Postcards from Canada September 26, 2010

The sky's the limit (weather permitting)

Cricket in Newfoundland may well have reached its tipping point. The future's bright

As summer comes to an end, and my work contract in Newfoundland does likewise, it's time for a final postcard from this rocky outpost of eastern North America. Starting a cricket association has been a fantastic, fascinating challenge, and I'm amazed with what we've achieved. Our committee and constitution, our government-incorporated status, our first provincial team, our first trophy, and now our new logo*.

As I prepare to leave, however, one question nags away at me. What are the long-term prospects for cricket in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Well, as that master of left-arm unorthodox spin Confucius once said, "Study the past if you would divine the future." A trip to the sports archives in The Rooms - the fabulous provincial museum - shows we're not the first people to try and revive cricket here. Newspaper clippings from 1980 reveal that, three decades before we incorporated the Cricket Association of Newfoundland & Labrador, a similarly international group established the Newfoundland & Labrador Cricket Association. An executive was elected, practice sessions were held, and playing areas were scouted out. They even had a British expat, a university scientist with an unusual surname - Tim Coolbear - as their rabble-rouser.

For various reasons, though, the project never took off. Key people moved away before it got properly up and running, a decent wicket wasn't found, and local interest didn't really develop. So is history doomed to repeat itself, or is there something about our efforts that ensures a different outcome?

I think there is. I think the Fates are in our favour. The Memorial University of Newfoundland is the largest university in Atlantic Canada, and one whose international student population is burgeoning. Most of our players are connected to MUN in some way, and there is demand for a university cricket club. To test this (and as a prelude to setting up an indoor league), we've arranged a Town v Gown match at a local sports hall this weekend. We can just about find a St John's XI, but enough students have already signed up to make two university teams, and I suspect that's only the tip of the iceberg. It all bodes well for MUN CC**.

We have also been offered our own movable plastic wicket, identical to the one used by Cricket New Brunswick for the Maritimes Twenty20 tournament. Negotiations are at an early stage, but there's a good chance we'll be able to pitch this wicket on the Feild of Dreams. When combined with the kit we've been kindly donated by the other provinces, this will enable us to play weekly cricket matches with a real ball, ensuring a stronger, better-prepared Cricket NL team for next year's provincial competition.

We're not yet ready to host the tournament ourselves, but a year of organised cricket will change all that. By 2012, we'll be able to invite New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to a Twillingate Tapeball Twenty20, before moving on to St John's for the big draw.

And yes, I really think an Atlantic cricket tournament would be a big draw. Newfoundlanders are proud supporters of their local teams: 2000 fans turned up to cheer on The Rock as they won the Canadian Rugby Championship final last weekend. So I'm pencilling in 2020 for the first edition of the NPL. Deranged offspring of the NHL and IPL, the Newfoundland Premier League would see cricket spread out across the province, taking it back to the places where it used to thrive. The Bonavista Bog Donkeys would battle the St Anthony Squidhounds; the Harbour Grace Hagdowns would take on the Grand Falls Lumber-pulpers. I've seen the beautiful Inter-Town Trophy in the museum vaults and it needs to be resurrected, having not been held aloft in triumph since about 1925.

Maybe I'm being over-ambitious but there's no reason why all of this can't happen. This is a wonderful place to play the most wonderful of sports, and I can't wait to come back and see how things are progressing. What with global warming, the province might even start getting extended periods of decent weather. And if anyone ever asks me, "Are you a Newfoundland cricketer?" I shall be honoured to reply, "Indeed I is, me ol' cock, and long may your big jib draw!"***

*drafted so beautifully by the lovely Dr Helen Goodchild, who also bakes cakes on demand for fund-raising purposes
**even if I'd rather it was the acronymous Memorial University of Newfoundland Cricket Initiative
***This will only make sense if you've been "screeched in".

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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