Cricket is slowly and steadily getting popularity in France © Getty Images
Cricket is slowly and steadily gaining popularity in France © Getty Images (representational image)

Liettres is a village in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. Anne Debosque, director of the tourist board for the region around Liettres, the Pays de la Lys Romane believes that it is much possible that the suburb could have been witness to the first recorded cricket match played more than 500 years back in 1478. It is said that a youth named Estiavannet in 1478 saw some people playing a weird game. It involved a wooden bat or ‘criquet’ and a sphere. The players said to Estianvannet, “Why are you staring at our ball game?”; an altercation happened after this and it is written in a letter grievance to the French king, which is still present in the French national archives, that a man was killed in the ensued fight.

According to a report by Independent, this was the first time that anyone had mentioned the game as “cricket”. This is almost a century before the mention of cricket can be found in a written record in England. Liettres will host an an “international cricket tournament” in September’ 2015. This will be by no means a competitor to the Cricket World Cup. Two T20 games will be played on 26 and 27 September. The matches will be played between Lille Cricket Club and teams from Ghent (in Belgium) and Whitstable (in Kent). The administrative authorities of Liettres, which has a population of 281, want to make the village a pilgrimage destination for cricket fans across the globe. To bring to light “Liettres 1478 Challenge” in 2016, strategy is made to endow the suburb with it’s first dedicated cricket ground with a perfect field, batting area and pavilion. READ: France set to start practicing cricket in freezing cold at Paris as ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 begins

Anne Debosque said, “Cricket is not well known in France but the interest is growing. We hope that this tournament will attract people from England and elsewhere, and draw attention to the beauty and history of an area only a few kilometres away from the Channel tunnel.” France has not taken to the gentleman’s game wholeheartedly but interest is growing. Today France has approximately 1000 registered cricketers and 30 clubs. Cricketers are mostly from Indian and English diaspora.

Philippe Dethoor, President of Lille Cricket Club, proclaims that he was the “first wicket-keeper ever to be born in Roubaix” [an industrial town on the Franco-Belgian border] said, ” I have been playing cricket for only eight years but became a fan of the game when he lived in London as a young man. Cricket as we play it today is an English creation, that is undisputed – and that’s why I love it. I am a great fan of British culture. But the mention of cricket at Liettres in the 15th century is perfectly plausible. It is believed that the game originated in Kent or possibly Flanders. Maybe by the late 15th century some form of the game had crossed the Channel from England, or maybe it was the other way around.”