Postcards from Canada August 29, 2010

Seven men against a real ball

Presenting the starting line-up (minus four) of the Newfoundland & Labrador team for the Maritimes Twenty20

I thought by now I'd be able to declare the Cricket Association of Newfoundland & Labrador officially open for business. However, for possibly the first time in cricket history, official status was denied because we possessed too few Canadians.

Still, as we resolve this minor glitch, we move on to a different form of history-making, and Newfoundland & Labrador's debut as a cricketing entity. The 2010 Maritimes Twenty20 tournament is the stage, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick our opponents, and by the time this postcard is published, it will be well underway.

Though we've known about it for months, we haven't so much picked a squad for the tournament as begged, pleaded and cajoled people into playing. We have no funds to cover travel costs, and the competition is being hosted in Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, some 1300 kilometres from St John's. This is London to Bilbao, but without the cheap flights or the high-speed rail network (or indeed, in Newfoundland's case, any kind of terrestrial public transport system at all).

As I write, we have only seven confirmed players, arriving by an exciting variety of means and monies, but it is a nucleus that allows us to take part, and that's the main thing. So I give you, alphabetically, the not-quite-XI:

Ashwin Gupta A master of bowling unplayable left-arm spin, Ashwin has also taken on the onerous responsibility of explaining cricket to Newfoundland media outlets. His interview on CBC Radio was excellent, but teaching their televisual counterparts to play the game was trickier. Bails became "bells" and players of the game "cricketers", although the reporter did belt a couple of fine-looking shots.

Gurman Khurana The man who in the B'ys v Ducks exhibition match scored more sixes on his own (eight) than all the other players combined. Gurman even managed to hit a ball out of the King George V stadium and into the river beyond, on his way to a score of 72 not out. There is, therefore, absolutely no pressure on him to reproduce this form against New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI.

John Nichols A squash-playing, baseball-slugging, all-round-sporting Newfoundlander, who just happens to live in Fredericton. John says, "I don't have much experience, but I know the basics," which may be tested to the full when we find ourselves 11 for 4 in the first game. Even further tested will be his ability to persuade fellow Fredericton-based Newfoundlanders, who have no experience of cricket at all, to turn our seven into XI.

Rakesh Negi Batsman, bowler, organiser, agitator, Rakesh is cricketing energy personified. He is unbounded in his enthusiasm and will not contemplate failure, which is unfortunate, as the odds on us winning the competition are currently about the same as those of Britney Spears winning the 2011 Tour de France on a unicycle.

Rob Butler In his own words Rob "never even held a cricket bat until I was 29 years old. Two years later, I am competing in organised cricket for the first time, and as a left-arm unorthodox bowler. I collected my first wicket of the Halifax Cricket League 2010 season two weeks ago, trapping the opposing team's captain lbw in the first ball of my second over bowled!" A new-found cricket star.

Sujay Mansingh A club-mate of mine from Leicester, now living in New Brunswick. Sujay once had the misfortune of playing for a Saturday team captained by me, and a Sunday team captained by my younger brother. For good measure, Sujay also worked for www.cricket-heroes.net (proprietor: my father). Thinking he might be safe from Herringshaw-based cricketing debacles, Sujay moved to Canada, but he was wrong.

And me.

So what do we know about the other provinces? Not much, except that they're a great bunch of guys who have offered to put us up, feed us, provide us with players, lend us their kit, and assist us in pretty much any way they can. They may regret this when they see us take the field in our unique uniform of sou'westers and purple t-shirts, and when they're forced to listen to our butchering of the "Ode to Newfoundland".

After a tape-ball summer, I'm concerned how we'll fare against a proper cherry, but I've no fear of ignominy: I once captained my Leicester team, Dale Taverners, to a club-record 14 consecutive league defeats. I'm just thrilled we've got this far, that we've even been able to cobble a team together, and that whatever we do will be the best the province has ever managed.

I would add, though, that when Newfoundlander Brad Gushue and his curlers won Olympic gold for Canada in 2006 they had a highway named after them. If we win a match in the Maritimes competition I shall expect nothing less than our own town.

Liam Herringshaw is a medium-paced palaeontologist who moved to Newfoundland from the UK to improve his chances of opening the bowling

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