The story of Hitler & the German Cricket Team

First up, we revisit a tale of the past made in the present. The victim, German Cricket; the perpetrator, Adolf Hitler. Only the subcontinent remembers.

It doesn’t matter if it’s true, only if it is believable - Steve Shahbazian

I grew up a cricket fan by default, so it naturally bothered me to see football triumphing in popularity - It did not make any sense. Cricket had all the elements of grandeur and yet was belittled by football at the global stage.

One day, however, I finally had the answer for cricket’s might and greatness through a friend, whose gripping narrative could shame the likes of Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg.

‘Cricket was once big in Germany’ he started ‘until the Nazis killed the German Cricket Team’.

‘Of course, it had to be Hitler’ it dawned on me.

Cricketer hits the ball

Today, I reopen a dark chapter from the German history books, unknown to the world including Germans, but carefully preserved by the cricket-loving people of the subcontinent.

It had, in fact, spawned and scripted completely off the German land, managing to trace it roots to Nazi Germany. Let us first pause and finish the story though.

In a parallel world, cricket was Germany’s most beloved sport. When war became the norm, cricket emerged as solace. Adolf Hitler could not resist the hype, so he invited himself to a four-day first-class game. Yep!

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It cannot be confirmed if Hitler went home in between each day’s play or crashed at the stadium for four days, but he surely watched the entire match.

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Unfortunately for the German cricketers, they could not produce a result as the match ended in a draw. Baffled and irked, Hitler ordered his men to shoot the cricketers. He then banned the sport in Germany for conflicting with the Nazi values labelling it ‘a complete waste of time’.

Maybe Hitler did not pick the right seats, hence making his experience unpleasant? Who would not love the VIP view? Moreover, the Ashes would have been a better choice for a first time viewing. And of course, what could have been if it was a T20 or ODI game?

It was the perfect story, worthy of a film adaptation, alas, it is indeed only a myth. A short recap of the history may suggest otherwise –

Cricket in Germany does date back to the 18th century and flourished for a period, but the similarities end there. The two World Wars hurt the lovely sport, not any single individual.

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Germany is embracing the sport again through its new flag bearers – South Asian Immigrants. The international team debuted in 1989 and has reached the associate level at the International Cricket Council (ICC).

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SSC Cricket Lions, from Karlsruhe, Baden Wurttemberg, Germany
 SSC Cricket Lions, from Karlsruhe, Baden Wurttemberg, Germany. CIG IMG019 by SSC Karlsruhe Michael Chaussette is licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0

In retrospect, I found the Cricket-Hitler plot to be compelling enough. And embarrassingly, believed it to be true for a good part of my teenage life. Oddly, this false cricket folklore continues to thrive in the subcontinent.

Breaking Myths is a gateway to dive deeper and look at some of the myths in the sporting world which have influenced our perceptions.
Furqan is a marketing professional in the tech sector and an avid sports lover. He is a devout follower of cricket, football and tennis. You can follow him on Twitter.
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