Cricket support sought in Calgary

Scott Fisher, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

A single game can take five days to play.

And the players actually stop for afternoon tea.

Bizarre by North American standards, for sure.

But cricket trails only soccer as the most popular game on the planet.

Calgary & District Cricket League secretary Usman Khan says the sport is a passion in many countries.

“Cricket is the No.-1 sport in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, as well as Australia,” Khan said.

“And it’s one of the top two or three sports in England, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies.”

Why, you ask?

“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “I would ask you why is hockey so popular in Canada? The weather is conducive, it’s easier to play in the summer. There are a number of variations that you can play.

“The other reason it’s popular is it captured the imagination. Field hockey was big at one time, but cricket got bigger and bigger.

“Now, nobody talks about anything other than cricket.”

And while a proper cricket game requires a sizeable field, most youngsters fine-tune their game the same way as most Canadians learned how to stickhandle — on the street.

“If you have a 20-yard stretch, you can play,” said Khan, who used to play in the hallway of his university dormitory with a tennis ball.

“That’s all you need. It’s cheap to play. You just need a ball and a cheap bat, and you’re good to go. I grew up playing with my younger brother. The two of us on our driveway, we used to spend hours balling to each other.”

The game is also alive and well in Calgary.

“It is a significant sport in Calgary,” Khan said .

“We have nearly 700 adult members across various formats and skill levels. We have a women’s program and a children’s program.

“And it’s growing with more people taking up the sport or more people who play cricket adopting Calgary as home due to the better job economy.”

Founded in 1908, the C&DCL is the largest cricket league between Vancouver and Toronto.

League matches are played at Riley Park, Inland Athletic Park, Westwinds Drypond and Martindale Cricket Ground.

But more facilities are needed.

“The challenge we face in our growth is with facilities, or lack of them, and a good, solid junior program,” Khan says. “But the key for cricket to grow would be to have more facilities with the support from the city and more and more kids who are born and raised here picking up the sport.

“I would say 70% of the people who play here have adopted Canada as home.

“We need to change that dynamic and have 70% of the players being locals and 30% being first-generation Canadians.”

Hamza Tariq, one of Canada’s top cricket players, agrees that money and facilities are the major roadblocks preventing Canada from becoming a major force on the world stage.

“The best way to improve is if we had more support from the government,” the 20-year-old says. “We need more facilities in Western Canada. We have good grounds and indoor facilities in Toronto, but not out here.

“Once we get that, I think cricket would improve in the next five years.”

Tariq was a member of Team Canada that went 1-5 in group play at the recent World Cup won by host India.

“I think we did reasonably well if you compare us to the full nations and the coaching and types of facilities they have,” says Tariq, who played for United Cricket Club in Calgary.

“We put up a good fight against Pakistan. We almost beat them.

The top 10 cricket powerhouses are considered full members of the International Cricket Council.

Canada is considered an associate member, and the ICC recently ruled only full members will be invited to future World Cups.

Cricket facts

  • Originated in England in the 16th Century.
  • By the end of the 18th Century, cricket became England’s national sport.
  • It is believed the first professional players emerged in the 1660s.
  • Bowlers began to pitch the ball instead of rolling it, prompting a change in the bat from the old hockey-stick style.
  • The British Empire was instrumental in taking the sport to India, North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The first international match took place in 1844 between Canada and the U.S. Canada won all five games in the home-and-home series.
  • The Indian Premier League (IPL) has the highest salaries, averaging about US$3.84 million for its 45-day season. English county cricket salaries are smaller with a minimum wage of US$33,000.
  • The IPL’s most valuable franchise is the Mumbai Indians (US$57.13 million).

 


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