Reflections on the Intercontinental Cup
Canada's Intercontinental Cup run came to an inglorious end against Scotland in the final. It would be unfair however to dwell too much on the 24/8 scoreline in the 2nd innings, and place their performance in context.
Canada played four first-class matches over a period of 6 months or so, beating the United States in convincing fashion, and outplaying Bermuda and UAE in two draws before losing the final. Three players were in the team for all four games- Dhillon, Surkari, and Dhaniram - a major commitment in time for amateur players. Surkari, and Dhaniram also took part in the Americas Cup and the contribution of time away from work and studies made by all the amateur players in the Canadian squad should be recognized. Overall Canada will consider the tournament to be a very positive experience. Davison, Billcliff and Dhaniram had played first-class cricket before, but for most of the team, three-day cricket was a new experience. Overall they adjusted well to the challenge, and again demonstrated that they are amongst the best of the ICC Associates.
The loss of their captain Davison going into the finals left Canada at a disadvantage, and this was compounded by the unavailability of Bagai and Chumney. The injury to Patel prior to the first game didn't help, and the UAE on home turf looked to be a tough proposition. In the circumstances, Canada's performance was remarkable they took control of the match from the outset, and never relinquished it. It must be gratifying for those involved in cricket development in Canada to see the team led by two young players who have up to this point not played to their potential for Canada. Surkari's century and Bhatti's 8 wickets were the highlight of what was an excellent all-round performance by the team, Billcliff, Maxwell, Dhaniram and Codrington also made significant contributions. The auguries for the future of Canadian cricket seem good, considering the development of Dhillon with his century against Bermuda; the emergence of Surkari and Bhatti; and the established talent of Bagai and Patel (all under 30). Other talented young players are waiting in the wings for their chance.
The performance against Scotland was a disappointment, obviously. The Scots are a strong team and perhaps the strain of playing two first-class matches back-to-back took a toll on the Canadians. Bhatti had a good match with bat and ball, but the batting did not do the job. Canada has performed well against Scotland in the past, notably in the ICC Trophy, and it would be unwise to dwell too much on this match. As skipper Billcliff said after the final:- "We are still very positive about what we learnt in this tournament, and especially from a player development perspective. The ICC Intercontinental Cup is a great tournament and concept and we look forward to participating next year"
The selection of the team selected for the UAE matches was questioned by some, with the inclusion of Thuraisingam and Patraj being contentious. Sanjay had a poor trip, bowling just 26 overs in the two matches, and not taking a wicket. This is perhaps the last time he will play for Canada he is now 35 and it is sad to see Canada's best player in the 2001 ICC Trophy depart in this manner. His selection remains somewhat of a mystery. Patraj is just 23, and he contributed little to the one game he played in. The experience of being around the national team will stand him in good stead, however, and it is now up to him to silence the critics by performing well in domestic cricket to justify his selection.
One must spare a thought, however, for Manzoor Chauhdary who was selected for the squad for both preliminary rounds matches but was over-looked for the finals. Questions must also be asked about whether other young cricketers outside of the Toronto area are being overlooked Dhillon's success shows what talent there is elsewhere in the country.
The next major challenge for Canada will be the ICC Trophy in Ireland next summer. The nucleus of a highly competitive team exists - the CCA must develop the process of evaluating all the talent across the country, selecting the best possible team, and giving them full coaching support.