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Vue de la Ville de Genève et de Plainpalais by Giovanni Salucci. Photo courtesy

June 28, 2012. Switzerland became the first country to have their ICC affiliate status revoked by the game’s governing body. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the history of the game in the beautiful land of mountains and lakes.

The water-colour Vue de la Ville de Genève et de Plainpalais by Italian architect Giovanni Salucci, dating from 1817, depicts cricket being played in Geneva in the early nineteenth century. Yes, Switzerland, that picturesque land of mountains and lakes, yodels, bells, cuckoo clocks and Roger Federer — not to mention neutrality and unnumbered bank accounts — also has a splash of cricket in the landscape of its history.

The Cricket Club of Geneva, the first such institution in Switzerland, was set up in 1872 and continued to use the same Plain palais of the painting as their playground till 1890. After that a new field at Garance in Chêne-Bougeries was made available to the Club. Cricket in Switzerland remained essentially a foreign sport. But, due to the relentless dedication of a few enthusiasts the noble game managed to retain a toe-hold in the country.

The first official cricketing organisation — the Swiss Cricket Association — was formed in 1980. The inaugural meeting was held in March of that year at the Australian Embassy in Berne, and was attended by the Bern CC, CERN CC, Geneva CC and Geneva Asians CC. The clubs from the Western part of Switzerland — Baden and Zürich areas — could not make it to the event, but became members of the cricket circuit.

In 1985 Switzerland obtained affiliate status from ICC — becoming the second nation to do so after Italy. With the Zuoz cricket festival from 1985, and the quaint and unique ‘Cricket on Ice’ tournament at St Moritz from 1987, the game flourished in its own serene manner in the country.

However, in 2012, Switzerland became the first country, and the only one till now, to lose the ICC affiliate status. This was the result of the creation of a second organisation, Schweizerischer Cricket Verband, claiming to oversee cricket in the country. Much of the differences were centred around the geographical and linguistic divide between the French-speaking East and the German-speaking West of the country. Two rival governing bodies attempting to control cricket in the country, neither recognised by the Swiss Olympic Association, was a breach of the membership regulations of ICC.

Following a twelve-month suspension for non-compliance, the ICC revoked Switzerland’s associate membership during their meeting at Kuala Lumpur on June 28, 2012, This was a blow to the development of cricket in the beautiful country. The suspension and the debarment meant no further grants for improving standards of cricket and the game’s infrastructure.

The current Swiss national team is a band of amateurs, mostly self-sponsored, continuing to play the game out of passion, organising private matches and tours against teams from Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands and others. The Swiss Cricket Association has been renamed Cricket Switzerland and remains hopeful that the situation will improve and the country will soon be back in the official fold.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at