Samoan cricket | Michael Gorey

Samoan cricket

kilikiti samoa

Samoans love their rugby. It pervades all sectors of society. There are goalposts in almost every village on unkept grassy fields, like with soccer in Asia and Africa.

For a small country of 180,000 people they punch way above their weight on the rugby field, having made quarter finals of the World Cup.

They also have indigenous sports that are less well known outside the Pacific islands.

When we arrived in September the rugby season had ended, but there were inter-village competitions taking place for longboat racing and kilikiti (cricket).

On our first day of riding around Savaii, our guide Lau was listening intently to radio commentary of the longboat event. This pits village against village in races using the traditional sea craft that islanders used for transport across hundreds of nautical miles and around their islands before roads were established.

We didn't get to see this competition, but at the same time villages were playing kilikiti against each other.

This is a local variant of cricket using a hard rubber ball wrapped in pandanus. As Wikipedia explains, players are not protected by any padding or masks, and often wear only a lava-lava.

kilikiti batsThe sennit-wrapped wooden bats are modelled on the three-sided Samoan war club called the "lapalapa," which are based on the stalk of coconut fronds.

Bats are shaped to individual players' likings and can be over a metre long.

Because the striking surface of the bat is angled (just as the "lapalapa" club and the coconut frond stalk), the path of a hit ball is extremely hard to predict.

Pitches are narrow strips of concrete on patches of grass in the middle of a village. When struck, the ball can potentially disappear into or over fales (houses), into pig sheds or gardens, or into the sea if it's close enough.

There are 20 players on each side and they all try to hit the ball as hard and far as they can.

While everyone bats in the three or four hours it takes to complete a game, only two or three men might bowl for each side. They use pace or spin to deceive their opponents.

Our first encounter with kilikiti was riding through a village while a match took place alongside the road, which cut through the field. We respectfully waited for a break in the action before progressing and watching some of the play.

The fielding team intermittently broke out in rhythmic chants and hand clapping to encourage their bowlers.

Young men and old were participating. The younger ones did most of the running in the outfield, just like with club cricket in Australia!

Batters normally stood in a baseball pose while waiting for the ball to be bowled. They sometimes clubbed the ball incredibly far.

Bowling was the closest thing to regular cricket and I could well imagine some of these men adjusting to the 11-a-side game without any difficulty.

The inter-village competition was played with great intensity. We also saw many social games that were just for fun. The enthusiasm of the participants was infectious and created an unfulfilled urge to join them.

I made enquiries about purchasing a bat, without success.

Here's a short video of some action:

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