Close your eyes, think of the Alps and imagine what you might hear? The sound of cowbells? Gurgling mountain streams? Maybe. What about the thwack of leather of willow?
Surprisingly, it is increasingly the case… not least in Slovenia, where cricket is gaining something of a foothold.
And visitors to the Park on Friday can see just how far the game has come there, with the arrival of members of the very first club formed in this corner of the former Yugoslavia for a one-off friendly fixture against The Rain Men.
The Mezica club, reputedly the first cricket club ever set up behind the Iron Curtain, has an astonishing history; it was formed in 1974 by a young boy from the village, Borut Cegovnik, who came to study English in Birchington, Kent, and fell in love with the game.
With his pocket money he bought some stumps, a bat and a ball and took them back to Slovenia so he could play cricket with his friends. They went on to form the Mezica Cricket Club.
Borut was almost thwarted before he could begin when his cricket kit was nearly impounded by Yugoslav customs.
He also brought with him a full copy of the MCC Laws of Cricket. Because Slovenian grammar is, perhaps, the most complicated in the world, the MCC Laws were seen as a model of clarity and, despite being 1,500km from St John’s Wood, were followed to the letter.
Ljubljana CC was established in 1997 by a group of expats and Slovenes and the first Slovenian national team competed in Vienna in the European Representative tournament in 2000. After seeing Ljubljana Cricket club on a local TV program, the boys from Mezica were reunited and the Mezica Cricket Club now has a permanent ground and clubhouse.
Their full story can be read in Angus Bell’s engaging and funny book Batting On The Bosphorus.
Their tour kicks off at Knebworth Park against The Rain Men, a side with an equally colourful back story.
It was set up by writer and broadcaster Marcus Berkmann, who named them after a critically lauded book, pictured right, he wrote in the mid-1990s about village cricket.
He told KPCC: ‘We have been going since 1998, so this is our 17th season. Before then, I used to run a team called the Captain Scott Invitation XI with Harry Thompson. I wrote Rain Men all about this and he later wrote a book called Penguins Stopped Play about it, which was published after his death and also sold well.
‘Harry and I founded the Scotties at Oxford in 1979, which means that this is my 36th season running a cricket team of some sort. A frightening thought.
‘Our team stays loyal to the original Scotts tenets: we’re strictly mixed ability, a social side above all. We don’t use ringers and we don’t win many games but we play in the right spirit and never do less than our best.
‘These days we play around 20 games a season, pretty much one a weekend. The vast majority of the team will not see 50 again.’
The game promises to be one of the highlights of the Park’s calendar. Many of the Mezica side are left-handed.. simply because Goruk, incidentally a double winner of Slovenia’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, was a leftie who taught them to play that way.
We’re told they also like to change fielding positions in their own quirky way, too.
The 35-overs a side contest kicks off at 2.30pm with tea at 5pm and a scheduled 7.30pm finish. The bar will be open and the barbecue will be fired up for the evening.
We are privileged to be hosting the game and want to make our visitors feel very special indeed. Everyone is welcome to come along, either to help with the entertaining or just to cheer on what should be two very friendly teams. Please show your support and let these very special guests what a wonderfully friendly place Knebworth Park can be. Remember to raise a glass and say cheers… or as they say in Slovenia, ‘Na zdrvaje’
After their fixture at the Park, Mezica move on to play Wealdstone Corinthians at Nags Head Meadow, Great Missenden.
Their tour concludes on Sunday when they meet Jesus College Grads at Cambridge.