Why Brazil’s developing cricket programme could be very bad news for koalas

It’s only a week or two since we discovered that the bat-making industry could be turned upside down after scientists revealed that they had successfully manufactured a prototype out of bamboo.

Now, it seems, they can also be made out of a variety of other woods – pine, cedar, and, no doubt to the consternation of koalas, eucalyptus.

It has been brought about by the growing demand for cricket equipment in Brazil, where interest in the sport is building rapidly. The hub for this development is the central Brazilian city of Pocos de Caldas, where more than 5,000 youngsters in 50 schools have been introduced to the game.

However, last week it was reported that the programme risked being derailed by a lack of bats.

With great entrepreneurial spirit, the head of Cricket Brazil, Matt Featherstone, approached a local carpenter to see if he could help make up for the shortfall.

Reuters reported that Featherstone, who was once involved with the Kent Cricket Board, one of the recreational cricket bodies that participated in the Friends Provident Trophy in the UK between 1999 and 2004, took a traditional willow bat to Luiz Roberto Francisco and asked him if he had the wood or the expertise to make something similar.

Francisco, who was most used to crafting chairs and other furniture, told the international news agency: “I almost gave up lots of times, it’s really complicated.

“We need time, lots of patience, there are lots of obstacles: it’s the handle, the cut, the wood, the machining. It’s not a piece that you put in the lathe and turn it and then it’s finished.

“I thought this isn’t for me, but a few days later I’d be back. It kept me awake at nights but that’s how we learn, right? You lose sleep looking for solutions but you know there’s a path to the answer and you have to find it.”

Cricket in Brazil was introduced in the mid-1800s – before football -but was left behind by the fervour for a game which is almost synonymous with the country.

However, another form of the sport – a two-a-side game called Taco, which pits a bowler and wicketkeeper against two batsmen and includes stumpings and run-outs – is popular among children in the favelas, in theory providing something of a launching pad

The game with which we are more familiar received a boost in 2006 when Brazil became affiliate/associate members of the ICC. They now have T20I status and the women’s game, especially, is thriving

But like those scientists at Cambridge University who produced the bamboo prototype, the Brazilians are on the hunt for more sustainable alternatives to willow – something that may not be out of the question in a land that has more species of tree than any other.

Featherstone, who captained the country after moving there in 2000, told Reuters: “Now we’ve got more than 5,000 young people in the development programme with the idea, as soon as Covid goes, of going to 33,000. It’s going to be impossible bringing bats or material from00000 overseas so we have to source it here.”