In Australia’s most bizarre cricket competition, players bat and bowl in a church beneath a replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece
- The SPL is a six-tier amateur cricket competition held in Melbourne
- The competition takes place in a 13 year old Anglican church in Hawthorn
- Games include commentary, professional sound systems and even DRS
- But the unique competition is now looking for a new venue
cricket always had a way of bringing people together, but never like this.
Here, set against a backdrop of a giant replica of Michelangelo’s masterpiece the Sistine Chapel, players from all walks of life compete in indoor cricket leagues, complete with video scoreboards and even an in-house Direct Review System (DRS).
From the outside, St. Columb’s Anglican Church in Hawthorn looks like an ordinary place of worship – and yet it is anything but
From the outside one would not recognize that it was an ordinary place of worship.
The entire original facade of the 130-year-old Anglican Church of St. Columb has been preserved, but the interior has been completely remodeled and has hosted a six-class competition of around 400 players five nights a week since 2010.
Anil Mirchandani is the head of the SPL and also regularly competes with his team, The Misfits.
He described the competition and venue as “the perfect combination of outdoor, indoor and backyard cricket”.
“Because we’re set in a church, there’s just an immediate sense of humility and purpose, in a way you won’t find anywhere else.”
The Misfits are one of many teams that play in six divisions in SPL competition
“Every single player feels like an absolute star here. For that hour and a half, they can dress up and feel like they’re the best in the world.”
In addition to the professional interface, technical features such as the scoreboard and the DRS setup, players can even enjoy live commentary.
There’s a professional sound system, carpets used in the Olympics, safety nets to protect spectators seated in old church pews, and even an old archbishop’s chair to stand over the referee.
The surface consists of professional carpet once used in the Olympic Games, there are plaques, an electronic scoreboard, live streaming, commentary, professional sound and even DRS
It comes the closest to IPL gaming without playing in the IPL, which also offers an experience that cannot be found anywhere else.
Splitting his time between playing and commentating at this unique venue, Sunny Krishna said it was: “just like backyard cricket on steroids.”
And the cricket, the venue, it all brings local communities together, including people of different races, religions and backgrounds – all united by the religion of cricket.
“Whether you are Indian, whether you are Sri Lankan, whether you are Christian, it makes no difference when you come here. That’s what I like about it,” said Sangeeta Gupta, a regular viewer on the SPL benches.
Spectators can pull up a bench to watch the games – literally – with the old stands still in use
Unfortunately, in the near future, the SPL will be calling stumps over security issues within the church itself.
Reverend Mark McDonald, Vicar of St. Columb, has made the difficult decision, but due to fire safety issues and non-compliance with current building codes, the competition has had to end – for now.
Mirchandani said, however, they hoped the SPL would continue at a new venue, hopefully even a different church.
“A feeling of emptiness — that’s a resonant feeling that I know a lot of members have,” he said.
“We are very confident that we will find another place and after all the discussions we have had with other churches everything seems really positive.”