Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was the gathering place on New Year’s Day for the bulk of the Canadian squad that is to play four one-day games against Zimbabwe A in Harare during the next two weeks before moving into Namibia for the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division Two. A tournament where it is vital for the future development and growth of cricket in Canada that the national team secures a place in the top two.
Some relatives and friends turned out to see the party of nine players and two officials and cricketing check-in bags and pass through the security control gates on a very important mission for Canadian cricket.
The nine players at Pearons Airport on Thursday included Usman Limbada of Brampton Masters Tranzac who has been brought into the squad to replace injured club teammate Varun Sehdev. Sehdev played an important innings of 40 not out that steered Brampton Masters Tranzac to victory in the final of the 2014 Toronto and District Cricket Association’s Elite Division Championship against Centurions in late September. A back injury to Sehdev has resulted in a change to the Canadian squad.
It is, doubtless, disappointing for Shedev to miss this opportunity to help steer Canada back towards the higher ranks in the world of ICC Associates and Affiliates cricket. But this injury replacement marks some progress compared with situations in 2006 and 2007 where there did not appear to be a process for dealing with injuries to players named in a Canadian national cricket squad. Four players, including Limbada, were named as designated reserves for the Canadian squad in the upcoming Pepsi ICC WCL Division Two.
The fourteen player Canadian squad includes two more Ontario cricketers (Rizwan Cheema and Nitish Kumar), two from British Columbia (Amarbir “Jimmy” Hansra and Umer Nawaz) plus wicketkeeper/batsman Hamza Tariq from Calgary, Alberta.
The backdrop for the photo of the Canadian touring party at Pearson Airport was an artistic aquarium where, periodically, an internal wind blew plastic objects up towards the surface; the objects were holding their own in the move to the surface when the team picture was taken.
There is no scope at this time in Canadian cricket history to imagine Canada could tumble down towards the bed of cricket’s international aquarium. An admittedly imbalanced world where only the ten Full Member countries are allowed to walk on the land above the surface of the water.
But if some of those elected to leadership roles in the various leagues and provinces do not work together in the overall interests of Canadian cricket, there development path may come to an abrupt end or there may be inadequate facilities early in the careers of too many promising young players. Words that summarize some of Cricket Canada General Manager Ingleton Liburd’s remarks during the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce’s Sports Forum on December 5, 2014 in Brampton, Ontario.
Liburd told how some 60,000 had taken part in Cricket Canada’s school cricket program in the last six or so years. There had been a sizeable presentation of cricket to youngsters from the Toronto District Catholic School Board in 2014, but Liburd pointed out various cricket leagues, clubs and academies also operate that bring cricket to juniors. Who really knows how many cricketers there are in Canada?
The numbers reported to the ICC reflect only those known by officially recognized provincial bodies in Canadian cricket. Someone in the audience spoke about the Brampton Cricket League, which is not affiliated with the officially recognized provincial governing body of cricket in Ontario. A lady spoke about the high costs of cricket equipment in Canada whilst asking what Cricket Canada was doing to bring cricket to the schools beyond the City of Toronto.
It was mentioned during the forum that there has been a significant increase in the number of cricket grounds available in Brampton in recent years, some of which share space with soccer pitches. It now comes to mind that the City of Brampton runs some introductory cricket programs at some indoor sports facilities, according to the sports and recreation guides that are published for winter and summer activities.
Canada’s indoor preparations and net practices for the tour to Zimbabwe and Namibia concluded on Monday (December 29) at the private indoor cricket facility operated by Sorkkam.
During the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce (the ICCC) Sports Forum, national cricket coach, Mukesh Narula, spoke of significant interest in supporting cricket in this country. The ICCC membership includes several business people who might be tempted to support well- operated cricket development programs and leagues in Canada. The membership also includes some associated with South Asian media outlets through which Ontario and Canadian cricket might gain greater publicity and recognition if those elected to various cricketing boards were to send out news about cricket events and the progress of cricket leagues and championships.
Detailed news about January’s Pepsi ICC Division Two in Namibia will be available from cricket’s governing body to those in the media who sign-up to receive the detailed e-mails.
Ingleton Liburd told the December cricket forum of the ICCC (one more “C” than cricket’s govening body) how in 1844 Canada played and beat the USA in the first international cricket
match. In 1979 Canada qualified to play in the ICC World Cup together with Sri Lanka, then ranked as a ICC Associate country, as we Canada. He pointed to the rather obvious gap in cricketing progress between Sri Lanka and Canada in the intervening years.
The 1979 ICC Cricket World Cup had just eight participants: the then six full member countries of ICC plus the two qualifiers from the first ICC Trophy: Canada and Sri Lanka. Liburd lamented on how Ireland has risen to the top of the ICC Associates tree, and how Canada had failed to retain a place as an ICC High Performance country due to a poor record in international cricket since the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.
There must be no thoughts about sinking or remaining at the Pepsi ICC Division Two level of international cricket going into the Namibia tournament. Canada must begin well and swim strongly to the top of the pool in Namibia to make use of this latest opportunity to remain in the ICC World Cricket League Championship and in the first-class, four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup competition.
Thankfully, someone has worked to secure funding that allows outdoor preparations and practice games in Zimbabwe. Back in May 2006, Canada went to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and took part in an ICC-organized three team tournament that included Zimbabwe and Bermuda. Canada had no practice match and lost to both countries. One or two of the Canadian Cricket Association Board members seemed to have some interesting ideas and expectations about that Tri-Series in Trinidad. Some of the Zimbabwe players who had been struggling against the West Indies came to life against Canada and Bermuda.
Clive Lloyd was the ICC Match Referee for that tri-series in May 2006. He recently commented on how some outdoor practices and just one three day practice game in South Africa in December 2014 was likely insufficient preparation for the current West Indies squad to become acclimatized to local conditions and to take a South African side that has been doing quite well in international cricket. But if Canada works hard in Zimbabwe, that experience could put the national team into the right mental frame and into a high gear for this month’s Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division Two.
Srinath Wijeyeratne notes:
It was the first occasion where a team had assembled at a hotel (unlike previous times where players individually arrive in their own vehicles separately to the Airport, prior to a departure) a few hours before the departure, players, CC officials, being hosted by the General Manager of the Hilton Garden Inn, Airport, Mississauga, Paul Couto, for a light Lunch/snacks, pose for official photo and then got in to a luxury bus provided by Roshan Navaratnam, Owner/Director of Ms. United Car & Truck Rentals, to go from the hotel to the International Departure lounge.