Sunnybrook- a response

6 August 2004

It appears that our article questioning the readiness of Sunnybrook Park as a venue for first-class cricket has caused somewhat of a stir, with a further article on Wisden-CricInfo also bringing attention to the suburban park. Today I was called by Ron Aldridge, a long time volunteer and supporter of Canadian cricket and chair of the succesful ICC organizing committee. Ron currently has responsibility for Canada's international cricket and felt that both articles were factually incorrect in a number of areas. In the spirit of providing both sides of the story I will do my best to summarise the points Ron made to me in our conversation.

Firstly he told me they have been working on securing a venue for this event since April at least (the Wisden CricInfo article suggested that their sources had told them negotiations with other venues were last-minute). Initial plans were to hold the event at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club, but for a number of reasons this became impossible notably due to the financial demands made on the CCA. The CCA recieves some funding from the ICC to play in the InterContinental Cup, but this barely covered travel costs to the USA match. The CCA's financial situation is by no means good, and thus user fees were a very real issue. King City was looked at but the turf wickets there were not in top condition following a harsh winter. Preparation of a wicket there would not be easy, and again there was the issue of a user fee to consider. Liitle cricket has been played on turf at Ajax, and it was felt that to prepare a wicket for 3-day cricket would be a challenge. The ground at Inverhaugh was visted and seriously considered but unfortunately is too small to meet the ICC stipulations.

Thus it was decided to prepare wickets at both Ross Lord and Sunnybrook. Ross Lord is being worked on as a back-up in case of problems at Sunnybrook, but Ron had full confidence that the Sunnybrook wicket would be ready, and of adequate quality. He noted that in his opinion (and he had visited Sunnybrook that morning) that the wicket was coming together well. He noted that the area of bare soil seen in our photos was not on the wicket to be played on, and will be filled and leveled before play. He also suggested that the comments regarding the bowler's run ups adjacent to the astroturf strips were unwarranted. He told me that the pitch was rolling out evenly with no problems with ridging and the irregularities highlighted in the photographs would not be a problem. He also indicated that the suggestion that materials were stored on the site of the turf wicket during construction of the artificial wicket was incorrect.

He noted some errors of fact regarding Sunnybrook. There has been considerable support from the Parks Board but this has been in kind, with no cash support. He noted that although tents will be erected for changing rooms, running water and showers are available at the ground in the newly renovated multi-purpose pavilion nearby. He also indicated that other facilities would be brought in for the match, and it will be a top-class venue by the 13th.

Mr Aldridge is a highly experienced official, and assured me that the player's safety was first and foremost. They expect to test the wicket early next week for consistency of bounce, and he fully anticipates that the wicket be up to standard.

I hope I have stated the information recieved from Mr Aldridge correctly and encourage him and the CCA to state their position to us via e-mail or on the CCA website (where until yesterday King City is still listed as the venue). As stated in our article we do not claim to be experts in the preparation of wickets, and sincerely hope that if the game is played at Sunnybrook that our concerns are unjustified. Our motiviation in bringing this matter forward was solely our concern for Canadian cricket, and the doubts that our observations had raised. Itis still worth noting that there will not be time to test Sunnybrook under match conditions, and that there is little experience in Canada in preparation of pitches for three-day cricket. We are somewhat reassured by Mr Aldridge's explanations but suggest the CCA is still taking a risk at Sunnybrook, albeit one they have been forced into taking mostly due to financial circumstances. Unless there is a further change, we'll find out how successful their gamble has been on the 13th of August.

(Dave Liverman).

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