The two most solid features of the Canadian men's international cricket schedule for 2008 are three ICC Intercontinental Cup matches against Bermuda (home, July 4-7), Scotland (home, July 16-19) and Ireland (away, August 6-9) and the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifying Tournament (Belfast, Northern Ireland, August 2-4).
There will be ODI matches against Bermuda (home, June 28, 29 and July 1) and Ireland (August 11) but projected matches against Scotland (home, July 20) and the Netherlands (away, August 11 & 12) do not appear on the schedule issued by the ICC following a recent series of discussions and some shuffling of dates for other games. These matches do show on the Canadian Cricket Association site but even that notes the early August Twenty20 event that pushes the ODI with Ireland back by about one week. So it seems the ODIs with the Dutch may not be taking place.
Similarly a date change for the Intercontinental Cup match at home to Scotland seems to result in an ODI against the Scots dropping off the schedule. Scottish and Bermudian cricket fans may be interested in the Intercontental Cup match between those sides on Canadian soil from July 10 to 13th.
The ICC Intercontinental Cup final is now due in Dubai from November 12-16, 2008, but Canada would be hard pressed to qualify for this final following three outright losses in matches in 2007. Three Canadian wins in 2008 might give a ray of hope to reach the final for what would be the third time in four editiions of this tournament.
The ICC World Twenty20 Qualifying tournament involves the leading six ICC Associate High Performance countries: Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands and Scotland. The top two qualify for the actual championships in England in 2009 and gain a $250,000 US participation fee from the ICC.
Americas Regional Event and other possible matches
ICC Americas is due to host a Regional Tournament in Florida between May 22 and May 30 involving the leading Associate countries in the region.
There have been plans since 2006 to meet the West Indies in Canada in 2008. A Triangular tournament is shown on the Canadian Cricket Association website involving Canada, Bermuda and the West Indies in Toronto between August 20 and 28, but this is not confirmed on the recent ICC media release of the schedule. Time will tell if this particular tournament comes to fruition.
There is also a projected ODI series of three matches in three days with Bermuda in Florida on the CCA version of the schedule. Such a concentration of play does not make sense from a playing perspective, there being little or no time to re-group between matches (unless the weather intervenes). The recent ICC release does not show this series.
On the domestic scene, an Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT) is noted between June 26 and June 30 at an undisclosed venue. It had been projected to have such a tournament in 2007 but it was postponed. However, the Manitoba Cricket Association picked up some of the slack and staged an invitational tournament that was won by Meraloma CC (playing as the British Columbia entry) ahead of teams from Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The IPT will clash with Canada's ODI series against Bermuda, and if the John Ross Robertson Trophy Final (East and West) are played on Canada Day (July 1), as per the existing Bylaws, there may be a three-way clash between the ODIs, the IPT and the JRR. Typically, the semi-finals of the JRR are staged one day before the Final!
Some kind of scheduling clash for what some observers might believe to be important matches is not unknown. In 2007 a Canada match clashed with JRR East and West deciding matches, and the country's leading league - the Toronto and District Cricket Association staged a 20/20 event. The visiting Dutch team manager even helped umpire one of the early matches in the T&DCA 20/20.
At some point, we can expect news of plans for Junior and Women's cricket for 2008, as these are key areas of interest under the ICC's current development strategy.
Home Venues to be confirmed
Home ODIs must be played at an ICC approved venue, which presently means either the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club or Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City. The Intercontinental Cup matches must be played on grass wickets. One source suggests Maple Leaf CC is the likely site. Another source suggests early season grass growth will be monitored before the final decision on home grounds is confirmed.
Improvements to the presentation of the sport?
Hopefully, somebody will wake up and buy some netting to restore a couple of mobile net frames to life that are sitting doing nothing at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. And some divider netting and posts to allow for safer practices at both grounds by participating clubs might be acquired.
Who knows if an add-on scoreboard to allow proper innings totals for two-innings per side Intercontinental Cup matches will be in place? All it would take are a few pieces of wood, some black paint and some numbers.
TV and Crowds?
TV coverage? Well, a chance to have at least one international game on the Rogers Community Cable channel was turned aside in 2007.
Yet in 2006, one home match venue had to be changed when a CCA official was talking in terms of up to '10,000 spectators a day' attending the Intercontinental Cup match against Kenya. So the ground authority had to decline staging the match for practical reasons.
The 10,000 figure not met by around 9,700 per day in what proved an exciting game that Canada won in the final hour by 25 runs. (I believe the previously reported expectation was "about 5,000 spectators per day". I did my own research at the time, but was constrained by being part of the CCA for a short time. I have reasons for believing the 10,000 figure was uttered.)
Crowds for the inaugural Canadian home ODIs with Kenya in 2006 didn't even stretch to 1,000 per day. And lacked TV coverage, save for a couple of news camera that visited the ground. Nobody even seemed to take a picture of the squads for what in the annals of Canadian cricket were historic matches. Still, crowds dwindled for home games in 2007, peaking at about 100 for the one ODI with the Netherlands that did go ahead.
Spokesmen for the ground authorities at both venues used in 2007 were almost gushring with self-praise on the hosting of matches. The wickets and outfields were mostly in decent shape. Some of the play was good. But you have to wonder if some of the local powers that be have ever been to a real cricket match or sporting event. Even one of the home selectors was left wondering about who was one of the home team.
Perhaps this summer a radical move will be made to indicate the starting time for home matches on the official Canadian Cricket website. Surely that's not asking too much?
But it might be. Some of the Canadian powers that be are seeking external parties to come and run home games. A re-invite has just appeared on the official website. If it is difficult for those in authority to arrange a 4-day match against Bermuda, it begs some questions about how the same leaders might be able to bring a professional league to fruition. Unless, of course, other people do it for them.
The Canadian players, the coaches, the team officials and the groundstaff deserve much better than the status quo. As do people who provide practice facilities.
And at some stage, plans need to be in place to prepare for the vital World Cup Qualifying Tournament in the UAE in April 2009. Canada's High Performance ranking and the related ICC funding would be on the line at this tournament. And almost all the Canadian players will be playing out of season.
Canadian International Cricket Schedule 2008
ICC Intercontinental Cup 2007-2008
ICC Americas Regional One-day game Championships
ICC World Twenty20 Qualifying Tournament
Top two qualify for the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 in England.