While birds like the Redbacked Shrike are currently making their way from Sweden to South Africa, one of the country's most famous sportsmen, Jonty Rhodes, is making the move in the opposite direction and all because of his passion for the grassroots development of cricket.
Rhodes will take over as Sweden's head coach in November, once his stint with the Punjab Kings XI in the Indian Premier League is done, but he says his work will be far more focused on clubs than on a national team that is currently ranked 43[sup]rd[/sup] in T20 Internationals.
"In terms of my journey, my focus in the last two years has been on grassroots and the development of cricket and I've been to places like Nepal, Malawi, Zimbabwe and some of the smaller cities in India, mostly emerging cricket nations. Initially my focus in Sweden will be on developing coaches, that's spending time in a better way – coaching the coaches.
"You can get away with any gaps in knowledge if you have enthusiasm and intensity, and I'll be trying to get kids from other sports and introduce them to cricket, where hopefully they will have a great time and enjoy themselves. We need to share facilities and communities with other sports. It's not about doing anything fancy, just doing the basics really well," Rhodes told the Emerging Cricket Podcast.
According to Australian and former Commonwealth Games discus champion Benn Harradine, who is now Swedish cricket's performance director, there has been a feverish interest in the game in the Scandinavian nation over the last two years, with the number of clubs growing from 17 to 78. Rhodes's contagious enthusiasm will undoubtedly help accelerate that passion for the game.
It was actually Rhodes who made contact with Swedish cricket asking if there was any role available for him, with Harradine saying he found the initial approach difficult to swallow.
"When Jonty first reached out, I thought he was taking the piss! But it's been really good to get to know the person and Jonty's tremendous contact network is really going to help us," Harradine said of their breathtaking signing.
"I'm married to an architect who is a really big fan of the Swedish education system and with four of our six children aged 13, 10, five and three, we are relocating lock, stock and barrel with the family," Rhodes explained. I have followed European cricket quite closely and I actually hit Sweden up first with an e-mail. I'm not going as a consultant, this is a long-term move.
"As a family we're looking to make a future in a different scenario, we have our Swedish identity cards already and the entire process is done. I will be going straight to Sweden from the IPL in the United Arab Emirates, from 41⁰ to 3⁰! It's all been done fairly recently, in the last three months. I have a three-year IPL contract so I will be released for that, but I love the grassroots and growing the game," Rhodes said.
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