On returning to the UK after this year's Cricket on Ice tournament, David Wormald wrote this article for the newsletter for the Hertfordshire Association of Cricket Officials and they kindly agreed to allow us to reproduce it here.
If your author had not been, in an idle moment, browsing his local umpires’ WhatsApp Group at the exact time that a one off post came up advising that umpires were sought to stand on a frozen lake in February, this article would never have been written. But read that post I did, and for this keen skier and level C4 umpire whose home cricket club plays on a golf course, it was an opportunity not to be missed, especially since said lake, it transpired, was some 1800m high in the alps, just down the hill from the achingly chic ski resort of St Moritz.
Every year since 1988 The St Moritz Cricket Club has hosted a cricket tournament on the conveniently frozen St Moritzersee in Switzerland’s Engadin Valley. Past participants have included David
Gower whose misunderstanding as to which parts of the frozen lake were safe to park on led to his hire car needing to be winched out of the depths, thankfully not with his Lordship in it! During
‘the season’ the lake is used for polo, concerts and horse racing while locals and visitors alike stroll and (on designated tracks cleared of snow) skate about on it.
Further up the hill St Moritz is home to the famous Cresta Run (likened to sliding head first downhill on a tea tray) and the equally well known world’s first Bobsled run with its hair raising horseshoe turn. Not for the faint-hearted.
Strictly speaking the cricket is played on snow which itself lies on the frozen lake, large flat spaces being at a premium in the alps. One is advised to be unconcerned if the ice is heard to crack beneath one’s feet (‘perfectly normal, nothing to worry about’ etc) but one does well to forget just how much freezing cold water is beneath one’s feet. The pitch is a mat nailed into the ice and the ball a Readers ‘Windball’ which is a lightweight plastic ball complete with seam. The
combination of a dead pitch and a lively ball allows some reasonable cricket to be played to a standard on occasion familiar to those of us who stand in the lower reaches of the panel supported HSPL of a Hertfordshire Summer Saturday. It was not always easy for bowlers to keep to a line and length (wides abounded) but the better ones mostly managed to and some even elicited some turn. Bowlers’ run ups and batters’ running lanes provided a reasonable footing but since the outfield was ungroomed snow your author felt the need to bear in mind that ‘conditions shall not be regarded as either dangerous or unreasonable merely because they are not ideal’, especially as the Spirit of Cricket was widely observed. Fielders sometimes took a few seconds to overcome the tendency to slide backwards before forward motion could be achieved but at least, when soft, the snow did allow for some spectacular sliding ‘saves’. It did not take your
author long to discover that speedily moving backwards to square to adjudge a run out was impractical to say the least and after nearly coming a cropper at the first couple of attempts this umpire subsequently undertook such decision making from the stable safely of the mat, reasoning that the position where one could ‘best see any act upon which (their) decision may be required’ would be on the pitch rather than in the hospital!
We were fortunate to avoid precipitation on match days and to even see some sun: temperatures barely got lower than -10 degrees and that only overnight. It is rare, however, that the outfield can fairly be described as ‘crunchy’ as it undoubtedly was on occasion. Three T20s on two adjacent pitches were squeezed into a day of 1000 to 1600. It was a cold start at 0900 on the ice and officials were enjoined to keep up the pace of the games as it ‘gets a mite chilly once the sun goes behind the mountains’. And so it indeed did, but nothing that a quick Glühwein and a post match huddle in a heated tent couldn’t overcome.
Two local sides (St Moritz and a nearby international school) took on four visiting sides from the UK and in the end the team of dentists won it on net run rate. This was the first year the tournament has expanded from four to six sides but there are plans to expand to eight teams in 2023.
Given the unique nature and location of Cricket on Ice it is, unsurprisingly, oversubscribed and so there may well be opportunities in future for more interested umpires to stand on the ice!