Canadian cricket enters a crucial phase on Thursday (June 25) as the men's national team hosts the USA in the Teacher's Whiskey Auty Cup series. The series begins with a two day game, followed by a 50-over game and two T20 matches. In August, Canada hosts the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Netherlands in ICC Intercontinental Cup and World Cricket League matches. Two T20 internationals are included in the UAE series with November's ICC World Twenty20 in Dubai looming large on the horizon. Canada's national coach, Gus Logie, sees these three series as "giving our players much needed competition against quality opposition."
Ashish Bagai is set to return to the Canadian side for the first time since the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup in the USA series, as is Harvir Baidwan. Nitish Kumar, who recently captained Canada Under-19`s team to the ICC Americas Division One Championship, is also in the squad.
Bagai and Baidwan both appeared in the recent CIBC National Cricket League (NCL) where five regional-based teams competed in 50-over and 20-over championships. The regional teams were based on a geographic core of players from each designated region plus an allocation of Canadian high performance players, two Under-19 players and one assigned overseas player. The five overseas players were all from Trinidad and Tobago, with which Canadian cricket has had many links in recent years.
This was the second year of the National Cricket League and the first with CIBC as title sponsor. Bagai captained Eastern Fury, a team based on the provinces of Atlantic Canada, in the NCL. He showed good form, as well as leadership, in scoring 97 not out in a 50-over game against Prairie Fire. Baidwan played for Central Shield, the Ontario-orientated side.
Cricket Canada has secured an agreement and sponsorship this year from Rogers that results in some eighteen matches being televised through Rogers Community Channel in Toronto with links to broader live coverage through Rogers Community TV within Ontario, Sportsnet and national replays of some games on Sportsnet World. Most of the televised games are T20 matches, with some coverage of Canada's home World Cricket League games. The commentary team on Rogers Community TV has comprised various Canadian international players from the 1980's thru to the 2000's.
The two T20 matches against the USA on Sunday July 28th in the Teacher's Whiskey Auty Cup series are scheduled to be televised. However, the TV arrangements with Rogers have brought a change in venue for the series against the USA. The grass wickets at Victoria Park, Edmonton, Alberta were originally designated as the venue as part of a move for Canada to play live beyond the Toronto area. The Teacher's Whiskey Auty Cup series is now being played at the Maple Leaf grounds in King City, Ontario, as part of the TV arrangements.
The T20 Final of the CIBC National Cricket League (NCL) provided an exciting game for the TV audience as the Alberta-based Western Stallions hung on to beat the Ontario-based Central Shield by one run, thanks to a last ball run out. The Western Stallions also won the 50-over version of the CIBC NCL.
A three game T20 Star series followed between the CIBC NCL All Stars and a Canadian Select team. The All Stars won the series by two games to one. Rizwan Cheema and Jimmy Hansra both played important parts for the All Stars in the T20 series. Hansra has been named captain for the 2-day game with the USA, while Cheema will head Canada in the 50 over and T20 games.
Following the Auty Cup series, Canada hosts the United Arab Emirates in the ICC Intercontinental Cup (August 1-4) and two ICC World Cricket League matches at the Maple Leaf Cricket Club (August 6 and 8). Two CIBC International T20 matches conclude the UAE's visit on the afternoons of August 10 and 11 at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. The Toronto club ground is much more accessible on a Sunday for those reliant upon public transit than the Maple Leaf ground, which has no nearby bus service on a Sunday.
The Netherlands are due to play Canada in the ICC Intercontinental Cup (August 22-25) and with World Cricket League matches (August 27 and 29) at the Maple Leaf grounds. The World Cricket League matches are due for live streaming, according to published plans.
This is a very important time for Canadian cricket. The men`s side needs to perform well in the upcoming home series, and gain momentum for the ICC World T20 Qualifiers in November and for next year`s ICC World Cup Qualifier. When news of Bagai's short-term commitment to the national side was first announced, he said, "Canadian cricket means a lot to me and I am excited to play a role in helping Canada qualify for both events once again."
Ashish Bagai first played for Canada`s Under-15 team and was involved in an ICC Americas Under-19 side before playing for Canada in ICC Under-19 world cup qualifiers and actual tournaments. He had also said, "It's going to require a lot of commitment and character from the players and I am confident that the guys will rise to the challenge."
On the eve of the games against the USA, Canadian coach Logie picked up on that theme, "Having the squad play together over the next few weeks will give us the bonding and playing time necessary to try different combinations and approaches that will give us the best chance of success during these games and beyond."
Logie concluded, "I want to challenge all players to take the next few weeks very seriously, focus on the job in hand and keep your eyes on the prize of representing Canada with pride and consistent high performance."
The USA and Canada will continue international cricket matches that began at the St George's Club, New York in September, 1844, but have had some breaks. The K.A. Auty Memorial Trophy or Cup came into being with the restoration of USA-Canada games in 1963, following a long gap that extended back to before World War I. There have been two shorter gaps since the rivalry resumed in 1963.
Significant issues for players and spectators alike could be the weather which has produced extreme combinations of heat and humidity in recent weeks), as well as some significant storms. On some days the heat and humidity mix saw effective temperatures around 40C. The second of the All Star Series matches was washed out on a Friday afternoon, but re-arranged for the Saturday morning. One could feel the mix of heat and humidity as the game progressed.
The first day of the CIBC National Cricket League T20 Championship had been washed out by flooding that followed a major storm on the previous day. The first three matches of the original ICC Americas Under-19 championships became `No Results`, two with no play. Heavy rain hit during what became an extended lunch interval in opening match between the USA and Bermuda. Those heavy rains caused significant power outages within the City of Toronto.
By some quirk of fate, the revised ICC Americas Under-19 schedule saw cricket`s oldest international rivals, Canada and the USA meet on the same day the Ashes series began in Nottingham between England and Australia.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Women's side face a stern test on Thursday in Dublin against Ireland in the Women's T20 World Cup qualifier. Canada lost heavily to Sri Lanka in the opening game on Tuesday. Sri Lanka's women had performed well to place fifth place in the 50-over version of the ICC Women's World Cup in January 2013. The one women's division in the Toronto and District Cricket Association, Canada's largest league, only has four teams.
On Canada Day (July 1) two Toronto-based teams took part in a T20 exhibition game on the closing day of the CIBC NCL T20 Championship. Meanwhile, the Wicket Maidens (Victoria, British Columbia) won the Western Canada Women's championship against teams from Calgary (Alberta) Chilliwack (British Columbia, Edmonton (Alberta) and Vancouver (British Columbia).
There is also hope for the future in Canadian women's cricket as six girls teams took part in the Greater Toronto Area CIBC CIMA Mayor's High School Cricket Championship. Six teams in a difficult year where an industrial dispute between some teachers' unions and the Ontario Provincial Government might have resulted in no CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) school cricket events taking place.
A partnership formed between the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation and CIMA created the 2005 Toronto Mayor's Trophy one-day cricket festival, which continues on an annual basis. A High Schools cricket tournament, originally for Toronto Schools, emerged and was expanded in 2013 to include school teams from the cities of Brampton (Peel Region), Mississauga (Peel Region) and Markham (York Region) in High Schools cricket action.
In the swings and roundabouts of limited overs cricket, Sri Lanka's women captured fifth place in the 2013 Women's World Cup thanks to an 88-run win against South Africa in a playoff game. South Africa had beaten Sri Lanka by 110 runs in the Super Six phase. Sri Lanka had wins against India (by 138 runs) and England (by one wicket) in Group matches, but were beaten by the West Indies.
In 2008 a Cricket Across the Pond Tour was introduced that allowed a group of young Toronto cricketers to travel for cricket coaching and matches in London, England. The 2013 RBC CIMA Mayor's XI is the sixth such tour and is currently taking place. The RBC CIMA Mayor's XI won the first three games of this tour.
The 2013 squad includes two of the recent Canadian Under-19 squad are in that tour party (Abraash Khan and Aniket Joshi). Last Sunday the first century was scored by a Canadian tourist. Bilal Khan (Stephen Lewis School, Mississauga) scored 101 against a Mitcham Cricket Club XI. Aniket Joshi hit half-centuries in the first two tour games and Abraash Khan also hit a half-century. In the third game of the tour Siddhanth Shekhar (Bur Oak School, Markham) hit 92 not out in a 30-over game against a Sunbury C.C. XI.
There is no shortage of junior cricket, particularly for boys and no end of cricket leagues, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. But across the country there are challenges in having enough cricket grounds on which to play, before considering important issues like the quality of the grounds.
In the big picture of Canadian cricket there is a need for the men's team to perform well in the coming weeks, as both Ashish Bagai and Gus Logie have stated, and in next year's men's ICC World Cup qualifier. Canada certainly needs to retain a place among the leading ICC Associate countries, and hang on to the related ICC funding. Indeed, Bagai's short-term return to serious playing reflects his interest and concern for the long-term progress of cricket in Canada.
In a country of Canada's resources and financial strength - as well as some of the interest in cricket generated through the Indian Premier League (IPL) - Canadian cricket ought to be able to obtain and retain significant sponsorship funding from major domestic companies. But significantly more tends to be known about the IPL games than about the Canadian National Cricket League or Canada's international matches.
This week the USA Cricket Association named Timil Patel as captain and Karan Ganesh as vice-captain for the Teacher's Auty Cup series. Originally Steven Taylor had been named as captain, but lost this role for disciplinary reasons.
USA coach Robin Singh expects "the USA team to be very competitive and give a really good account of ourselves duering the Auty Cup. I am hopeful of some great performances from our captain, Timil Patel, and our vice-captain, as well as Daniel Ahmed, Tim Surajbally and all the seamers in the team".
Coach Singh added, "They (Canada) aren't going to be easy to beat in Toronto. We are going to be the underdog, but if we can implement the game plan and stick to it when the pressure is on, I am confident that we can win."
2013 Teacher's Whiskey Auty Cup Series Canadian squad: Amarbir (Jimmy) Hansra (captain in 2-day game), Rizwan Cheema (captain in 50 and 20 over games), Ashish Bagai, Harvir Baidwan, Damodar Daesrath, Jeremy Gordon, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Nitish Kumar, Usman Limbada, Salman Nazar, Henry Osinde, Cecil Pervez and Junaid Siddiqui. Coach: Gus Logie
USA squad: Timil Patel (captain), Karan Ganesh (vice-captain), Akeem Dodson, Nicholas Standford, Timothy Surajbally, Ravi Timbawala, Ryan Corns, Abhimanyu Rajp, Daniel Ahmed, Steven Taylor, Mital Patel, Adrian Gordon, Usman Rehman and Naseer Jamali. Coach: Robin Singh.
Fixtures (At Maple Leaf CC, King City unless otherwise stated)