ASSOCIAZIONE SPORTIVA MILAN CRICKET CLUB
Founded 1972 and honorary member of the Federazione Cricket Italiana

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MILAN  CRICKET  CLUB   
'A  Personal  Reminiscence'
by John Thorpe

I am just back from a couple or three beers with the President and past Captain Ross and MCC is starting on its "seconda repubblica" at Settimo Milanese which is hugely exciting. To my regret I was not an original member but the Club has been a big part of my life for over 30 years and it occurred to me (prompted by WMW’s probings) that maybe someone somewhere might be interested in one or two of my recollections of this time. 

I arrived in Milan in 1970 and a couple of years later heard talk of a Milan Cricket Club that held meetings at the bar of the now defunct British American Club in Corso Venezia 16. It was rumoured that they also played cricket. 

Their ground was at Grandola between Menaggio and Lugano a hundred kilometres north of Milan. The Legend was that Founding President John Di Vita and John Dexter were walking through the woods and the fields after a Boxing Day lunch when they came through the mist upon this flat piece of land in the middle of the mountains and John 1 said to John 2 "this would be a great place to play cricket"; and so it became in 1972. 

My first contact with the Club was in the summer of 1978. At that time the Club also had a "nursery" in the form of nets at the (long-defunct) Cucirini Cantoni Coats sports club in Via Giambellino which comprised a tennis court, two squash courts and the nets. Although I was already 38 and hadn't touched a cricket ball for 20 years I thought I would like to see if I could still send a few down. I remember it well a hot night with world cup football television commentary blaring out from all the open windows of the blocks of flats around and Henry Putnam (lord of that manor) thumping the ball back at me. This led to me finally getting my first game at Grandola (and three wickets) and beginning the adventure. 

In 1982 Gerry Emblem the then Fixtures Secretary left Milan and a replacement was sought. It isn't always easy now but in those days with no emails, mobiles, or fax  we had the occasional telex (remember that?) but you didn't have one at home it was a hugely long-winded job contacting everyone trying to organise a team and nobody was anxious to take on the job; and in those days there were no expert Indians, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis and few old-Commonwealth players to call on. So at the AGM John Di Vita pointed his finger at me and said John, you know lots of people, you can do it. And thus it was for the next 20 years. 

But wonderful years they were with up to 25 or 30 games every season with a dozen weekends at Grandola with visitors from Switzerland, France, Germany, England and Ireland. Huge barbecues often at Sunday lunch originated by John Hanrahan and his family with assistance from the WAG's (term unheard of in those days) and even camping at the ground. 

Shortly after my appointment John Di Vita died and Stanley R Bramley universally known and loved as “Bram”  was invited and accepted to become President. His presidency will be remembered for his wisdom and support but principally for his erudite and hilarious after (and mid-) dinner speeches. In his day a fine rugby player and to the last an elegant gentleman cricketer. 

Subject to confirmation, 5 test players have played at our grounds (so far)   Ted Dexter, Bob Cowper for Monte Carlo, Reg Scarlett a West Indian spin bowler from Geneva, and a New Zealand player whose name I forget for the NZ Ambassadors (in the two years we played at the American School at Opera) who once bowled Ian Chappell, and Roland Butcher of England. 

Bob Cowper came up to play for Monte Carlo in a selection game to play a gala match against the Lords Taverners in June 1986. He made 80 odd before getting a dubious lb decision. Some of us went down to watch that famous match and play against Monte Carlo Cricket Club the following day. I think these were the only games that have ever been played in the Principality itself. The old football Stadium Louis II was being demolished and they had a beautiful wicket specially laid for the occasion. The Taverners sported Tim Rice, Russell Osman, Robert Powell, Graham Roope and others. The following day MCC played MCCC and my main memory of that day is of Josh Marshallsay knocking boundaries into the harbour to win the match for us. 

We had to wait until 1988 for the first century for MCC which was scored by Neil Hurst against Geneva fittingly at Grandola (I was scoring that day); he went on to score two others. Later Miles Kirchin scored a century against Zuoz and (unless I have missed one) the last two were both scored by Craig Buick from Australia one at the end of last season and the other at the beginning of this. In between Miles and Craig came Ramanayake; he was (and I guess still is) a modestly-built Sri Lankan who turned up for a game against Geneva one afternoon in 1992. No-one knew who he was and Geneva were one short so we lent him to them; he scored his first century against us. The following year he went on to score 613 runs including three centuries and two fifties with a season’s average of 204. He was also to my eye the fastest bowler we have fielded and with a very strong arm. I know because at Zuoz he picked up a ball at cover and returned it to the wicket keeper who missed (or avoided) it, it bounced on the concrete wicket and due to my misfield of the overthrow broke my thumb. 

Following Bram’s death in September 1997, David Sweetman was unanimously acclaimed as the new President. David is the only person still in Milan of the founding group of 1982. 

The highlight of the season during the Grandola years was the annual fixture against H T Putnam’s XI a fixture which was played for 25 years. This took the form of a noon-start match on the Saturday which then included a Twickenham-style picnic lunch at the ground and conclusion of the match late in the afternoon. This was usually followed by a dinner at the Regina Hotel at the lakeside in Porlezza with speeches from Bram, Henry, David and occasionally others. Unfortunately, like David Frost’s That was The Week That Was tv programme of the 60’s, no recordings were made but I can assure you that they were magnificent evenings. A second game was played on the Sunday with further picnic at the ground. 

We mainly played overs games 25, 30, 40 or whatever depending on what time the players turned up. However twice we played a two-day match once against HTP XI and once against a very odd touring team from UK. This of course could go horribly wrong if one team were to be skittled out very cheaply. However on both occasions the matches went right to the end of the second day and were a great success. (I recommend.) 

I haven't been on all the trips but the Club has travelled regularly to Geneva, Cern, Monte Carlo, Cabris, and occasionally to Malta, Ljubjana plus a couple of tours to England as well as the Tournament in Velden in Austria and without forgetting the Golden Duck Tournament at Lodi. The Highlight of the modern season is the Tournament in Zuoz just down the Engadine valley from St Moritz. There are eight teams invited who play contemporaneously on four pitches on the cricket ground of the Lyceum Alpinum in the middle of the mountains. I believe our best result was first equal several years ago but we have had some wonderful times up there. I understand our guys’ latest sport is a midnight sprinting competition against the speed trap in the village high street. 

I have played well over 150 games for the Club scored one or two runs, bowled lots of overs and been tonked for lots of 6’s but nevertheless have a couple of 6-for’s to my credit (EPO Munich in 1989 and The Tappers 1997) and three 5-for’s as well as highest wicket-taker in 1995. But I have had hours and hours of fun and am still in contact with many of our players who have moved on and several players from other clubs. 

A final mention to our oldest adversary with whom we still have a fixture Euratom who we have been playing since the early 80’s and who are still thriving under Dai Berry’s guidance and to Idle CC of Lodi led for many years by Paolo Riccaboni and without whose kindness in allowing us occasional use of their ground over the last few years we might have gone out of existence. MCC retains very precious friendly relations with both these Clubs. 

So now we are embarking with immense thanks to the huge energy and commitment of David on the adventure of MCC’s new own ground at Settimo Milanese. From the enthusiasm shown by all Members and the almost unmanageable numbers of players turning up first to nets, then to mat-laying, and now to the first games, it looks as if this under our current skipper Nand Babu Kumar is going to be one long highlight. 

Enjoy! 

John Thorpe
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John Thorpe


Reply to John from Josh Marshallsay


Hello John,

Yesterday, whilst surfing the net on a totally unrelated matter, I stumbled upon your very interesting article on the history of the Milan Cricket Club.

What an honour to actually get a mention!

Although I only ever played 2 or 3 games for you I have never forgotten them, and you may be interested in my own recollections of the match played at Monte Carlo in 1986.

As far as I remember, my only previous appearances for the team came in a couple of games played over a weekend late in 1985, when I took the train
from Genoa before meeting up with you in Milan. You then called me the following year for the game in Monte Carlo.

My first son had only recently been born when I set off, with about 30,000 lire in my pocket for the whole weekend (times were hard), to meet the rest
of the team in the principality.
I recall that the weather wasn't great on the Saturday and I have a vivid memory of Leslie Thomas, the writer, trudging dejectedly off the field in an enormous, saturated cricket sweater.

You had kindly arranged for me to stay with a chap from our opponents' team and his family who were renting an enormous flat overlooking the town. They
were in the act of moving and things were rather chaotic, but we went to a dinner on Saturday evening at which I remember frequently nodding off, having had little sleep over the preceding days.

I subsequently repaid his hospitality by clean bowling him first ball and I
can still see our captain, whose name escapes me, sauntering over and saying with a grin 'that wasn't very sporting, was it?'

Worse was to come, though, when it was our turn to bat and, during the innings you were kind enough to mention,
I hit a steepling skier which
eventually came down at alarming velocity on the top of the unfortunate fellow's outstretched finger, causing him to take no further part in the
match.

I think I finished up with 60-odd, which constituted my highest ever score, and I remember they had a spinner, a pub owner in the town I believe, who kept tossing 'em up Eddie Hemmings style.

It is to my eternal regret that work and family commitments, plus the fact that I took up running rather seriously, prevented me from making any
further appearances in the MCC colours and I only ever played one more game
in England.

I have lived in Genoa now for 25 years but, having divorced and remarried, am planning to move back to Weymouth, Dorset next spring. I hope to open a
school and run short intensive English courses for Italians throughout the
year.

I shall follow your progress with interest. My brief association with the club was a pleasurable one and I can assure you that you were, and no doubt still are, held in the highest esteem by your team mates for your selfless
work.

I hope these memories will be of interest to you.

All the best

Josh Marshallsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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