Canada set for opening match with Kenya
Kenya and Canada launch Pool C at Beausejour Cricket Ground, St Lucia, on Wednesday with both sides hoping, if not expecting, to beat the other in the opening match and then looking forward to a win over either England or New Zealand, the two ICC Full members, to gain a place in the Super 8 phase.
Both England and New Zealand arrive for Cricket World Cup 2007 with recent ODI wins over Australia, recently dislodged by South Africa as the ICC LG ODI standings top ranked team. But that does not necessarily phase either the Canadian or the Kenyan camp. Kenya's coach Roger Harper said, after his team's practice session in Beausejour, "We are taking each game one at a time and one ball at a time."
Concentration is a key part of cricket and Canadian coach Andy Pick has empahasized to his players on a number of occasions the need to stick to the game plan, whether batting or bowling. A couple of weeks back in Antigua, some of the later overs bowlers started to wander off-line as two Bangladesh batsmen played a range of unorthodox strokes. Some of the bowling followed the batsmen's feet, rather than sticking to a conventional line and length that might have brought dismissals (outs).
It was part of the learning curve for this Canadian team, but they competed against Bangladesh, a ICC Full Member (or Test status) team, and Bangladesh beat New Zealand in a warm-up match last week. Canada qualified for this World Cup by finishing third at the ICC Trophy in Ireland in 2005. It was the second consecutive time the Maple Leaf was third in the ICC Trophy and this is the third ICC Cricket World Cup where Canada has played. The first was in England in 1979.
The core Canadian squad has worked hard over the winter to prepare for this event. It puts Canadian cricket on the radar screen for the major cricketing nations and spectators to see. Hopefully, as Andy Pick said in Trinidad, it mark spark some more sponsorship interest from Corporate Canada, or indeed companies around the world with a background in cricket.
The composition of the Canadian side sometimes sparks controversy. It contains a lot of first-generation Canadians. Some of them learned their cricket overseas, but some developed their skills in Canada. The team is the most multi-cultural in this tournament.
Hopefully cricket will develop a better infrastructure in Canada following this CWC 2007 so new generations, of whatever background, will be attracted to the sport. A better path will hopefully emerge where young Canadians can progress throught Under-15, Under-17, Under-19 and Senior 'A' international matches and events to reach the Senior National side. That is for the future, but remember that Canada, under existing ICC plans, must re-qualify for CWC 2011 at a qualifying tournament in 2009, just a couple of years away.
Most of Canada's CWC 2007 squad have registered their highest individual score during the current Canadian winter. This has been in either South Africa, Kenya or Antigua. Some of the bowlers have similarly raised their best individual performances during this time. The fielding has also been improving.
This reflects the dedication of this predominantly amateur group of players and the work of the coach, Andy Pick, and the support staff (Mike Henry, Team Manager, Dan Kiesel, Physio, and new video analyst Geoffery Crosse).
Captain John Davison spoke to media attending today's practice at Beausejour with confidence and pride. Canada a fine win against Kenya at Mombasa in January. Davison noted experienced batsmen "(Ian) Billcliff and (Geoff) Barnett didn't play in the World Cricket League, so we are a little stronger."
And Canada's prospects in this group? " I think we can surprise a few people. If we can get our game together, we've got guys' who are up to a good standard of cricket . If we have a good day in games against England and New Zealand and they have a poor day then I think we can get over the line."
"England and New Zealand are good, quality teams with a lot of experience and good players, who've played a lot of good cricket. But we've been away for about five of the last six weeks and have played and trained at good facilities."
He added that the team has had a warm welcome in the Caribbean and noted the contributions of the many volunteers working so hard to make this first Cricket World Cup in the lands of Calypso cricket a success. Many of those volunteers would have taken heart a few hours later as the West Indies beat Pakistan in the tournament's opening game in Jamaica.
The crowd for the Canada-Kenya match is set to be bolstered by 5,000 or so school children, who hopefully will cherish the game of cricket and the spirit it can engender in life as well as just the sporting side.
The Beausejour cricket ground looked in good shape on Tuesday. The outflield was looking well maintained and the square (where each wicket is cut for individual matches) has been used in the past with some good scores registered. Canada has shown in several recent matches that it has a range of batsmen who can make good scores on any given day.