Cricket Island – Vis, Croatia

In a valley on an Island, six almost cricket teams gather around the vineyards for the VIS – the Vis International Sixes, a Cricket tournament enjoyed with a liberal sampling of the local vino, multiple helpings of regional delicacies, and some sunburn along the blue Adriatic.

There’s an interesting mix of Croatian and English around the ground. Who knew this game could translate so well. Cricket first came to the island in the 1800s, by way of sea and military design. Then it was a way for bored English officers to kill time, now it provides a much needed escape from city-bred cubicles.

There’s everything you’d expect from a cricket tournament – mid-over conferences, heckling spectators – usually teammates heckling fellow teammates, all in good spirit of course, hungover players, confusion with the rules and scoring, stumbles, fumbles and some stunning cricket, lost cricket balls, a bunch of colourful characters and colourful language, even a pitch invasions (this time of the canine variety).

For some players this is a first – there are a few here who’ve never held bat or ball before. Others are old warriors, with many injuries to show and many stories to share. There are players who are just out of school, there are others who have crossed retirement age. It takes all kinds to make a good cricket match.

The teams are squaring off for a chance at to get their hands on a set of hand carved trophies. It doesn’t happen in many tournaments that one of the team captains is also the one to create the tournament trophies. The trophies are carved from old wine barrels, much like the scorecard. Cricket is all about maintaining the consistency.

Once the runs have been chased down, the victory march completed, the ground opens up to practice and a bit of a fun. The scuffed red cricket balls are now joined by chewed up tennis balls, and chasing dogs. Equipment is tidied up. Scorecards are tallied. Bottle openers are forced into action. And the valley is swarmed with post match analysis, strategies and plans for the tournament next year.

A Little Bit of Viś, A Little Bit of That

When the alarm crackles at 4:30, I don’t hit snooze or grumble. It’s the Easter weekend and we are heading to Viś. Not that we need an excuse to make our way there, but the island manages to make a long weekend seem longer.

It’s a full house at the marina. Modest fishing boats share the water with fancier ones. When a strong wave rolls around, they each gently nudge one another, like an early morning school assembly.

For a long time this is the only vessel drawing white lines on the blue. It moves quickly, tearing at the water, inching closer to the pinkish horizon.

The beach is limestone. The stone is smooth, rounded and very white. It frames the water beautifully; the white sets off the shimmering blue-green.

Rain water has collected in the boats in the parking lot. It’s brown and stagnant, but the yellow flowers manage to hide the water stains and rust for the time being.

Some have the right gear, others grab some string and a bit of bait and settle down. It’s as uncomplicated as it gets.

A little boy followed these three into the water. He dived in without fear. When he hit the cold water, he howled. His mates, though amused, didn’t follow his lead.

Our time on Viś is usually divided between food and wine, and everything else. There’s never a shortage of food or wine. It’s time that always seems to run out.

Here’s the thing: nothing I write can match up to this image, so I’m leaving it at that.