovery of this poem is very intriguing. It could be the earliest known reference to the game we know as cricket.

"... studies have shown weavers from Flanders first settled in rural areas around Kent and Surrey and it was here that the English game of cricket we know today originated.

"Of course there is something quite ironic about a German and an Australian making discoveries about what is considered to be such an English game, and in reality that game being a foreign import."