Ron Saywack (http://anysportanytime.ca/)
Nine years ago, two of the most ardent cricket aficionados in Alberta, Chris James and Ravin Moorthy, were elected to the Executive of the Calgary and District Cricket League (C&DCL). Chris became president and Ravin, secretary. It was at a time when Alberta cricket had hit a glass ceiling with minimal growth locally and little or no recognition at the national level. The duo set about to change all that through vigorous proactive measures. They embarked on an ambitious ternary futurological goal to acquire new facilities for the growing sport, to improve funding for the leagues in Alberta and to get Alberta players recognized and represented on Team Canada. At that time, most of the national players selected to represent Canada came from Ontario and British Colombia, with only a smattering from the other provinces, the bank account was bare and Riley Park (RP) was the only facility available for cricket in Calgary. Chris and Ravin began to set the wheels of change in motion. But there were many obstacles to overcome.
Several boardroom meetings were held between the C&DCL and the City of Calgary to improve playing conditions at RP and to acquire new facilities. The city played hard ball and yielded little ground. At first, little seemed to have been accomplished, at least on the surface, but the seed of change was planted and thus it was only a matter of time before germination takes place.
Through the acquisition of grants and casino revenues, the bank account has significantly improved. As a result, players traveling on out-of-town or out-of-country competition routinely receive subsidy to offset travel and hotel costs. Some of the new revenue is used to improve playing conditions in Calgary and Edmonton.
Today, their dream is being realized. Three years ago a new cricket pitch opened in Northwest Calgary at Inlands Athletic Park. It has resulted in more scheduled games being played. But there is still some work to be done at the site in terms of the improvement of amenities. But it is a work in progress.
In the summer of 2010, Westwinds, in Northeast Calgary, opened. Like Inlands, it, too, needs much work to be on par with other established cricket pitches in the province. The seed has germinated and will soon transmogrify into a blossoming tree and that, unquestionably, will please the two pioneers of cricket.
Additionally, beautiful Victoria Park in Edmonton is currently being converted from matting to turf wicket, a first in Alberta. This will, almost certainly, make it possible for high-level cricket matches, at the national and international levels, to be awarded to Alberta. The new pitch is expected to be ready in time for the commencement of the 2011 season.
Currently, there are three Alberta players on Team Canada, a stark improvement from the desolate past when few from this region were selected. Much of the credit goes to Chris and Ravin for their hard work. But they didn’t entirely do it alone. They were ably assisted by others like Mukul Ahuja, Rathan Moorthy, Mohammad Pasha and Nadeem Altaf.
Cricket’s World Cup is now only five months away in Asia and, odds are, local players will be there to represent Team Canada. That is a major step in the right direction for Alberta cricket.
Some of the other important steps taken by Chris, Ravin and others to elevate and popularize the game include the introduction of cricket to Calgary schools at the elementary level. At first the number of children who enlisted to play the sport was small, only a few hundreds. Today, that number exceeds 3,000. At the senior league level, players who show extraordinary talent are being sent to augment their skills at training academies abroad. Three such beneficiaries are Tyson Gordon and Hamza Tariq, who went to a Jamaican academy and Bashir Shahzad, who traveled to an academy in Pakistan.
Their work has also narrowed the gender gap in cricket. A new women’s team is now playing in Calgary who recently played in Alberta’s first inter-provincial competition in Victory. Even though they did not win any of their games, they are progressing optimistically and enthusiastically toward that milestone. And this would, without doubt, boost their confidence as they move into the future.
Chris and Ravin have since moved on to higher callings where they are able to speak on behalf of Alberta at the provincial and national levels. Chris is president of Cricket Alberta and chairman of the national selection committee. Ravin is the first vice-president of Cricket Canada.
The days of stagnation are over and the future of Alberta cricket looks bright.