Thu, Jan 29, 2009 - Page 8 News List

‘Cricket obsessive’ Brits to play Twenty20 on Everest

AFP , LONDON

Two teams of cricket-mad Britons on Tuesday vowed to take the sport to new heights by playing on Mount Everest in the world’s highest-ever match.

The two teams are to make a nine-day expedition in April to Gorak Shep, a plateau 5,165m above sea level near the Everest base camp, for the record-breaking Twenty20 charity game.

England captain Andrew Strauss is the honorary skipper of Team Tenzing, while England vice captain Alastair Cook is doing likewise for Team Hillary.

Self-confessed “cricket obsessive” Richard Kirtley dreamed up the Everest Test idea during a trip to the world’s highest mountain in 2006. He saw Gorak Shep, thought it resembled The Oval cricket ground in south London, and resolved to set up a match.

The expedition leader told reporters the game would going ahead on April 21 no matter what the conditions — clear blue skies or a blizzard.

“We’re not going all that way not to play,” said the marketing manager, 28, from Cheltenham in southwest England.

“It’s a quintessentially British thing to do. I’m quite proud of our history of doing odd things so it’s nice to write a new chapter in that book,” Kirtley said.

“At that altitude, we’ll be going for a lot of boundaries because quick singles are going to exhaust people,” he said.

“The challenge is not to be underestimated because there is only 66 percent of the oxygen found at sea level, so your resting heartbeat is a lot faster,” Kirtley said. “With the thinner air I reckon seamers will get some big bounces and wing it down there. Batsmen will have their work cut out.”

Kirtley said he has been in touch with a NASA scientist investigating how a cricket ball turns, to ask what it will do in thinner air.

The 22 players, eight reserves, medics, groundsmen and even spectators make up a 50-strong expedition party.

The cricketers have been training hard on cardio-vascular fitness to cope with the extreme conditions.

“Everyone’s training a lot,” Kirtley said. “They are such a competitive bunch, they will put their all into it. It will definitely take it out of us, but we will able to complete the match.”

The Gorak Shep plateau is sandy, so the groundsmen will roll out a synthetic track to ensure a competitive game.

The teams, which include a handful of Australians and New Zealanders, hope to raise £250,000 (US$352,000) for The Lord’s Taverners and The Himalayan Trust UK.

At the launch of their expedition in London’s Trafalgar Square on Tuesday, the cricketers — wearing ski goggles, scarves and wooly hats — had a practice session and ended up hitting a six straight into one of the fountains.

Former England batsman Mark Butcher, recovering from a knee injury, said he would have relished the chance to play in the Himalayas.

“It’s typically British and a fantastic idea,” the Surrey captain told reporters.

“At the heights they’re going up to it will be very interesting to see if they’re leaping around a lot when appealing. Fast bowling will be a tough ask, not to mention diving catches and falling down crevasses,” he said.

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