Saturday, 5 October 2013


On the face of it, one of the more unlikely places to see cricketers is on a bus in Naples.

Fantasy Bob sat with Mrs FB as the vehicle moved slowly up the Via S Teresa delli Scalzi.  The bus dodged the chaos of the traffic outside the suicidal pedestrians regularly stepping out in front of it adding to the entertainment. FB's feet were still sore from the previous day's expedition to the ruins at Pompeii - the aches after 20 overs up the hill against the wind on a hard surface was nothing compared to this.

FB had gone to Pompeii with serious purpose.  He had noted the failure of generations of archaeologists to identify any indication that cricket had been played in Roman times.  He was sure that his eagle eye might spot some evidence to the contrary. Perhaps an antique statue with arm raised might be modeled on a medium pacer's action. 

Statue of Faun in Pompeii showing
 inswinger's action
But he was chastened to find no new evidence. Houses, shops, temples, theatres - all were laid out in the City where time stopped when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD.  But no evidence of cricket.  And FB increasingly felt the true answer to the question 'What did the Romans ever give us?' must be put in the negative 'Not cricket anyway.'

Mrs FB's patience with the drift of FB's conversation was wearing a bit thin. She had resorted to intense study of her bus ticket. 

FB was therefore silently contemplating another cricket-less day at the Museo Nazionale de Capodimonte when he noticed one of a passenger getting on the bus appearing to carry a cricket bat. He put this down to one too many glasses of Prosecco the night before, but he next stop brought onto the bus another cricket bat shaped bag. This time it could be no illusion for this bag was sported by a man in a Sri Lankan shirt. 
Real Palazzo Capodimonte

Things were looking up. There was cricket in the vicinity. He looked in his phrase book to check what the Italian for 'Do you need an 11th man?' (Avete bisogno di un uomo undicesimo?)

As the cricketers made to get off the bus, FB stirred.  But as he cleared his throat to utter the phrase, he felt Mrs FB's hand firmly on his shoulder. 'Don't even think about it,' she said. 'We are here for the Museo.'

It was an opportunity missed. 

But FB put a good face on it and enjoyed the Museo which is in a grand Bourbon palace overlooking Naples.  It is very grand - evidently the family made a lot of money out of chocolate biscuits in the 18th Century.  King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily (later Charles III, king of Spain) didn't do himself any harm by marrying into the Farnese family either.  The Museo houses a fine collection of old masters and Neapolitan art. 

Included in it is one of Caravaggio's greatest works - The Flagellation of Christ.  This fine painting is characteristic of Caravaggio's chiaroscuro style with dramatic contrasts in light and shade appears to show a batsman being assisted into his pads before an innings.  

Caravaggio - Christ getting his pads on
Though not a native of Naples, Caravaggio is taken as one of its own and his eventful life includes murders, stabbings and sexual adventures of all sorts.   It sounds like he could have been a fast bowler.  But the man could paint although none of his cricket paintings survived.

While FB was deprived of cricket during his visit, he is assured that cricket is growing in popularity in Italy and the national team took part in World Cricket League Division 3 this year and competed in the elimination tournament for the World T20 in 2102 where they finished in 10th place - Scotland finished in 5th place.

Despite the cricketers on the bus, FB can find no reference to a top flight team in Naples. Disappointing because the earliest mention of cricket in Italy is of a match played by Admiral Nelson's sailors in Naples in 1793.  It is unlikely that Nelson himself played - he seems to have spent the time propositioning Lady Hamilton when he could have been at net practice. 

Neapolitan Shrine to Maradona
Naples Football Club was founded by an Englishman in 1906 as the Naples Football and Cricket Club. This was similar to a number of other clubs in Italy eg A.C. Milan, which was originally the Milan Cricket and Football Club But these clubs soon forgot about cricket and concentrated on football. What might have been. 

Naples  sought to get in the big time by signing Diego Maradona in 1984 for a world record fee.  Maradona is venerated in Naples still.  

But had they concentrated on cricket they could have had Fantasy Bob for considerably less.

'See Naples and die,' said Goethe.

'See Naples but don't expect any cricket,' said FB.


  1. By coincidence, the WFDG also came across evidence of cricket in unlikely circumstances during his autumn travels. During a visit to Berlin's Olympiadtadion he spied what looked suspiciously like sight screens on the far side of the adjacent Maifeld; and subsequent investigation revealed that is precisely what they are.

    To explain, the Maifeld (Mayfield) is a major part of the complex, then known as the Reichsportsfeld, built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. The Maifeld had little to do with the games themselves though it was used for Polo and the Equestrian Dressage events. Its main purpose was military parades. It is enormous, about the size of four cricket fields! Two fields, each consisting of an artificial strip with a decent, though not overly long boundary do not appear to take up half of it.

    Apparently, the Berlin Cricket Club moved there recently - here is a link to an article in Cricinfo magazine

    Playing there must be a strange experience. Apart from the sheer scale of the place, the architecture of the adjacent stand is unmistakably Nazi; and the atmosphere is oppressive.

    Incidentally, the WFDG's journey to Berlin, quite by chance, involved travel on some of Germany's secondary railways including a stop at Bayreuth. He was moved to wonder if he should pay some homage on behalf of FB knowing his love of Wagner.

    1. Excellent information - it must good to have had such a useful foreign trip. Homage would have been appropriate.