Image of Jesus College and Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve cricket teams under an almond tree at the ground in Plisk
Jesus College and Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve cricket teams under an almond tree at the ground in Plisk

Taking College cricket to Croatia

For their first international cricket tour last summer, Jesus College Cricket Club eschewed countries well-known for their love of cricket, heading instead to Croatia and the island of Vis.

A very unusual history

Vis has a cricketing history to rival even that of Jesus College. Holding a strategic position in the Adriatic, in the past 220 years Viz has been ruled or occupied by the Venetians, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, the British, the Austrians and the Italians (again) before becoming part of Yugoslavia and now Croatia.

The British ventured to Vis during the Napoleonic wars between 1805 and 1815. When a Captain William Hoste was posted to the island, he and his men brought with them: “We have established a cricket club at this wretched place, and when we do get anchored for a few hours, it passes away an hour very well”.

Reading Hoste’s letter in 2002, islander Oliver Roki decided to start a cricket club up with a group of local Croatians. Cai Read, Captain of the Graduate Cricket Team comments: “It is an incredible and wonderful thing that such an unassuming line in a letter over 200 hundred years ago has inspired cricket to come back to the island. Indeed, it is even more enjoyable to know that the men who played all those years ago probably wouldn’t understand why we would even want to go there to play cricket voluntarily!”

The team assembles

A particularly rainy day saw the team come together in Split to make the final trip to Viz, comprised of Cai Read, John Dudley, Patrick Jones, Noel Rutter, Richard Assheton, Jemeen Sreedharan, Arsalan Azad, David Wilson and Sybil Stacpoole, all raring to play some cricket (weather permitting)!

Another rainy day saw the two other teams manage to get something resembling a game together.  Thankfully, the following morning revealed that the storm called a ‘yugo’ – meaning south - had blown away leaving beautiful sunshine. A relief for the Jesus team but moreso for the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) opposition who didn’t fancy the prospect of two days playing in a storm.

Sun beams down on play

Cai picks up the story: “Playing against the RNVR helped once again to remind us of the history of Vis and to bring home how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to be going to Vis on a pleasure trip. Later in the tour a number of the team visited the English Cemetery on the peninsula near the Bay of Vis and we were struck by the moving inscription:“Here dead lie we because we did not choose to live and shame the land from which we sprang. Life to be sure is nothing much to lose but young men think it is and we were young.” It is a sad reminder that as little as seventy years ago men very much like ourselves and perhaps even some Jesuans (although I was unable to find any evidence of this in the archives) went to Vis for a very different purpose.”

The game against the RNVR was set at a declaration match with 20 overs being played after 5pm. After 30 overs our travellers had accumulated 65-2 and were well placed to push on against a tired opposition. Excellent play all round finished in a draw with RNVR 32 runs short of our team’s total, an excellent way to start Jesus College Cricket Club’s first international tour.  

The team’s second match against hosts The Sir William Hoste Kricket Klub (Hoste) began with the opposition suggested an interesting 30-over format: two 15-over innings with the batting order reversed for the second innings. Eager to try new things, our team accepted, clinching the win with four overs to go. Cai remarked: “The Jesus College Cricket Club remained unbeaten at the start of the season and more importantly we have now set ourselves up for an illustrious international career with a record of won 1, drawn 1 - with any luck we will have the opportunity in future years to further this career.”

The end of the tour

A day and a half of rest and recreation saw the team explore the rest of Viz visiting the famous blue cave and swimming under a 12th century monastery in Komiza, cycling to the town of Rukovac and kayaking to the green cave for a (very) chilly swim.

Cai concludes; “With the hospitality and kindness shown to us on Vis, it is my hope that in years to come it will become a home-from-home for the Jesus team after the success of this tour. Finally, I would like to thank the Jesus College Cambridge Society for making this venture a possibility and I would especially like to thank Duncan Allen for all of his support and for his sublime running of the Jesus College Cricket Fund."