DTG INTERVIEWS PAVEL FLORIN
DTG: How did you get into cricket? There are many people of subcontinental heritage playing for Romania but you're the first Romanian playing for your country. Cricket isn't that popular in Romania and it's not known much.
PF: Yes, it's true. If you go on the streets and ask about cricket, nobody will know. I'm a sportsman and I like sports, I saw a match on TV and after that, I watched around 10 matches. When I went to train, where I take part in many sports, there was a group of Indians and Pakistanis who play cricket. I went up to them and asked them, let me please hit the ball once with the bat, the guy said OK, c'mon. He threw the ball slowly, I hit it. After that he said you're talented, you're the future captain of Romania. But that was a lie, because someone caught the ball after I hit it... The truth was that they don't have people to play, so anyone who comes is good for the team! In that moment, my career in cricket started. This was something that happened which was very good for my life, cricket. I went into many sports, but cricket is special.
DTG: When you played the first time, where was that?
PF: It was in the sports facility, outdoors. It was a football pitch, they tried to make it work.
DTG: The first ball you got was spin-bowling?
PF: It was like my bowling! I hit it hard but somebody caught the ball. I thought it's good, but in reality, it was very bad.
DTG: You didn't know that you were out if somebody caught the ball?
PF: I knew it, but I thought it's outside the boundary line... but it's not true, I hit it like 20 metres.
DTG: The first match which you saw was between which teams? Was it between people playing or on TV?
PF: It's not on TV, because in Romania there aren't any matches broadcast.
DTG: You played in the ECL recently, how was that experience?
PF: For my team, it was gold, I could say that. We are a little team in Europe. All my players work and don't have time for cricket, we don't have a field in our town. Our field is 500km away from our home, it's very hard to travel and train there. We tried to train here but it's not the same. We won the championship last year on our first try and we went to ECL. Every time, we were paying for everything, the players were paying from their pockets. The ECL was the first time we went and somebody paid for us! That's something new, you go and you don't pay anything. After that, the players are amazing, professional players, very good teams and it's amazing.
DTG: I heard you were playing with a broken leg at the ECL, is that true?
PF: Yes, I have an injury and I aggravated it before ECL, somebody stepped on my foot. Right now, I have problems with it and I don't know if I need surgery or not, I hope not. I'm an optimistic man. I played it because it's a chance of a lifetime. What should I do? I prepared two years for this and now I don't go play? We're men.
DTG: Is it true that you had a broken leg?
PF: It's partly true. Nobody can play with a broken leg. But my leg was broken earlier and after I started to recover, a week before ECL, I had another injury in the same place and my foot didn't recover completely but I didn't complain about this because we're men and ECL is a chance, once in a life. I tried to do my best. Maybe that leg doesn’t let me play to my best potential but it's not something to complain about.
DTG: A clip of your bowling during ECL went viral. A lot of people made fun of that, but many people backed you. Shane Warne, a legend of cricket backed you and said you should be congratulated because you're a born and bred Romanian and he said that cricket is a beautiful game. How does it feel for a legend like Shane Warne along with other cricketers like Dimitri Mascarenhas, Graeme Onions to support you?
PF: When you go to ECL to play, the phone remains home. For that moment, I don't know about these things. Just somebody showed me some images from a TV in Australia who perhaps tried to make fun of the competition or me.
About my bowling, it's my style, what can I say. Maybe it's not like a professional player, not like a good bowler but for me it works. This is the best bowling for me, if I have more speed everybody hit me. I don't have speed, nobody hits me. Nobody hit a 6 off my bowling. Maybe it needs to improve, that's true. But I started bowling just 1.5 to 2 years ago.
DTG: You should be applauded. Like Shane Warne said, you're from a country in which cricket isn't played much. People shouldn't be so quick to make fun of others.
PF: This great player did what sportsmen have to do. To say, I am 40 years old and at this age, you don't worry about what people say. I just want to play. that was my big concern. Now I have other responsibilities also, with this publicity.
DTG: You're also a bodyguard, is that correct?
PF: Yes, that's correct. I've done this for 20 years.
DTG: In Romania, cricket isn't that popular. Do you think your popularity can help cricket become more popular in Romania?
PF: The people saw the TV and newspaper and took my name, but they don't know why. It's hard for it work here, to have a cricket family. We don't have the facilities for cricket here which is the first concern. You can't tell Romanians to play cricket when you don't have a ground. You can't say to Romanians that you come and play, but you pay for it all. It's not cheap, this sport. It's not me complaining, it's the reality. I made an effort to put the Romanian team in the world cricket family. I have a plan, to build a field here, in the next 2-3 years maybe. I don't know how, but for sure I'll do this in my town. In the country, I have another plan. Cluj is a very expensive city and field is really expensive here, so I'll try to make it outside Cluj. Another problem is how to get kids and the people there. But I found a solution, I'm an optimistic guy.
DTG: Do you plan on talking to the ICC? Do you plan on including them in your plans?
PF: I don't know if they will come with me to assist me with my plans. This has happened just now. In 1-2 weeks, Pavel is very popular. I am trying to make connections and speak to people and do my best for this country and for this game here. Maybe after 5-7 years, we'll have a strong team of Cricket Romania. We have a team now and have competition with other teams, but we need Romanian players.
DTG: Teams like Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland have more local players, but teams like USA, Canada, UAE, Qatar and Oman are mostly based on expats.
PF: There are many. But if you in a team like Bulgaria, they have locals in the national team, and same for Czech Republic. The best ones are mixed, because you need time.
DTG: Main thing is to play a lot, have practice and experience and then you go to the next level.
PF: True, but the first thing is the facilities.
DTG: Cricket isn't like football which you can play anywhere. Even in Dubai and Pakistan, we do often play on the roads with the tennis ball with tape. Even if we don't have bat, we use a stick and make a bat from it. Do you consider yourself an all-rounder? A batsman who can bowl or a bowler who can bat?
PF: My best skill is fielding!
DTG: That's actually good because nowadays, fielding is counted as important as batting or bowling.
PF: In the field, I have good skills because I was goalkeeper in football teams before. I was very quick with good reflexes but that time has passed now. But I think I have good quality... after this, I started to hit the ball with the bat and I was a batsman. Not very good, but I go at #5/6/7. I stayed at the crease, make run after run. I'm not a great batsman but I have my own style, I have tricky shots, because my quality isn't very good. I try to trick the bowlers. I faced two balls in ECL, the first one I tried something but the bowler saw me and it wasn't successful, the second time I tried a reverse and made my first run in ECL. It was like a victory for me, like a six.
DTG: In the ECL before you started to bowl, the run-rate was 17 and you went for 13, so you bowled better than the regular bowlers.
PF: If you see my 2nd over, I gave just 5 runs. But the last over wasn't very good, I bowled a no-ball because it slipped from my hand. My captain used me when the bowling wasn't going well, the team has experimental players for bowling. But when these players didn't go well, they brought me on. With my style, nobody hit that kind of ball, so I have some success.
DTG: You said you're going to practice after this, how much do you practice?
PF: In cricket, I practice maybe one day per week. The training is expensive and players have to put in their own time and money. If we go in the place where there is a trainer, we have to play. Once a week, we have cricket practice and maybe 2 times we have physical practice. Who wants more can do more, but the people are working and have families. They're not like me, I am free. I work night, I could play cricket in the day. But the rest of the team, for them it's a problem.
DTG: The rest of your team who are from the subcontinent, are they students or do they live and work there?
PF: My team is spread across Romania. I have some players here in Cluj, maybe 8. Another player in another city, etc. This is another problem, because we don't have a team together in my town, we don't have enough cricketers here. Other cities are very far. Sometimes we go in that city and train there, sometimes we go to Bucharest and play in that field. So that's how it works, when you don't have facilities, you do your best. Again, I don't complain about this. We also play cricket, it's not a problem. Sometimes it's raining, we also put the money, it's for us.
DTG: The umpire doesn't stop play in the rain?
PF: We don't stop training in the rain, but maybe the umpire will stop the game. This is the ugly part. I am very pissed off when rain stops play.
DTG: We are also angry with this and speak about many solutions like closed roof arenas and stadiums. Specially in the World Cup, some games were stopped due to rain and some teams benefitted while some got a bad result. You told us how cricket isn't that popular in Romania. You've shone a light on how you play money to travel and play cricket and how there are no facilities. You said you have a plan to improve the facilities, so the final question is: Where do you see Romania in the next 5 years if your plan works? Do you think that Romania can eventually in 10-20 years can play a T20 World Cup?
PF: Let me tell you a story. When I started, my first thing was to try and see how it's played. Indians and Pakistanis showed me how to hit the ball. After that, I wish to play a match so I did that. I wanted to bowl and bat and the captain let me do this. After that, I wanted to make a team here of which I would be the president. And that wish was made. After that, I played for the national team and won the championship which was my dream here in Romania. After that, my dream was to ECL and I went to ECL.
DTG: You're setting the first stone in how to improve the side; you're being the example.
PF: Yes, it's not far away to play against SL, India, Pakistan. You'll see in a few years that the Romanians are very good players and athletes. Somebody just needs to take care of them. In the future, I'll make this job. I don't have the plan now because the boom came so quickly. Everybody calls me. After this storm is passed, I'll make a good plan.
DTG: That's quite reassuring. Not only in Romania but in other European countries as well, natives don't play cricket much. But like you said in Czech Republic and Bulgaria, the locals play cricket which is good to hear. Hopefully in a few years, we can see these countries playing along with the best sides in the world. Right now, it seems like the ICC isn't that interested in spreading cricket across the globe. You're the first person who we've interviewed from an Affiliate country, we were honoured to have you here. Thank you for joining us.