Junior cricketers practice for the international cricket tournaments in Florida and Texas, 2002


Jon Harris
e-mail: hennessy.harris@sympatico.ca


The clouds scurried, there was a threat of rain, and the temperature a balmy 12 degrees celsius for the first outdoor cricket practice of the 2002 season in Sunnybrook Park, Toronto. One club had enough cricketers to play a practice match, complete with a scorer and umpires.

In the area of the nets the Australian coach put the 30 or so youngsters, all less than seventeen, through some catching drills, which beyond hand and eye coordination included some short sprinting into the routine. These young Canadians needed the workout, as well as the practice, for there was far too much evidence of cola and salt laden snack food, both in their kit bags and around their waists.

Watching from a distance were a sprinkling of supporters and spectators. Some were closeted in the warmth of cars with the motors running. Some of those watching were not familiar with what was going on .... but it was certainly more entertaining than anything on television.

A couple, new young Canadians from China, an engineer and a nurse, asked what was the Canadian game they were watching. It was their first venture into the park, and they were fascinated by the green carpet that lay on top of the grass, with five or six people throwing a ball at one other person. So, this is cricket? And what was the game where every youngster had a ball and they were all throwing in some sort of rhythm and pattern, and when the ball was dropped the boy ran to the end of the line and had to catch the ball until all the balls had been dropped? So, this is cricket also. And what was the game called that the men dressed in white standing around for a long time in the big field? So, this too is cricket? Very interesting. Mystifying, but very interesting.

Meanwhile the loyal Dads were focused on their sons' prowess in the nets. Conversation was occasionally interrupted with a lofted drive, but more often with the educated stroke along the carpet. The kids knew their game and were all business. They were focused by the knowledge that a trip to Texas, for the under 15's, was on the line. The under 13's were a little diffident. Did they somehow know that although Canada has an invitation to send a team, no one appears to know who will organise the trip? Kids pick up on things which often adults miss. As skilled in the game of cricket as these kids are, they are far more savvy with a keyboard and a mouse and the Internet. What the kids could not find was who was in charge, who was choosing the players to travel to Orlando, or Fort Worth.

Again the Dads were also worrying, trying to understand who was going to select the team. Was there enough money for the team to go? Would Dads be allowed to accompany the trip? The questions were unending. What can we do to raise the necessary funds?

Communications with the Dads being what they are, or are not, there was more understanding by the young new Chinese Canadians about what was going on, than with the well established new Canadians.There was a suggestion that some of the Dads were prepared to pay for their own boys' trip. Is that the way the teams will be selected, based on the disposable income of the Dads? Is that the way to develop an elite stream of young cricket athletes, which the ICC is demanding from Canadian cricket associations? It certainly is a spin on the meaning of 'elite' in this context, but is it the positive spin so lusted after?

canadacricket.com has been advised that "Canada intends to participate in an U 15 team in Texas and there will be a Canadian XI (not Team Canada) in the U 13 (tournament in Florida) if funds can be realized for these and other events.". The big word 'if' raises all sorts of alarm bells.

The issue becomes ethical not financial. The expectations of the youngest of Canada's cricketers have been raised with the knowledge that wearing a Team Canada shirt is within their grasp. The mantra of hard work, extensive practice sessions, training to get fit, and raising the level of cricket skills can be rewarded by winning a spot on Team Canada.

These young Canadian cricketers can have their hopes, desires and ambitions dashed by the qualifier 'if'. That would be very wrong. Not only would it compromise the development of these youngsters as cricketers, it may well scar them for a very long time.


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