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History on Canada's side
January 30, 2003 20:33 IST
They may be quirky underdogs at the 2003 World Cup but Canada can claim to have a longer cricketing history than any other country in the world, including England and Australia.
The first recorded international fixture between two nations took place in New York in 1844 between the United States and Canada. The home side won.
But the game is still struggling to take root in the country for one very good reason -- the season barely lasts 12 weeks and for nine months of the year prospective cricket fields are snowbound.
A cricket culture has therefore never grown and it is for that reason that the Canadian national team consists largely of expatriates from the West Indies and the Asian subcontinent where the game can genuinely be said to be in the blood.
The captain, batsman Jo Harris, is a remarkable mixture of several cultures having been born in India before playing first-class cricket for Barbados. Resident in Canada for well over a decade, he perfectly represents the cosmopolitan nature of the country and the team.
Opening bowler Davis Joseph, originally from Guyana but a Canadian resident for almost 20 years, is still sprightly at 37 and may even remind some older spectators of formidable West Indian quick bowler Colin Croft.
Wicketkeeper Ashish Bagai emigrated from India at the age of eight and, remarkably, has started his fourth season in the national side at the age of 20 while opening bowler Sanjay Thuraisingam hails from Sri Lanka.
Other players have spent many years in countries such as England, New Zealand and Australia. Off-spinning all rounder John Davison can be described as the only real professional, having made a career playing in the Australian state of Victoria.
Middle order batsman Ian Billcliff mixes a career as a schoolteacher with cricket in Canterbury, New Zealand, while top order batsman Muneeb Diwan lives and plays league cricket in London.
Reserve wicketkeeper Fazal Samad is another with a wealth of diversity in life and career. Originally from Guyana, the film industry provides Samad with his 'real' job but there is enough money available playing as a professional in the New York league to cover the cost of commuting.
Far from being problematic, the diversity of cultures is Canada's strength. When 15 men have to fly a collective 160,000 kilometres for a team practice (which, admittedly, lasts at least a week in Canada's case) there is enough of a will to make it worthwhile.
But there are also plenty of senior players approaching the end of their careers in the squad and a tangible determination to make this once-in-a-lifetime experience as memorable as possible.
The Canadians have shown themselves to be unafraid of having a good time on previous tours and, by and large, they are not scared of a glass of wine or a late night. That does not, however, mean that Canadian cricket is not ambitious as team manager Karam Gopaulsingh explains.
"When you look back at the history of Canadian cricket compared to Sri Lankan cricket, for example, we were ICC Trophy finalists in 1979 (Sri Lanka, 324-8, beat Canada, 264-5, by 60 runs) and they went on to win the World Cup just 17 years later in 1996. So why can't we aspire to some of those things?"
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