T20 Canada 2008 / News

T20 Canada 2008

Stuttering back into life

Cricinfo staff

October 10, 2008

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Canada was the hotspot for India-Pakistan contests in the 1990s © Picturecare
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In the late 1990s it looked as if Canada was set to become North America's home for visiting international sides. A large, primarily Asian, expat audience turned up in big numbers to a succession of tournaments, usually held in September.

The presence of India and Pakistan was crucial to the viability of the ventures, but as the political tension between the two escalated, the cricket sides became caught up and eventually India were forced by their government to pull out rather than face Pakistan. Without the prime draw, interest waned and the Toronto project was doomed. Soon after, the whole match-fixing saga broke and offshore venues for matches lost their appeal as the authorities looked to clamp down on bookmakers' opportunities.

But nine years later on, and Toronto is again hosting major cricket. Some would argue it's too late in the year - early-morning temperatures struggle to hit 50 degrees - but with the international calendar jam-packed, you take what window you can get.

The event has been made possible by substantial sponsorship by a Dubai-based company. However, the build-up has been anything but ideal. West Indies were on the original cast list, along with Canada, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but they pulled out as their board signed a deal to make all their players available to Allen Stanford. They were replaced by Zimbabwe, hardly an A - or even B-list - attraction.

Promotion has been scratchy, not helped by rumbling uncertainty over the visa positions for two of the visitors. As late as Monday, both Pakistan and Zimbabwe were reported to be having difficulties. In the event, both made it, albeit with little time to spare.

Temporary stands, accommodating up to 10,000, have been built in recent weeks, and the organisers have been bullish in their predictions of the turnout. In the event, there were never more than 1300 inside the ground today, with the bigger audience for the Pakistan match. The earlier game was not so attractive, either in terms of teams or time. The 9.30am start on a chilly autumn morning doesn't appeal to many.

The ground looks pretty good, the replay screens are big and the sightscreens impress. But the behind-the-scenes operation was hardly slick, with power outages and limited internet access for the media. What an event like this needs is publicity, and the PR machine has been, at best, spluttering into life. With a slicker operation, many more tickets might well have been shifted. Oh, and given that a picture is worth a thousand words, someone might have thought to ensure that there were photographers on the ground who would feed the world's media.

The hope is that the weekend will bring much bigger crowds, and talk is that when Sri Lanka play Pakistan tomorrow at 1.30pm in what should be a dress rehearsal for the final, there will be several thousand inside the hastily-constructed ground.

Despite the glitches and grumbles, just getting top cricket to Canada is an achievement, and the organisers deserve credit for that. What they now need is three days of good weather, more spectators and some great cricket.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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