Dave Liverman, for Canada Cricket Online
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party
This sentence has the air of a famous quote but is in fact derived from a standard method of teaching typing- but even if it is not Shakespeare, it provides a rallying call for cricket in Canada.
The World Cup has provided us with a tremendous opportunity – perhaps not so much from Canada’s presence and performance but because the World Cup penetrated to Canadian main-stream media. An editorial in the Globe and Mail called for more support of the growth of cricket in Canada, the Prime Minister posed for the media waving a cricket bat during the India-Pakistan clash, and photos and articles on the World Cup were seen in most main-stream newspapers. It seems that we’ll be seeing the IPL on Sportsnet, and Canada’s participation in the West Indies regional 20-20 was streamed live by CBC.
The reasons are clear- it is a combination of the globalization of cricket, and a recognition that an increasing number of Canadians claim heritage from parts of the world where cricket is the most important sport played.
This provides us with a unique platform on which to build, yet cricket in Canada cannot provide a united front. It is beset by regional politics, internal squabbling, and lacks a coherent vision to move the sport forward. The International Cricket Council clearly is not that interested, and so the solution must lie with us, the cricketing community of Canada
If we are to move forward in the next few months, lets look at the many success stories that can be found at the grass roots of Canadian cricket. They can be found everywhere. A few examples include
– Derek Perera’s Ontario Cricket Academy teaching youngsters how to play the game at the highest level
– The CIMA – Mayor’s Cricket Across The Pond initiative
– The wonderful social cricket club Pirates of the St. Lawrence, who have over 75 nationalities playing cricket for fun
– Cricket Newfoundland and Labrador– where the efforts of one keen graduate student has created a provincial organization ready to move forward- and with detailed coverage on CricInfo
– The RBC Wicket Cricket initiative, getting cricket into elementary schools
There’s strong interest in developing cricket at the grass roots – just look at the more positive messages in the Canada Cricket on-line forum.
However at the higher levels of cricket administration, there are major problems. Cricket in Ontario is a mess, and that affects cricket across the country as the greater Toronto area has more cricketers than the rest of Canada combined. Cricket Canada does not recognize the Ontario Cricket Association, and Canada’s prime cricket facility at King City is being fought over like a tasty bone between two starving dogs. Lawsuits and threats of lawsuits abound. Quebec cricket is in no better shape.
So let’s roll out the clichés- strike whilst the iron is hot, seize the day, he who hesitates is lost.
We need leadership from the top- Cricket Canada must be a unifying force, and find a means of settling disputes with the OCA. The OCA must work with Cricket Canada for the good of cricket in the country. Cricket Canada needs to step in and sort out Quebec cricket, and we need to provide good reasons for unaffiliated leagues to be part of a national body. Let’s revise the constitution to make the organization accountable at the club level and get rid of the provincial politics that dogs the national body- look to the Canadian Soccer Association, and Skate Canada for examples of alternative ways of constituting a national sporting organization.
Let’s see decent international games not just at King City but across the country, and properly publicized and supported. Let’s develop cricket in places other than the traditional centres and support all those grass-roots volunteers in their efforts. Let us have interprovincial cricket at all levels. Let’s develop our coaches- at all levels and in all parts of the country.
We can leave it there, with all the responsibility lying on CricketCanada’s shoulders, but that will not work. Their role is to lead and support; the game will go nowhere without the interest and effort of those labouring in the trenches across the country. This summer we need to play cricket in the public eye- invite reporters, politicians, friends, and most importantly kids. Hold clinics, fun days to introduce anyone who is interested to the game. Develop recreational cricket where ability and wining are irrelevant. Start a women’s team, and develop a youth system. Move away from traditional club patterns built on ethnic origin – be inclusive, not exclusive. Get into your local schools.
Cricket perhaps will never be a mainstream sport in Canada – but it can be a highly successful minor sport in every city in the country.
The ultimate measure of success for cricket in Canada is not how well the national team performs at the World Cup, but providing an opportunity for anyone to play- irrespective of where they live, age, gender, race or ability. Once that structure exists, cricket will flourish in Canada.