Cricket is considered a classical English sport and, until recently, it was believed to have been invented in the Middle Aged, around the year 1550, somewhere in Surrey. But it seems it had been played in Flanders a few decades prior.
1. Origins of cricket
Paul Campbell, a scientist at the Australia National University, was searching for the origin of the word cricket and, in his quest, stumbled upon a poem dated in 1533. In “The Image of Ipocrisy”, John Skelton describes the arrival of Flemish weavers to England and describes them as “kings of cricket” in the verse O! Farewell, kings of cricket!.
Skelton’s poem is the oldest written reference to cricket and, based on it, Campbell concluded that the Flemish weavers practiced the sport on the fields where they herded their sheep, using shepherd staffs as bats. When they crossed the Channel, they introduced it to the people of England.
“Cricket is said to have originated in Flanders around the twelfth century, long before the sport spread to England. The distribution of the sport on the other side of the Channel followed the same route as that taken by the Flemish weavers”, says Belga news agency.
The etymology of the word cricket also poses arguments for language experts. In his dictionary, Samuel Johnson derived the word cricket from the Old English “cryce” or “cricc”, meaning stick. On the other hand, on Old French, there is also a similar word, “criquet”, also meaning a stick or a club.
Some argue that the word itself is also of Flemish origin. Given the strong medieval trade connections between south-east England and the County of Flanders, which, at the time, still belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy, the name may have been derived from the Middle Dutch (in use in Flanders at the time) “krick”(-e), meaning a stick (crook). Another possible source is the Middle Dutch word “krickstoel”, meaning a long low stool used for kneeling in church and which resembled the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket.
Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert at Bonn University, elaborated an even better hypothesis, i.e. “cricket” derives from the Middle Dutch phrase for hockey, “met de krik ketsen”, which literally translates to “chase with a stick”. Gillmeister also supports the theory that the sport, not just the word, originated in Flanders.