Vojtech Hasa is the Captain of the Czech Republic National Cricket team and Vinohardy Cricket Club in Prague. He started representing the National team in 2011. In the brief Interview, Vojtech talks about the opportunities and challenges Czech Republic Cricket has. Also he mentioned about the progress that country is making day by day and promoting Cricket in local as well as international circuit.
1. Tell us about you?
Full Name:Vojtěch Haša
Date of Birth: 23.09.1983
Playing Role: Captain, Batsman, part-time bowler
Batting Style: Aggressive Right Hand Batsman
Bowling Style: Medium pace swing bowler
Country: Czech Republic
2. At Present: Are you a Coach? A cricket player? A cricket related business? A club Owner? A cricket Fan? Mention your work profile (if anything else).
I am the captain of the Vinohrady Cricket Club in Prague and up until 2015 was the captain of the Czech national cricket team. I hope to still be a part of the national team in 2015.
I own a Chateau in the Czech country side (Chateau Hostačov - www.zamek-hostacov.com) which I have turned into a hotel retreat and conference, entertainment/wedding venue.
3. Are you playing cricket currently? If Yes - Since how long are you playing cricket? What level of cricket have you played so far in your country?
I have been playing cricket in the Czech Republic since 2008. I have represented the national team officially since 2011, and been the captain since 2013.
4. Do you play for any club or a team? Mention their names? When was it founded? Where are you working currently?
I play for the Vinohrady cricket club based in Prague which was founded in 2006. I also play for the Czech national team. I also play in and organise a team made up of Czech natives who have learned the game in the Czech Republic and we play several friendlies a year against mostly expat teams from Prague.
5. Where do you and your team see yourself in coming 5 years? Where do you want to focus in order to improve your cricket?
The club I play for (Vinohrady) will this year for the first time enter two teams in our national T20 league championship. This is a big step for us in terms of expanding the club. One team will be going for the win in an attempt to win the championship, whilst the other team will be there to allow those who only want to play occasionally, or who are still developing their skills to get some competitive game time in. So the overall goal for our club is to attract more players and keep them happy with enough cricket playing opportunities.
With the influx of new players we are hoping to be able to truly filter the players into two camps - the serious cricketer who wants to attend training regularly and play as much as possible in order to perform as best they can, and the leisurely cricketer who likes a game, likes doing well, but isn't particularly motivated to train hard to improve. Here in Czech we have trialled a "Sunday" league more aimed at beginners and social cricketers, but there wasn't as much interest as hoped. This was a couple of years ago though, so with the growth we have had, hopefully we can revisit this idea in the future. Since we now have two grounds, this gives us the opportunity to arrange friendly matches for the social guys even when there is another league match on on the same day.
There is quite a variety of clubs here, but the majority of players are still expats from commonwealth countries. We are trying to promote the sport to the locals through a variety of programs - the most successful of which is one we run in Schools. Personally I would love to see the amount of locals taking up the sport increase. Vinohrady is probably the club, or the equal top club with the highest amount of locals players in its' ranks. I would like to see this trend grow. This is another reason I am a part of the Czech natives setup. Even though the Czechs play for different clubs we get together and form a team and it is usually a load of fun. Particularly since we make a point of speaking Czech on the field (the go-to language for cricket in Prague is English, though some of the more heavily Asian teams speak Hindi amongst themselves). It is actually really funny when we directly translate cricketing terms like fielding positions into Czech and terms like "corridor of uncertainty". It almost gets to the point everyone is outdo-ing each other to find the funniest translation. A lot of the guys in the opposition have been in Czech long enough that they will understand and it raises a chuckle - a secret weapon to distract them! But in all we tend to play weaker opposition so that even the beginners will get a chance at some decent time in the middle and can develop a love for the game. In Poland their native team the "Hussars" toured the UK last year to great success I heard. They have invited us this year to play in the first ever Central European natives tournament in August. Even though the timing isn't ideal I'm confident we will be able to send a team.
Personally, I live about 90 KM outside of Prague in a small village. I own and operate a Chateau Hotel with extensive grounds. We have just recently revitalised the Chateau park, and a part of these works was laying large areas of grass amongst the trees. Since in some large areas the trees were not healthy and had to be replaced, I have taken this as an opportunity to combine my passion and my work and I have made space for and laid the foundations of a turf pitch and field. My hope is that I will be able to get some teams out from Prague, and perhaps some others from other cities in the Czech Republic to come and play some matches at my field. If we do enough promotion in the local area I think we can get a decent crowd to come and see what this sport that is unknown to them is, and potentially some of them might decide to give it a go. If everything goes to plan I would love to start my own club of locals from my village and surrounding villages and towns who would in time take on the others in Czech. A very grass roots way of building up the popularity here. The fact we have a Chateau hotel right by the ground I hope may even entice touring teams to come and visit us.
We will see, that is a very long-term goal and for the time being I am concentrating on lifting this years'trophy with Vinohrady! Last year we were runners-up in a competitive final with Prague cricket club, so hopefully all the training we have put in during the off-season will pay off.
6. Do your club/association have any website or facebook page? Mention their links.
7. Any recent achievements/activities that you had. (It could be organizing a small camp, or just playing a match or organizing a cricket camp or playing a tournament series) Do mention the date.
More than anything, what has contributed the most in the last couple of years here has been the building of a quality cricket ground. When I began playing here we literally played in a flat-ish expanse of park in the city where we would mow the pitch, but the outfield was left to the council, meaning sometimes the outfield resembled a prarie, other times it was lightning fast in comparison. One of our players, and the long time Chairman of Czech cricket has been very busy over the last few years, and on the outskirts of Prague we now have 2 full size grounds with all-weather notts-style wickets from the UK, for which we received financial assistance from the ICC.
Ever since those were installed we have see the quality of play improve drastically. 4 years ago it was common for perhaps one half-century to be scored per match. Now we are having guys regularly score 100's with supporting 50's and score lines that resemble regular cricket ones. Last year in the T20 Semi-final our club scored 224. 3 years previously we scored 232 in a 35 over match which was a club record and largely only because it was in Ireland on a real field. The pitch we used to play on it was nigh on impossible to play your natural game. One ball pitching in the same spot might scoot past at ankle height, and the next might come up to the ribs. We even had a name for this - a "Vypich ball" after the name of the park we used to play on. Now that the bounce is true our batsmen have been able to trust the bounce and play their strokes. This has had the added effect that some better players who came and tried cricket here and decided to stop on account of the conditions have come back and are now playing, which enriches the pool and obviously means a higher level of cricket overall.
Since we (and most of the European teams) have been more or less cast adrift by the ICC in terms of organised Intl. tournaments, we have taken things into our own hands. Dan Casey - Czech cricket Secretary and Karel Ziegler - President did an amazing job last year by organising two high-quality tournaments. The first we (Czech Cricket) hosted the first ever Central Europe cup 5-7.09.2014 where the official Czech team played Switzerland, Poland and Luxembourg. The other one was the "Pepsi cup" 12-14.09.2014 where we have a best of the best Prague team take on a variety of other teams, from as far afield as Kerala, India! Unfortunately we came last in the Central Europe cup - despite beating the eventual winners Poland, but we won the Pepsi cup.
I have to say that since we have been regularly playing on a decent surface the level of play here has sky-rocketed. I think that if we were to go to another tournament like the last ICC run one I attended in Slovenia in 2011, then we would surprise the other teams. I think we have improved vastly. The way we played in the win against Poland was excellent. Unfortunately we let it slide a bit and narrowly lost in a rain affected game against Switzerland afterwards, and the following day we were hampered with some absentee's and a poor showing against Luxembourg, so we went from in the driving seat to win, to last place. Having said that, with the competition heating up for places in the national team lineup, I think we can expect much bigger and better things to come.
8. Would you like to come to India for a tournament or a coaching camp? Or do you want to travel any other country (if Yes, please mention the name)?
I am sure we would love to go to India, but currently more than anything budget wise it isn't a reality for us. As cricket is so fledgling here, we wouldn't be able to support the cost of sending a team all that way, as much as we would love to. We often go and play our neighbours in Austria, Hungary and Germany. This year for the first time we will head to Poland, as they are hosting the Central Europe cup. A Czech team went to Malta in 2013, but since it was a pay your own way affair, I can't in all honesty say it was exactly the team the selectors would have picked if monetary issues weren't involved, but that was great since it was in October when play was no longer possible here, but conditions there were perfect and we therefore got to prolong our season by a week! My club is heading on a tour to Peru next year because one of our players played there for many years previously, but again that is paid for by players themselves and therefore a holiday with cricket rather than a serious cricketing trip.
9. What are the challenges you are facing in your country's cricket? If any, how do you feel to overcome those challenges?
The biggest challenge I think is the basic fact that at this time cricket here is mainly an expat activity. There are a few adventurous local souls who have taken up the sport, but they are quite literally one in a million. What is a shame is that baseball and softball are incredibly popular sports here. When you mention playing cricket to a local most of the time they will quite seriously think you are talking about playing croquet. There is almost no awareness of the sport here whatsoever, and even if people know what it is, and like the idea of it, unless they are in the capital, they have no chance of playing. I don't know what the baseball people did to make it such a hit here, but cricket missed a beat on that one. It could be as simple as the fact that American culture has been so much more influential everywhere outside the old commonwealth, and that there are a plethora of movies glorifying baseball for youngsters to aim to emulate, whereas I honestly don't know of any movie where cricket takes even a sideline role.
Those of us who love the game are trying to popularise it, but at the end of the day it comes down to a handful of volunteers whose love for the game is such that they devote a huge part of their spare time to trying to make it work.. It is wonderful when we see things are improving, albeit at a snails' pace as far as widespread acknowledgement of the game is concerned.
In 2009 and 2011 the ICC organised and subsidised our national team to go and play a 6-team official tournament that would have ramifications in that the top team would progress up a level in the European standings. This had a big effect on the players here. With the motivation of a national team debut, not to mention a tour there was increased rivalry in the leagues as people vied for selection. Unfortunately after 2011 this was discontinued, which is a shame for us, as this coincided with a period where I believe our level of cricket has improved tremendously.
The greatest contribution the ICC gave us was in that they have assisted us in funding our new wickets and fields, which I think was the greatest obstacle we had in attracting players and ensuring they can play to a good level. Without a field we never stood a chance. We now have two, though they are right next to each other at the same facility.
As far as I know though, there doesn't appear to be any guidelines or advice that the ICC supply to Associates like us to try and popularize the sport in our country. Obviously I wouldn't expect them to do everything for us and throw loads of money at Czech cricket, but I would think that an organisation that size, with the word "International" clearly in the title would be a bit more interested in truly making the game a bit more international. I would think that they could at least set up a think-tank to mull over how to get the sport off the ground in countries it is not well-known in. They could then pass this knowledge to the national governing bodies to make it happen. Or appoint their own people. I realise it would cost something, but if taking a long term view, the popularization of the sport in the non-commonwealth world would certainly pay off even if only a modest percentage of people took it up.
I have an example. In my forest I am now building a frisbee-golf course (known professionally as discgolf). In the Czech Republic this sport was unknown a few years ago. Now there are about 40 courses, with another 40 more to be built this year. There is a thriving community actively playing this sport that is growing exponentially. I must mention that this sport, even where it is most popular in the world (Scandinavia) is still very much a fringe sport, yet they are making much better headway than cricket is anywhere I know of in Europe. And cricket is not a fringe sport in the countries it is played. Whilst the main driver of the growth in discgolf has been the commercially-interested course designers, I don't see why the ICC couldn't take that role if they were serious about things. The move to limit the world cup to 10 teams underlines the fact they are not in my opinion.
10. One thing that you instantly need that would boost the involvement of people in your country's cricket?
I really don't think I am qualified to answer this question. What I would say is, someone from the ICC should have a look at the growth of soccer in the USA and Australia. In the last 20 years it has become the biggest sport played by kids in these countries, where previously it was known of, but not much played. What did Soccer Australia and FIFA actively do and promote to make this happen. I doubt it happened by itself. If it did, then maybe we could give cricket a boost by learning from their success.? In my opinion, more than anything cricket here probably needs someone to run around schools throughout the country and start getting cricket into the kids so they know what it is. IF nothing else teaching teachers to let the kids try it and supplying some materials. We have already tried this, but there is only so much a few volunteers can do. We have limited resources, and without a large pool of active cricketers it is difficult to have manz volunteers. There would also need to be at least a few grounds spread out throughout the country, or at least Prague if we were starting there so that the kids who had an interest then had somewhere to play. Rather than private investors, if the ICC took an interest in promoting the building of cricket fields at some schools, or by some municipalities, then it would do wonders.
11. Name any 3 active Cricket Clubs from your locality, Country. Also mention the name and email id of these 3 clubs.
1. Barbarians cricket club
2. Bohemians cricket club
3. Prague cricket club
12. Would you like to nominate any club from your country for a free website from Global Cricket Community? If Yes, Why?
All of the clubs I know of have a free website running, if yours was better in some way then I suppose they would be happy.
13. Tell in brief (One paragraph). Which country are you supporting this World Cup? And Why?
I grew up in Australia, so I am going for Australia. I grew up there from the age of 3 to Czech parents, so when I first developed an interest in the game they had no idea what it was. The first time I started following cricket I was 10 during the West Indies/Australia Frank Worrell trophy series 92/93. I remember watching Brian Lara score his maiden century when he got 277 at the SCG, then the match where Australia lost by 1 run - the closest ever test chase to lose, and then the disappointment of losing in the final test to lose the series after it looked like they may win it. Allan Border was never destined to win a series against the Windies. It was heartbreaking but exhilirating way to be introduced to cricket. I had school holidays so would spend all day watching and learning the rules. Ritchie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell commentating were my teachers. I spent so much time at the TV my parents - who couldn't comprehend a game can take so long - started implementing rules as to how long I could watch at a time for. Inspired, I bought a bat and dragged my dad to the high school near our house after work and had him throw the ball at me on the concrete pitch in their oval. He didn't know the rules but he could throw the ball fast so I got used to bouncy fast bowling and a lot of full tosses. Right then though we moved into the country so I had no chance to play in a team. We had a large property so I whittled out a pitch in the hard dry earth and I would practice with my dad, and later my neighbours after school. My first game was at Physical education at the end of high school. No-one had ever seen me play so I was put in at no. 11. I came in and we had barely made half the needed score. I made a quickfire 50 and we were inches from victory when I was left stranded when the no. 10 got out. I didn't play again until I came to Prague, and in my first game also made a 50. Unfortunately since then the scores haven't been as consistent!
But Australia is where I learned to play, and I always dreamed of playing for them, so they are the team I am supporting. I like the way NZ are playing, but it is always Australia for me. I actually spent 6 weeks in the caribbean in 2007 following Australia during the world cup there. During that time I actually managed to play some beach cricket with Vivian Richards, Ritchie Richardson, Damien Fleming among others which was a huge highlight.