The temperature is about -5˚C and 30cm of snow covers everything but the pitch. Hardly the dusty fields I’m used to playing on in Australia.
But excuses count for nothing when there’s a trophy on the line. This is the Ice Cricket World Cup, and as the lone Australian in the competition it’s my patriotic duty to spread the Aussie cricketing dynasty to the Baltic.
There are six teams in the competition, four English, a local Latvian team made up of expat Indians, and mine, the Wanderers, without a team and bonded only by an irrational love of the game. To avoid hypothermia, each match only involves six overs per innings, per team.
There are no boundaries, wides are heavily punished with three runs but aren’t rebowled, and each run counts double.
“It’s as simple as that,” tournament organiser Julian Tall tells the team captains.
As I take guard for my first delivery, it occurs to me that he’s failed to mention a few things which don’t seem so simple.
Like, how do you run and turn on ice? How do you find the ball (it’s a rubber-type ball – leather would freeze and crack) if it’s buried in snow? And, most intriguingly, how did he ever convince anyone this would be a good idea?
Silly games in the snow
But despite scoring a third-ball duck in my first bat, I come to realise that it’s an exceedingly good idea. Traditional cricket skills don’t come into it beyond being able to hit the ball and bowl. The best cricketers don’t necessarily have the most successful days, and it’s bloody funny to watch.
To see six grown men digging in the snow looking for a ball like dogs digging for a bone is something that’s just not seen enough on the international cricket stage.
Then there’s the setting. We’re playing on a frozen lake which is a former Soviet carp farm. The ice is about 50cm deep so there’s no chance of falling through it, and the only spectators are a couple of locals who are more interested in their ice fishing than in the crazy foreigners playing silly games in the snow.
It doesn’t make any sense – but then again, neither does normal cricket really.
» Krysten Booth travelled with Baltic Experiences, which runs ice cricket and rugby tournaments. Tours start from £225
Ice cricket tips
Don’t worry if you’re not much of a cricketer, everyone can play this game.
A sweater won’t cut it
You might have survived the cool spring mornings at cricket as a kid, but nan’s knitted sweater won’t do the job here. Layers, and plenty of them, are the key.
Ditch the sandshoes
If you’ve got cricket spikes wear them because they’re handy on ice, otherwise go for heavy-duty boots.
Hit the sauna
At the end of the day do like the locals and jump in the sauna. The only catch is that you have to roll in the snow naked afterwards. It’s better than it sounds.
If you want to win, forget fancy footwork. Get on the front foot and hit straight because the ball doesn’t bounce much.