You might recognise Pavel Florin, the heart and soul of Romanian cricket, through his very unique bowling action during the European Cricket League. Early on it brought about some laughs, but behind the very slow, tossed-up deliveries lies unwavering passion – a passion that has motivated the Romanian phenom to relentlessly pursue his dreams in the game he loves very much.

Sports have been an integral element of Florin’s life. “I live and breathe sports,” declares Florin. “I’ve played so many sports before I started playing cricket.”

Florin’s sporting experience is quite the spectrum – American football and futsal have yielded plenty of accolades before he started his endeavour at his hometown-based Cluj Cricket Club.

“I was a three-time national champion at American football as a player, and then a one-time national champion as a futsal coach, and now I’m a two-time national champion in cricket, as both player and president of my club.”

At the age of 32, which is usually when most cricketing careers are on the gradual falling edge, was just the beginning for Florin. Despite being a late bloomer, Florin was determined to put in the necessary hard work and much, much more in order to make a name for himself in a sport which isn’t mainstream in his country. The strategic elements of the game combined with the fun aspect further developed his fondness for cricket.

“Yeah, around seven, eight years ago I played with a few Indian cricketers in a park, and it went on from there,” adds Florin. His stratospheric determination and dedication enabled him to join the local club in Cluj for the very first time.

Step one was complete, but the foray for more recognition encountered plenty of obstacles. Given the fact that cricket is very much a minority sport, the funding was sparse, and the development of the club, at one point, was beginning to stagnate.

“In the first two years things were not bad, but the club didn’t have activities for another four years. During those four years, I played some cricket in Bucharest and Timisoara. Last year I became president of the club and then we finally started to play again.”

To put things into perspective, Bucharest is about 450 kilometres away from Cluj-Napoca, and Timisoara about 326 kilometres away. Cluj CC was in a dire state for quite a while, but it wasn’t until when Florin took charge that the club resurrected. Not only was there more game time, but also the opportunity to go for gold.

“Last year we won the Championship two times and then the Cup of Romania 2 times, and that was how we made it to the ECL [European Cricket League].”

The ECL was an eye-opening experience not only for Florin, but for Cluj CC as a whole. Around a week prior to the tournament, Florin had fractured his leg, but his thirst for success, natural leadership skills, and strong-willed approach to the game bolstered his punctual comeback. It was a rough initiation, since Cluj CC may have lost all their games, but Florin has been very grateful to have been presented such an opportunity at centre stage.

“Yeah, we did not do so good – we lost everything. But otherwise it was well, trust me. If you just be there, you’re a winner. It’s the biggest competition in life for each and every player from Cluj Cricket Club. This is the place where you want to be every year, and I’m happy for all my teammates – they deserve this.”

The ECL was when we all got to witness Florin’s skillset on full display. Despite the peculiarities in his bowling, he’s got a pretty clear-cut theory on how he goes about his business. And if you watch some footage of his bowling, opposition batsmen did find it a bit tricky to hit frequent boundaries. So what if he gets flak? You gotta do what you gotta do.

“I just gave it [bowling] a try around 2 years ago and I just follow the rules. I just do my best to put something to work. If I bowl fast and low, then everybody will hit me, so that is why I like to bowl slow and toss it up high.”

During the tournament, Florin was aware that his bowling was often at the receiving end of criticism, but he was unperturbed and quick to assert his passion for the game and that he’ll take confident strides in bettering himself. The gung-ho attitude and positivity made him the unlikely cricketing superstar he is at the moment.

However, the fun didn’t stop right there. Florin earned a chance to watch a few games of the Vitality T20 Blast – the premier T20 league in English county cricket. He even tried a hand at commentary, too. The enjoyment was palpable, but more importantly, Florin has repeatedly emphasized that everything he does in his prudent cricket journey has an underlying purpose.

“My England trip was to gain experience,” confidently states Florin. “I want to build something here soon in Romania, and I need the experience so I have to go visit clubs and watch games.”

Florin felt very flattered to receive an invitation to watch county cricket. “I was invited to Lord’s and to Sussex team and I decided to go. I met many great people and learned many good things and now I have a good vision and better ideas to continue my work.”

Florin felt very flattered to receive an invitation to watch county cricket. “I was invited to Lord’s and to Sussex team and I decided to go. I met many great people and learned many good things and now I have a good vision and better ideas to continue my work.”

Back at home, Florin has plenty of items to check off on his to-do list of dreams. Ever since he first embraced the game, he’s felt the strong desire to promote the game in Romania to the best of his ability.

“Native Romanians don’t play cricket over here. Yes, I have dreams, and I need more people to share the same dreams, and then we’ll be able to reach far. But you have to take it step by step – believe in your chance and give it everything you have whenever the opportunity arrives.”

One of his biggest dreams was finally realized in late August. The Romania Cup was held at Ilfov County, almost 500 kilometers away from his hometown. This was the same ground he used to drive to, early in his cricketing career, and now it’s an even more memorable locale. And this was where he officially made his international debut for Romania – the first born-and-bred Romanian to play international cricket, and his country’s cricket trailblazer.

“I have played for Romania since 2016, around 15 games for the national team. But officially this year was the first international game. We played four games – we won three and lost one. Austria and Czech Republic were difficult opponents, we lost to Czech Republic.”

Over the course of the four games, Florin had limited opportunities, but did take three wickets across two innings – 2 for 3 in 4 balls against Austria, and 1 for 7 in 1 over against Turkey.

Given his rapid popularity boost, Florin always remains grounded – he’s encountered his share of challenges and making it this far is a commendable achievement of epic proportions. He’s very appreciative of having an unconditional support staff in the form of his teammates. Florin’s unassuming and tireless focus is truly inspirational. A burly nightclub bouncer by trade for a decade and a half, he’s got a great fitness regimen and eagerness to continue. As he says, in reality, sport is his job.

“I want to play cricket for as long as I live.”

Florin has expressed his desire to spread the love of the game and continue the expansion of cricket in Romania – namely organizing newer clubs nearby, as well as starting a women’s team.

Finally, he’ll be back again with Cluj CC in the next season of the ECL – they’ve qualified after winning the Romania Cup. It’s time to build on early exposure – the hard work will eventually yield plenty of dividends.

Kindly republished from Abai’s blog.

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