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May 18, 2007
It has been said that Canada is too reliant on elder statesmen such as John Davison and Geoff Barnett for the performances required to make an impact at international level but, at 25, Bagai is determined to oversee the transition and rebuilding of the national side.
Following the World Cup in the Caribbean, Davison stood down as captain and although he is still in the team and on hand for advice, he passed the mantle over to Bagai, a talented wicketkeeper-batsman with a good reading of the game and a man who is passionate about cricket in Canada.
"It is a huge honour and privilege for me to be asked to lead the side," he said. "It's such an important game for us and I am looking forward to it enormously."
Canada take on defending champions Ireland in next week's final at Grace Road and Bagai knows the Irish will not be an easy nut to crack. Canada were bowled out by them for just 115 in a World Cup warm-up game in Trinidad, but prior to that it was Bagai and his team-mates who came out on top when they defeated Ireland by six wickets during the World Cricket League division 1 in Nairobi during February.
It was an impressive victory considering they chased 308 and Bagai top scored with a magnificent 122. Now, however, Bagai will not be able to concentrate solely on batting as he must lead the team. Throw in the fact that he will probably be wearing the wicketkeeper's gloves as well and it's going to be a hectic few days for him.
"To be honest, I am looking forward to the challenge. It's not going to be easy to do all three things but I believe I can do it and I want to thank the selectors for having the faith in me to do it.
"We know the Ireland team quite well. They are a fighting side, they do the basics very well and they play within their limits. Doing so well in the World Cup they have been playing a lot more cricket than us and that is certainly an advantage for them. We are hoping that perhaps they'll be a little stale."
Indeed, before arriving in England this week the Canadians had not played a competitive match since losing to New Zealand by 114 runs at St Lucia on March 22. It helps to have connections though and outgoing coach Andy Pick was able to organise a two-day game with an ECB selection at Loughborough to get them back into the swing of things. However, even this didn't run smoothly when rain washed out the opening day and forced the players indoors.
Pick finishes up as coach of Canada after this game and will stay in England to resume his role as coach of England Under-19s that he had previously done before heading across the Atlantic. "Andy has been really good for us," said Bagai. "I got on very well with him and learned a lot from him. He has been great for Canadian cricket."
After concentrating on one-day cricket for the past few months, the ICC Intercontinental Cup provides Canada with the opportunity to play the longer form of the game and Bagai knows it is not easy to make that transition.
"I think there is a different approach needed. You have to take it session by session and if you fall behind it can be difficult to regain the initiative in the match. You have to trust in your ability and show a lot more patience than one-day cricket. Stamina and fitness are also factors. There is a different type of fitness required for the Intercontinental Cup than ODIs so we have been working on that.
"I think this competition is great. Playing longer cricket really challenges your technique and gives you the skills that can also be applied to one-day cricket. There is a danger for the Associates to concentrate too much on one-day cricket which is why this event is so important."
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