Changing the Face of Canadian Cricket
- Figuratively and Literally and Hypothetically

Jon Harris


If I ruled the world of cricket, cricket would be different and so would the world. In my ideal world there would be no secrecy, as there is in the way that cricket is presently operated at the national level in Canada. There would also be current business plans as a template for the direction of the business of cricket. There would be transparency, the mantra of business, so that everyone could know whatever they wanted to know. There would be audits of every aspect of our game, which would include the monitoring of our fields of play for their upkeep and development. (Dig, dig, dig).

If I ruled the world of cricket in Canada I would talk to anyone and everyone, and I would try to hear what they had to say. I would permit, and encourage, everyone to tell me that I was not wearing any clothes when I was wearing my invisible golden fleece ... but they would have to be polite ... that is the Canadian way.

If I ruled the world of cricket every batsman would walk when they knew they were out. There would be umpires and scorers who would be infallible. There would be no provocation and no intimidation. Appeals would only be made when a player was convinced of the legitimacy of his shout.

If I ruled the world there would be no factionalism, no racism, no elitism and the same rights and privileges would be enjoyed by all.

It saddens me to know that I shall never see such a time, either for myself, or for the game I love.

Canadian Colts 1971 (click to enlarge)

The above photograph reflects the state of Canadian cricket in another era. What we can see is a fair representation of the face of cricket in Canada when there was the first tentative and modest insertion of two West Indians into the Canadian Colts squad, which toured England and Denmark, in 1971. At that time the game was controlled, through the Canadian Cricket Association, by the redoubtable Donald King with the able, and loyal, assistance of both Kenneth Bullock, and Professor John Cole of the University of Toronto

It has been pointed out, by Professor Keith Sandiford, (U of M), that the Canadian team in the World Cup of 1979 was referred to as the West Indies 2nd XI. Therefore, what was a predominantly an Anglophile white team, at the Canadian Colts level in 1971, had become a West Indian black team of Canadian cricketers by 1979. This fact is particularly significant, in confirming the evidence that the established order of Canadian cricket governance was radically and irrevocably changed in less than eight years. Cricket in Canada survived that dramatic change.

We, the Canadian cricket community, are now on the brink of another dramatic period of change. Professor David Cooper, (U of T), has reflected that there will be another power shift soon. The impetus for this development will come from the new Canadians from the 'sub-continent'. There is a view that this will occur as a consequence of the disaffection of the critical mass of numbers of these particular new Canadians. Many of these new Canadians will have brought with them not only their love of the game, but also the culture of cricket. We know that these energetic cricket lovers are making known their disquiet about the course that the Canadian ship is following, and have expressed this with the formation of at least one exclusive league. At the moment, the cries from the engine room of cricket do not appear to have been heard. The Captain, whilst still on the bridge, is ignoring the cries from below, and appears to have lost control of the helm. Our ship, the Canadian Cricketer Eh, is drifting perilously close to the rocks.

If I were the king of the world of cricket in Canada I would be able to come to the rescue of our ship which is in such distress, organisationally and financially

As the 21st century new Canadians become more integrated into our Canadian society they will inevitably exercise the weight and power of their critical mass of numbers. This will become most apparent in matters related to their cultural heritage, and in the case under discussion that specifically suggests cricket. With the critical mass of numbers, far in excess of the current cricket establishment numbers, comes economic clout. In the last change of the order, there was resistance to the change by the established order. That circumstance is likely to be revisited.

The common bond of a cultural background for new Canadians has been a significant presence throughout the history of Canada. Cricket has been that cultural bond for many immigrants for more than two centuries. The British imperial presence, through the military, and the British Empire Loyalists, from America, had differing common bonds. As Das has suggested, they also had a common bond in cricket. The explanation for this is given by Myer in the following:-

"In the golden afternoon of the British Empire, the sun never set on its playing fields. Sport of every kind was the mortar that joined remote outposts with the home country. It provided rulers and the ruled with a common topic of talk and a uniting code of conduct . . . Everywhere in former British colonies and dominions, regardless of previous condition of servitude, athletes compete with zest, especially against their former masters, in rugby, tennis, football (or in American English, soccer), and most of all cricket.".(1)

If I were the king of the cricket world I would change history, because it keeps repeating itself. However, history being what it is, one might well anticipate that resistance to change will occur in our Canadian world. In fact, we might now be witnessing the resistance to the inevitability of change. The individual dominant presence of Donald King had to give way to the will of the mass of the cricket community in the '70's. In the context of current times, with yet another individual dominant presence, that reality is not only inevitable, it will be irresistible. That reality appears not to be recognised at present, which in some professional circles is referred to as 'being in denial'.

Therefore, each of us must examine our position in the context of the current reality. That reality is the shifting sands of change. How close do we wish to align ourselves with the existing established order? What do we risk if we do not align ourselves with this established order? Is there a risk to taking a critical attitude to the established order? It should be clearly understood that the risk is not about the demise of either cricket, or to the institutions which have been created to sustain cricket in Canada.

Cricket has at best a marginal presence in Canadian culture, but it has been here, in this huge country of ours, for almost as long as the game itself. Cricket in Canada will survive. Even though I am not king, the game will survive although not necessarily survive in the form which the corporate agenda wishes to stamp on the game. Were I the king, we would learn to understand that the commodification of cricket is the corporate agenda. Like it or not, commodification is the reality in our world, so we might as well accept it and learn to make use of the apparent largesse of the corporate purse, for the benefit of our game.

Cricket in Canada has always been a recreation, albeit elitist. That cult of elitism reflects the history of the game. The elitism which saw a white captain of the West Indies Test team right up to the '50's was innocently mirrored in Canada, with a white West Indian the captain of the Canadian Team in the 60's and early 70's.

The inevitability of change, within the Victorian cricket of England, might well have been in the mind of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at the time when 'professionalism' was rearing its not always beautiful head. During those times he wrote:-

'The old order changeth, yielding place to new.
And God fulfills himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.'.

Cricketers, out in the middle, are used to the frequent changes which naturally occur when batsmen are dismissed. We use the phrase batting order, knowing that the next man in may take charge, and change the course of events. This is symbolic of there always being someone ready to take the place of his/her predecessor. So why, as cricketers, are we so afraid of the winds of change, and the machinations that precipitate that change. Perhaps the reality is that the batsmen, given out, is not acknowledging the umpire's decision, and is standing there in the middle waiting for the next ball. Could, or should, this batsman be perceived to be bringing the game into disrepute?

Again we must look at cricket history. The type of behavior in Victorian times which would be today viewed as bringing the game into disrepute, was exemplified by the activities of Dr. W.G. Grace. There are two examples which readily come to mind. The first was the occasion Grace is reported to have picked up the bails and replaced them on the stumps, while the ball was still in play, and glaring at the umpire he shouted, "Windy today", and took up his position at the batting crease to receive the next ball. The second anecdote relates that the good Doctor glared at the umpire and warned him that the 'The crowd is here to see me bat . . . not to watch you point your finger to the heavens'.

In the Canadian context of today, there has been an appeal but the good Doctor has decided not to walk. The umpires, just as they were in the days of Doctor Grace, are intimidated by his presence. Will we allow 'our' game to brought into disrepute? Not if I was King!!

1. Meyer, K.E & Brysac, S.B. "The Tournament of Shadows". Counterpoint, Washington, D.C. 1999. pp. 425.


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