Talk by Mr Alfronso Jayarajah at the Presentation of the St Peter's Cricket Club on 22 October 2013 in the Library of the Pontifical Council for Culture
When I was contacted by Ambassador John McCarthy last year about the idea of creating a Vatican Cricket Club, being a Roman Catholic and enthusiastic cricketer, I immediately supported the project, agreeing to be part of the organizing committee. I told him about the history of cricket in Italy, which proves how the history of the Vatican and cricket in Rome have always been very close. Cardinal Owen McCann, of Cape Town and Cardinal John Carmel Heenan Archbishop of Westminster are some of those who played cricket in Rome. To date several matches involving priests studying in Rome have been hosted by my club but I can't wait to watch a full Vatican XI playing international Cricket in Rome.
Cricket came to Italy with football at the end of the 19th century brought by the British. New clubs were formed such as Genoa Cricket and Football club and Milan Cricket and Football Club. Unfortunately football took over and cricket totally died. After World War II cricket had a new spring of life in Rome with the Rome Ashes being contended as the trophy for cricket tournaments in the 60's in the Roman Villa of Doria Pamphilj overlooking St. Peters thanks to Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilj and her husband Frank Podson. I started playing with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission against teams made from the Australian and English embassies. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization fielded a team and two more team were made up by priests who studied at the Beda college and at the Venerable English College. Unfortunately the villa become a public park, so we moved to a summer house of the Venerable English college by Lake Albano, but because of the long distance cricket slowly died out. At that point the most obvious way to spread the game was to create Cricket for Italians, helping Italians to learn and play The Game: thus with my friend Simone Gambino the first steps to create Cricket Italia were taken. I had the honor of being the first Italian Captain and lead the Italian National team back in 1983, in a UK tour. Over thirty years have past and now Italy is one of the top Associate Countries in the world, pushing to qualify for the next T20 World Cup, in fact in a few-weeks time the national squad will fly to Abu Dhabi to compete for the qualification against the top 16 non-test teams. I am still heavily involved not only with my club and ground but even with the Italian Federation having been Vice-President till last year and currently acting as executive board member.
From the Doria Pamphilj era I started the oldest Italian cricket club whose name was Doria Pamphilj Cricket Club. In 1983 we had to move ground and found hospitality inside of the Italian premier racecourse Capannelle where we rented a field to play. In over 20 years we moved four times inside of the racecourse bounds. With the new settlement, the club changed name in what is now Roma Capannelle Cricket Club. It is very hard to find a big enough space to play cricket inside of the city of Rome. The hippodrome which is situated in the south of Rome just inside the Ring Road along the Appian Road is very well connected to the city center, which can be reached in less than a 9 minute train journey from Capannelle station, which is where the entrance gate to the cricket ground is located.
The Ground which is the only approved international cricket ground in southern Italy is brand new. The playing surface is an ECB approved Notts Sport AstroTurf. Although being an expensive option, the way the true bounce, speed and consistency of the pitch play, together with the little stress it gives our fast bowlers when they land on it, made me think it was a good investment. The ground which has a fairly good sized boundary with the largest being over 80 meters is called the Roma Capannelle Cricket Ground and is home of our Club which fields over 3 senior men teams, 4 youth sections and an impressive women team. I'm very proud to say our 1st XI team captained by my son Leandro won this season the Italian Serie A championship and is the only Roman team to win a national league in any sport this season.
I'm also proud to say that in my club various priests have played such as: The Archibishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, Father Peter Mattheson, Father Frank Bullivant and last but not least the son of our Ambassador who studied in Rome.
We are very happy to support the creation of the Vatican XI by helping them especially in the “cricket” way that is by hosting them on our field and in our Net facilities in the center of Rome in Trastevere which is one of the few nets in Italy.