Pushing Boundaries: Pavel Florin Interview

By Annie Chave

If you want an easy example of how free to air television can make a difference to the visibility of cricket then you don’t have to look much further than the incredible rise to fame of Romanian cricketer, Pavel Florin. He became an overnight internet sensation in July, when the European Cricket League was broadcast by the Sports Channel Network.  Florin’s Cluj Cricket Club were playing French side Drexel, and his unusual bowling action caught the eye of viewers around the world, provoking a deluge of mockery, which modulated into patronisation, and stayed there. That in itself isn’t surprising – in the social media world every keyboard warrior is a critic and an expert – but what was unusual was Florin’s reaction to this barrage. He showed a defiance that sprang from his genuine passion to improve his own game, and that passion has become so infectious that it has spread across the internet like a virus. He has been quoted as saying, “Maybe someone says my bowling is not beautiful or not effective, but I don’t care because I love cricket”, and he means it. Having spoken to him, I know he does.

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When I contacted Pavel, on the offchance that he would be willing to talk to me, his response was “anything is possible”. This, I was soon to discover, is his mantra, and appropriate as a sentiment if he is to achieve what he has set out to do; to teach his country “what cricket is”.

Speaking from his apartment in Romania, Pavel said that he’s become quite used to being asked both questions and his views on the game.  He remains both relaxed about and dismissive of his newly found fame. The non-stop messaging on his phone is ignored with a sang froid that comes from a genuine sense of detachment; he’s not bothered with his fame because the attention is largely irrelevant to the job he has to do. His much-publicised trip to England, where he was invited into the President’s Box at Lord’s and interviewed on Test Match Special, was “a great experience”, he told me, “but it doesn’t help cricket in Romania”. “Here, I’m alone, I need to show what cricket is.” He isn’t a celebrity in Romania – he’s a night-club bouncer and a sport junkie – but he’s taken on a mission, and luckily for the game worldwide, it’s all about cricket, and only cricket.

Pavel came late to the game, beginning at thirty-two when most careers are winding down. An obsessive sportsman, he had played American Football and – in a national league team – Futsal. Now, though, his interest in cricket is “a story that everyone knows”. “I saw it being played in the park, and asked to join in. I am big and they [the group of Indian cricketers] were small … I could hit it hard and they flattered me, telling me that I could go far and be captain of Romania. I liked the lie”.  He laughs, and admits that they chose the right person to engage and flatter because, like Hans Christian Anderson’s little match girl, he took the spark they offered him and lit all of his matches to make his dream come true.

Pavel joined his local team, and, for six years spent most of the time fielding because “they wouldn’t let me bowl”. It was his determination to improve that won his teammates over, and he became not only a bowler but President of his club. Now, at the positively veteran age of forty, he plays for the Romanian national team. “There are six cricket teams in Romania”, he tells me, but his club is composed of thirteen Indians, one Pakistani, one Englishman and him. Cricket remains very much a minority pursuit and hasn’t filtered down to his fellow countrymen and women yet. It’s similar in many European countries, where expats from more traditional cricketing countries make up a large proportion of most teams, but Romania is a somewhat extreme case. Pavel tells me that he knows of only ten Romanians who do play in the whole country. No wonder: “ it’s not easy”, he explains, “I have nowhere close to train, my ground is 500km away.” He takes this journey with his team three times a week just to practise. It is time consuming and financially draining too. “There is no sponsor”, Pavel says, “I have to pay for my kit, my equipment and all my travel. My team play twenty matches and there are around five international games”. It is easy to see that, to survive let alone to succeed, there must be a real commitment to the sport and an unparalleled drive.

It is when he pans his phone around his room that the huge gulf in the status of an ‘international cricketer’ in Romania and one in England is at its most evident. Piled around Pavel’s small apartment is a choice array of cricket equipment that he’s been sent by well-wishers. For him there’s no clubhouse containing the bats, pads and various items of kit, they fill his room. He has no one to care for them or to transport them for him. The gifts are precious to him though; there’s the promise of a future with every item he’s sent, and he is determined to make good use of them all.

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Pavel’s stardom saw him initially inundated with offers from those eager to capitalise on his fame, with “agents offering me advice on making money”, but “they weren’t interested in cricket”, he laments, “it’s the little people that make me famous, not the ones that want to make money and not the ones that make fun of my bowling and then don’t have time to help.  I’m not stupid; why do you think I bowl this way?” It’s a question I can’t answer, but his explanation is fascinating and shows a sophistication that he’s not been credited with. “I do it because people don’t hit sixes off me.”

I ask him why cricket, and he quickly responds “I love all sport”, but when I ask him why cricket his answer is considered and to the point, “Because sport is adrenaline-based, and in something like football there is no time to think, but in cricket you pause and make decisions.” This, he says, “is adrenaline-pumping”.

The Pavel Florin story is best read in a global context. He doesn’t care about either the accolades or the criticisms that have come his way. He’s not playing for the connoisseur, he’s playing for the love of cricket and it is that and that alone which drives him. “One day I want to be the President of the Cricket Federation”, he says, and it has to be said that he’s made a start towards achieving the unachievable. “I have plans to talk to the council about finding a ground to play cricket on”, he says. “I will make my country see cricket”. As a cricket-loving nation, we should surely be encouraging him because, if cricket is to grow, it needs to move beyond its existing boundaries, and encouraging interest in a nation like Romania thanks to Pavel Florin’s new found fame is an opportunity that should not be missed.

You can follow Annie on Twitter:  @AnnieChave

21 thoughts on “Pushing Boundaries: Pavel Florin Interview

  1. Rooto Sep 24, 2019 / 7:23 pm

    Romania is a big country and Cluj is a long way from most of it. I can really understand how transport is a drain on time and money.
    It’s such a big mountain that he has chosen to climb, that he is surely right to focus on looking for the next Pavel Florin. It’s going to take so much time to publicise cricket to the wider populace – more time than a 40-year-old has on the pitch – that building a nucleus of players and families is key. Dare I say it, a bigger version of creating a successful village club? Having said that, I am very much in awe of his drive and level-headedness.

    Like

    • Annie Chave Sep 25, 2019 / 10:29 am

      He has so much drive and energy – it is so inspiring and humbling.

      Like

  2. Benny Sep 24, 2019 / 7:52 pm

    Sheesh. This is what is so special about blogs – Real Life, not pleasing an editor, not following an agenda, not status. I’m sounding old-fashioned I know

    Like

    • Annie Chave Sep 24, 2019 / 9:53 pm

      Thanks Benny

      Like

  3. Mark Sep 24, 2019 / 8:21 pm

    “As a cricket-loving nation, we should surely be encouraging him because, if cricket is to grow, it needs to move beyond its existing boundaries,“

    Haven’t you got the memo yet? They are not interested in growing the game. Never mind Romania…. look at WI, SA, SL, Ireland etc etc. Most of the English cricket establishment don’t want to show Free to air live cricket to the English never mind nations who haven’t discovered it yet.

    Shrinking the game, but growing the revenue of the big three is all that matters. Great news, Australia are coming over yet again next year.

    Like

    • Annie Chave Sep 24, 2019 / 9:52 pm

      Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge this. Absolutely not.

      Like

  4. quebecer Sep 24, 2019 / 11:13 pm

    Thanks so much for this, Annie. Does Pawel know Jonny B. might be looking for a game?

    Like

    • dArthez Sep 25, 2019 / 7:01 pm

      Let me second Quebecer. Thanks Annie.

      The ECB probably spend more on Harrison’s salary and assorted perks than the sum of all the monies combined to Eastern European Cricket Boards. Priorities.

      Like

      • Rooto Sep 25, 2019 / 8:15 pm

        Isn’t Harrison on 700 grand or more? That probably exceeds the combined expenditure on all non-Full Member nations (possibly excepting the USA)

        Like

        • dArthez Sep 26, 2019 / 5:38 am

          It is not that bad yet. But give it a few years, and it may well be.

          Cricket as a global sport is just about as healthy as cricket in Kenya. which is to say, pretty much dead but refusing to be buried. For example, there have been quite a few court wrangles in Cricket Kenya, with regards to leadership of the organisation (a perennial problem in Kenya). The latest news on their website is from March 2018.

          A lot of teams depend on expats from cricket playing Full Member nations. Which in itself is not bad, but it highlights that cricket is not an easy sport to get into or exposed to (equipment, facilities, other players. It does not help in Europe in particular that there is no easy way to accidentally stumble onto cricket. Pavel ran into a bunch of Indian expats in the park, and then his spirit took over. Less strong willed and committed people would have enjoyed the experience, and it would not have developed further. Sky is not helping matters, compared to the FTA era). I suspect something similar applies to most of the rest of the world as well.

          Another stat to highlight the challenges cricket faces: the Dutch cricket association has about 5000 members, with quite a few of those having foreign roots). That is after being around since 1883! The Dutch rugby association (which was founded in 1932) has three times that membership, and I don’t think anyone is missing the Dutch in Japan at the moment.

          So when people like Pavel take up the sport, it is just another reminder of how powerful the pull of cricket can be. And of how many opportunities are squandered by the powers that be, deliberately and intentionally. If cricket takes off somewhere, it is usually despite of the ICC, rather than because of it.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 25, 2019 / 9:36 am

    I was first made aware of him through my cricket club’s twitter feed. As the organiser of my team’s midweek thrash around side, I pointed out in response that the number of wides and no balls that our team accrued meant we were no-one at all to mock Pavel.

    His obvious enthusiasm for the game is great and he makes far more sacrifices than I do to play the game. He has to travel a number of hours. I get utterly hacked off when local transport means it takes me 90 minutes or so to get to a game on the other side of London at the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Annie Chave Sep 25, 2019 / 10:27 am

    yes 500Km is quite a way just to train!

    Like

    • dannycricket Sep 25, 2019 / 1:30 pm

      You might think so, but I’ve heard that cricketers in Yorkshire have to walk twice as far to training. It’s uphill both ways too.

      Like

  7. dArthez Sep 25, 2019 / 6:59 pm

    As an aside, is it not glorious that the County Championship gets decided on rain?

    The equivalent would be that the FA restructure the domestic calendar to end the season around Boxing Day, and then the final fixtures get cancelled due to frozen pitches, and without time in the calendar to actually get the games played, because there is a World Cup to be played in Qatar.

    Sure, you can’t have reserve days, but the ECB has done almost everything in its power to guarantee that the Championship gets decided on who gets lucky with rain, pretty much throughout the entire First Class season.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. dArthez Sep 28, 2019 / 11:38 am

    World Rugby is now celebrating the success of Japan, both as a host and as a team.

    If the World Cup Rugby was organised by the ICC, they’d be anxiously going through the books, and find ways of suspending Japan for its successes. And if that fails, find ways to simply ignore the existence of Japan as much as possible for the next decade.

    And people wonder why cricket is not growing at the rate of rugby.

    Like

    • quebecer Oct 1, 2019 / 9:54 pm

      Kevin Shine too – finally! He’s been stealing a salary for years.

      Like

    • Marek Oct 2, 2019 / 11:07 am

      Yes–verily our cup runneth over.

      Although I suppose we should see who their successors are before we rejoice too much–it could be David Saker!!

      Like

  9. Anteater Oct 3, 2019 / 3:07 pm

    You couldn’t make it up time…. the shirts for each of the franchises in The H*ndr*d are all sponsored by snacks… crisps, popcorn etc. This fits with the Mums & kids demographic. However it does mean that one team has a shirt advertising a well known brand of nuts.

    Yes folks an entire team of cricketers will have ‘KP’ on their shirts 🙂 😀

    No unintended humour whatsoever.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marek Oct 3, 2019 / 9:17 pm

      …and suitably, it appears to be for the Oval franchise.

      Maybe it’s another subtle bit of trolling from Surrey about the whole Hundred concept! Probably not, but I like to think so…

      Like

  10. glenn Oct 3, 2019 / 10:04 pm

    I see one team is wearing a kit based on a packet of Skips. Ghastly.

    Like

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