February 20, 2011

Look, Canada, it's Bryan Adams

Why are his countrymen resolutely ignorant about their nation's cricket pedigree, a Toronto resident mourns
28

Russell Peters is a funny guy. So funny that these days his stand-up shtick sells out 15,000-seat arenas. In one of his classic rants, the Canadian jokester with Indian roots explains his beef against soccer: "I hate it because they have this thing called the World Cup. But the two countries I represent - Canada and India - are never in it."

Russell, you had better be giddy right now. You are so covered in this one, brother!

But I'm beginning to think that other than Peters and me, no one else in Canada is going to partake in this giddiness. Pretty much everyone I know in Toronto is utterly oblivious to the fact that Canada will be duking it out this February and March in the cricket World Cup. Eyeballs-wise the most watched sporting tournament in the world, barring the FIFA one that Peters hates.

Shouldn't the fact that this is the fourth time Canada have qualified for the World Cup (out of 10) warrant a wee bit of acknowledgement from my fellow Canadians? Surely I am not being unreasonable here? Do I really need to resort to the lame trick of grabbing their attention by revealing that Canadian Bryan Adams (groan) performed at the opening ceremony in Dhaka?

Oh yes, we are very capable of solemnly discussing a glaring glitch in the buttock-sliding technique of some pothead luger from Winnipeg in the Winter Olympics, of vigorously debating the hurdling style of that steeple-chasing cocktail waitress from Vancouver in the summer Olympics. Why not our cricket team at the World Cup? The Olympics are a scam, people! An exercise in faux patriotism every four years, when you guilt yourself into fretting over how Sierra Leone is ahead of Canada in the medals tally by winning at some weird sport no sane person would indulge in in their lives. I am stumped about what it is going to take to get people around me even a tiny bit interested in the Canadian team at the World Cup, playing a sport that millions of normal people (including Canadians) play round the year.

Toronto is a city teeming with cricket and cricketers. More cricketers than there have been lugers and steeple-chasers combined in history. For we have the biggest and best-organised cricket leagues in North America. Just the Toronto and District Association (est. 1920) with its four divisions has more than a thousand active club cricketers, and this is only one of many leagues in town. Lush cricket grounds dot the city and I have played on at least 20 of them myself. Some of them have top-quality turf wickets, mainly in clubs that have been around for more than a century now.

This is a city steeped in cricket history, signs of which are everywhere. The Hospital for Sick Children is a world-renowned paediatric care hospital, but I know it for its founder John Ross Robertson, whose name adorns one of the oldest sporting trophies in Canada - the Canadian Cricket Championship. Prestigious Upper Canada College, a hoity-toity school, has a 150-year-old association with the Toronto Cricket Club (est. 1827) and fields a cricket team even now. I am surrounded by graduates of the University of Toronto, all of them ignorant that their alma mater has a rich history of the game. Their Varsity Blues cricket team was the pride of the university even in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Mississauga is half Indian and Pakistani and half Chinese. One half are lining up to buy cracked satellite TV motherboards in strip malls and the other half will waltz through the World Cup, clueless about Javed Miandad's mission to make China a cricketing superpower

Canadians' utter ignorance about their cricketing history is perplexing. All my mates would score a duck on the old trivia question about the oldest international sporting rivalry in history: the Canada v USA cricket match first played in New York in 1844. Two countries which until the late the 19th century ranked behind only England and Australia in cricket development. Even as of the 1930s (when Don Bradman's team toured Canada, thumped all opponents, and flew to New York at Babe Ruth's personal invitation), the amount of cricket coverage in the Globe and Mail - our respected national newspaper - was neck and neck with that of its cousin baseball. Yes, the sport died in both countries for all sorts of reasons. (No, Sherlock, it was not the weather. The Toronto cricket season is longer, warmer and less wet than that of England.) The deaths have been subjects of innumerable academic studies, including at Harvard, especially in the field of sociology: "cross-cultural diffusion" they call it. Look it up.

Speaking of the United States, there is another reason why Canadians should be perking up. Now, many Canadians are a tad obsessed with the US of A. Exasperatingly so, sometimes. Maybe it is just an elephant-and-mouse thing? Whatever it is, we do love to get digs in at our neighbours whenever possible - like saying no to George Bush over Iraq or by packing Celine Dion off to Las Vegas. Shouldn't we be taunting our American cousins about the cricket World Cup: "Na na na na… naa naa… we qualified, you didn't"? Shouldn't we be getting our knocks in now before the next football World Cup? Don't we know that Canada will be coming up donuts then?

I live in the heart of Toronto, but our suburbs will fare better. There is Mississauga, which is half Indian and Pakistani and half Chinese. One half are lining up to buy cracked satellite TV motherboards in strip malls and the other half will waltz through the World Cup, clueless about Javed Miandad's mission to make China a cricketing superpower. Scarborough is where Sri Lankans and Tamils have been living peacefully, but that peace is under threat, now that Murali is retiring. Then you have Brampton - 100% Punjabi for all purposes (they even have an MP who looks like Preity Zinta). We also have a massive Caribbean population, but they will lie low given the state their cricket team is in - though they will surface in hordes at barbecues, swigging Red Stripe, if Chris Gayle wakes up.

I have no clue where the English, Aussie, Kiwi and South African supporters hide. My guess is they all live in the vicinity of the Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club. Remember that? Yes, the Sahara Cup. That was where Inzi went ape and tried to bludgeon the moron with the megaphone into potato mash. That made the front pages and it was one time when even the office security guard seemed cricket savvy. But then, he was Pakistani. Till 2010 we had a mayor who was a rugby nut and quite knowledgeable about cricket, but he is gone, and in his place we have a boof who digs tractor pulls and monster truck rallies. Bad times.

As for the rest of the world, remember: Bryan Adams is not the marquee Canadian at this World Cup. It is not the veteran enforcer John Davison (a failed wannabe Owen Hargreaves of cricket) either. It is captain Ashish Bagai and the youngest-ever squad to represent Canada in cricket.

Me? I skipped Adams and the opening ceremony and will tune in today, when Canada take on the 1996 world champions Sri Lanka in Hambantota. And have my eyes glued on Balaji Rao, the rotund Canadian spinning ace.

Just you wait, Sangakkara!

Sriram Dayanand is a writer based in Canada

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on February 22, 2011, 8:01 GMT

    Was bringing up these points on Sunday during the Canadian game. Had some friends around for a Braai (Barbecue) and of course like any South African the sport was on during it. One of my mates had some friends over from Canada and they came with.

    They didn't even know Canada had a cricket team, and were absolutely amazed that they had to come all the way to South Africa to get educated on the sport. Unfortunately the game wasn't a good example to further their education with.

  • dragoman on February 22, 2011, 1:33 GMT

    Super article! ICC suits should read it: if Canadian cricketers have even 10% of the passion, enthusiasm and humour of this writer, they ought to get a gold-embossed invitation in 2015! I had no idea Canada had such a cricketing tradition - wonderful :0)

  • on February 21, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    A Couple of reasons that should be considered:

    As someone mentioned before unless its carried on TSN, CBC, Sportsnet, or theScore what right minded passe fan would spend $200 to get the channel to watch the world cup. I'm pretty sure if you had to pay to watch curling, luge, or skiing the numbers would be just as bad as cricket.

    Also the timing of the games severely hurts any buzz that it could create! No one wants to wake up at 4am when they have to go to work the next day.

    Moreover, hardly any Canadian born players that the average Canadian can identify with means that game will be considered an immigrants game.

    There are definitely more reasons such as "taking too long", complicated rules, etc but you get the picture there isn't ONE simple reason why cricket hasn't taken off in the true north, strong, and free.

  • MBA394 on February 21, 2011, 3:53 GMT

    Luvly article. Good read and deserved a feedback !! Was living in TO for 3 yrs but cud not tolerate being away from cricket longer than that, so packed up to be back in Lanka !!!!!!!( it was a choice between cricket n TimHortons and cricket won ) Hope Canada turns a few heads this WC but then Johnson will hv to bat for more than a single ball !!!!!!!and also remind the team that catces are "meant" to be taken.

  • Brianoscopy on February 21, 2011, 3:31 GMT

    Brilliant!! As a Toronto resident, this is priceless with all the inside jokes...not to mention the lesson in history for all the people in the city and elsewhere. Mayor Ford is surely going to love this :) Luv it !!! Keep it up.

  • Shaneb20041985 on February 21, 2011, 2:27 GMT

    @Zulfiqar Unar: and how many players in the England team were born outside England? Morgan even played the last W20-20 for a different country...lol Did that stop the English public from not getting behind their team?

    I think Canada has a decent team and they kinda got unlucky against Sri Lanka. Don't forget that they almost beat England who were seen as a major cup contender a month or two ago. http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc_cricket_worldcup2011/engine/match/473332.html

  • on February 20, 2011, 21:08 GMT

    Not sure what cross-cultural diffusion is, even after I looked it up! With the exception of a brief period at the end of the nineteenth century cricket in Canada has always been dependent on immigrants. If you want to learn more about the history of Canadian cricket check out the book "A History of Canadian Cricket: An immigrant's game?"

  • on February 20, 2011, 20:45 GMT

    Canada, West Indies, Kenya & USA, Afgan, BER etc.... should battle for their own Cup... Too many minows inthe World Cup. A waste.

  • mathematicised on February 20, 2011, 20:00 GMT

    Beautiful! Passionate! Wonderful! Long live cricket all over the world!

  • randikaayya on February 20, 2011, 16:48 GMT

    @Pushpa Ranjan Wijesinghe: Well spoken. The Sri Lankan nation salutes Murali and all of its non-partisan sons and daughters! Soon our brothers from Jaffna and Batti will don the royal blue and gold!

  • on February 22, 2011, 8:01 GMT

    Was bringing up these points on Sunday during the Canadian game. Had some friends around for a Braai (Barbecue) and of course like any South African the sport was on during it. One of my mates had some friends over from Canada and they came with.

    They didn't even know Canada had a cricket team, and were absolutely amazed that they had to come all the way to South Africa to get educated on the sport. Unfortunately the game wasn't a good example to further their education with.

  • dragoman on February 22, 2011, 1:33 GMT

    Super article! ICC suits should read it: if Canadian cricketers have even 10% of the passion, enthusiasm and humour of this writer, they ought to get a gold-embossed invitation in 2015! I had no idea Canada had such a cricketing tradition - wonderful :0)

  • on February 21, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    A Couple of reasons that should be considered:

    As someone mentioned before unless its carried on TSN, CBC, Sportsnet, or theScore what right minded passe fan would spend $200 to get the channel to watch the world cup. I'm pretty sure if you had to pay to watch curling, luge, or skiing the numbers would be just as bad as cricket.

    Also the timing of the games severely hurts any buzz that it could create! No one wants to wake up at 4am when they have to go to work the next day.

    Moreover, hardly any Canadian born players that the average Canadian can identify with means that game will be considered an immigrants game.

    There are definitely more reasons such as "taking too long", complicated rules, etc but you get the picture there isn't ONE simple reason why cricket hasn't taken off in the true north, strong, and free.

  • MBA394 on February 21, 2011, 3:53 GMT

    Luvly article. Good read and deserved a feedback !! Was living in TO for 3 yrs but cud not tolerate being away from cricket longer than that, so packed up to be back in Lanka !!!!!!!( it was a choice between cricket n TimHortons and cricket won ) Hope Canada turns a few heads this WC but then Johnson will hv to bat for more than a single ball !!!!!!!and also remind the team that catces are "meant" to be taken.

  • Brianoscopy on February 21, 2011, 3:31 GMT

    Brilliant!! As a Toronto resident, this is priceless with all the inside jokes...not to mention the lesson in history for all the people in the city and elsewhere. Mayor Ford is surely going to love this :) Luv it !!! Keep it up.

  • Shaneb20041985 on February 21, 2011, 2:27 GMT

    @Zulfiqar Unar: and how many players in the England team were born outside England? Morgan even played the last W20-20 for a different country...lol Did that stop the English public from not getting behind their team?

    I think Canada has a decent team and they kinda got unlucky against Sri Lanka. Don't forget that they almost beat England who were seen as a major cup contender a month or two ago. http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc_cricket_worldcup2011/engine/match/473332.html

  • on February 20, 2011, 21:08 GMT

    Not sure what cross-cultural diffusion is, even after I looked it up! With the exception of a brief period at the end of the nineteenth century cricket in Canada has always been dependent on immigrants. If you want to learn more about the history of Canadian cricket check out the book "A History of Canadian Cricket: An immigrant's game?"

  • on February 20, 2011, 20:45 GMT

    Canada, West Indies, Kenya & USA, Afgan, BER etc.... should battle for their own Cup... Too many minows inthe World Cup. A waste.

  • mathematicised on February 20, 2011, 20:00 GMT

    Beautiful! Passionate! Wonderful! Long live cricket all over the world!

  • randikaayya on February 20, 2011, 16:48 GMT

    @Pushpa Ranjan Wijesinghe: Well spoken. The Sri Lankan nation salutes Murali and all of its non-partisan sons and daughters! Soon our brothers from Jaffna and Batti will don the royal blue and gold!

  • on February 20, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    Patience. Cricket will emerge again in Canada if we take the right steps. But that means that some people may need to step away a bit from their own joyful romps on a pitch and instead focus their efforts on volunteering at schools to bring a whole new generation of cricket players and fans of all different ethnic backgrounds.

    I do disagree with your Olympics portion of your article. Surely that kind of dedication to sport should be recognized -- it would be hypocritical to support professional athletes and not celebrate the amateurs, who I think deserve it all the more. As you pointed out, some of these people are working to excel at a sport and try to work to support themselves and possibly a family at the same time. Compare that to professional athletes whose sport is their "work" and they are handed all the facilities and services to stay at the top of their game -- benefits that some amateurs are not able to have.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the article. Good work.

  • crichammer on February 20, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    Great article Sriram. I believe you've captured Canada's general attitude towards cricket. I see change coming though. In my Danforth neighbourhood the young fellas are now playing cricket on the street just like the youngsters in the Caribbean and probably all over the cricket loving world. Of course these same youngsters are also playing road hockey in the winter. One of the keys for cricket development in Canada is that the country should continue to have a presence at major tournaments. The new ruling effectively barring Canada from the 2014 World Cup does not help.

  • on February 20, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    I can see that Toronto has a good legacy. But if school cricket was taken to Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa and other cities, you guys may have a strong team. And you need fans - and that is what I suppose is making Afghanistan a team of the future

  • on February 20, 2011, 11:30 GMT

    Who in Canada is going to get behind a team which only has two players who were born in Canada. The remainder of the team is made up of 4 Indians, 2 Pakistani, 1 each from West Indies, Srilanka and Uganda.

  • moBlue on February 20, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    @dyogesh: go look in a nearby store for a package each of "humor" and "satire"... because apparently you didn't recognize it when sriram expertly combined the two! yo, sriramDude, you cracked me up! ...in a similar predicament here in the US of A when sehwag was going bonkers [la-a-a-ate at night]... so i called a best buddy of mine in bangalore and "watched" with him, instead! good luck to canada...

  • Tambapani on February 20, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    The gravity of Sriram's article is not in today's match but in the future of the Associate Members at the next World Cup which has been reduced to 10 teams and thereby effectively ruled out the likes of valiant Canada (unless they of course lift the trophy this time and teach the ICC a good lesson!) that their manager Pubudu Dissnayake (an ex-Sri Lankan player, mind you!) has been fighting tooth and nail.Sangakkara, could do you'll a favour by easing on the pedal to wake up the ICC.

  • nida on February 20, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    Hey man, Jon Montgomery's "buttock-sliding technique" got us a gold, ok? I'm surprised you feel that way about the Olympics; y'know, that time when all us Canadians unfamiliar with various sports sat glued to the tv and spent millions to be in Vancouver to support our country? You want Canadians to watch cricket? Get on the T20-for-summer-Olympics bandwagon.

    Btw, I'm an SA supporter and I hide out in the suburbs. I know there's gotta be more of us around here somewhere. Anyway, super proud of Canada for qualifying again. Good luck to the feisty boys in red.

  • GullyBully on February 20, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    Nice article! Go Canada! From a Cdn in exile in Sthe US

  • binkaf on February 20, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    Yeah, not much of hope but Good Luck Canada BTW, Bryan Adams was here, LIVE, at Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday Feb 19 rocking the 20000+ strongly passionate crowd!

  • on February 20, 2011, 5:55 GMT

    I live in Canada, and am actually cheering for them in this World Cup. Offcourse, after India, who will always be my first choice to cheer for, since I spent 7 years in India. But really, it is quite surprising how no one knows about the world cup here in Canada

  • snbirdi on February 20, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    LOL@ Brampton mp who looks like Preity Zinta. Ruby Dhalla does not look like Zinta haha. It's true though. I've lived in Scarborough and Mississauga and just moved to Brampton 4 years ago. Even though high school cricket is an organized sport here, it just dies off after that. With the amount of south asians, I wonder if we'll ever see cricketing nations honking in the middle of the street sticking out of their sunroofs waving their flags like the soccer countries do during their WC.

  • on February 20, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    Excellent read, thanks for writing this!! Wish the Cdn Boys all the best in their world cup games. Good Luck Canada!

  • on February 20, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Do not worry Sri Ram!! Let Murali retire. Other Tamils will carry out for SL. Sometime back it was guy called Russel PREMAKUMARAN Arnold. After murali, ANGELO MATHEWS will carry the flag. He is tipped to be Sri Lankan captain one day. It is no longer , cricketers from war torn Jaffna will wear the SL jersy.....

  • brombus on February 20, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    I had to come to Australia before discovering cricket (that is, actually watching a match). It is so similar to baseball in so many ways, but so different in so many more. Seeing it live and understanding what it means to play on a 360 degree pitch is hugely important. Now I quite enjoy it. And best of all, the US cares infinitely less than Canada about cricket, all the more reason to learn to live it!

  • dyogesh on February 20, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    Well written for most part except for the olympic comparisons. That millions play does not make a sport a normal sport but rather a common sport. Except for test cricketers, nobody plays tests. So, we should stop following tests ? Why to denigrate other sports for cricket's sake ? Each has it beauty and let people who enjoy watch it. Should i take a world popularity poll before i watch a sport ?

  • on February 20, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    loves playing in tdca!!!

  • Sir-Collingwood on February 20, 2011, 3:01 GMT

    ATN is the problem. They carry it but charge exorbiant rates for good matches.

    To promote Canadian cricket you need to get TSN and CBC on board. The Canadian games should be at the very least packaged and placed on CBC or TSN -- no point having it completely unaccessible on ATN, which requires like $200 for the entire tournament and exorbiant cable bills and equipment to be accessible.

    Maybe it's fine for a Pay channel for the Ashes...for the Canadian boys...set them free!

  • gsivakumar3010 on February 20, 2011, 3:00 GMT

    LOL real funny. Good luck Canada.

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  • gsivakumar3010 on February 20, 2011, 3:00 GMT

    LOL real funny. Good luck Canada.

  • Sir-Collingwood on February 20, 2011, 3:01 GMT

    ATN is the problem. They carry it but charge exorbiant rates for good matches.

    To promote Canadian cricket you need to get TSN and CBC on board. The Canadian games should be at the very least packaged and placed on CBC or TSN -- no point having it completely unaccessible on ATN, which requires like $200 for the entire tournament and exorbiant cable bills and equipment to be accessible.

    Maybe it's fine for a Pay channel for the Ashes...for the Canadian boys...set them free!

  • on February 20, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    loves playing in tdca!!!

  • dyogesh on February 20, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    Well written for most part except for the olympic comparisons. That millions play does not make a sport a normal sport but rather a common sport. Except for test cricketers, nobody plays tests. So, we should stop following tests ? Why to denigrate other sports for cricket's sake ? Each has it beauty and let people who enjoy watch it. Should i take a world popularity poll before i watch a sport ?

  • brombus on February 20, 2011, 3:42 GMT

    I had to come to Australia before discovering cricket (that is, actually watching a match). It is so similar to baseball in so many ways, but so different in so many more. Seeing it live and understanding what it means to play on a 360 degree pitch is hugely important. Now I quite enjoy it. And best of all, the US cares infinitely less than Canada about cricket, all the more reason to learn to live it!

  • on February 20, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Do not worry Sri Ram!! Let Murali retire. Other Tamils will carry out for SL. Sometime back it was guy called Russel PREMAKUMARAN Arnold. After murali, ANGELO MATHEWS will carry the flag. He is tipped to be Sri Lankan captain one day. It is no longer , cricketers from war torn Jaffna will wear the SL jersy.....

  • on February 20, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    Excellent read, thanks for writing this!! Wish the Cdn Boys all the best in their world cup games. Good Luck Canada!

  • snbirdi on February 20, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    LOL@ Brampton mp who looks like Preity Zinta. Ruby Dhalla does not look like Zinta haha. It's true though. I've lived in Scarborough and Mississauga and just moved to Brampton 4 years ago. Even though high school cricket is an organized sport here, it just dies off after that. With the amount of south asians, I wonder if we'll ever see cricketing nations honking in the middle of the street sticking out of their sunroofs waving their flags like the soccer countries do during their WC.

  • on February 20, 2011, 5:55 GMT

    I live in Canada, and am actually cheering for them in this World Cup. Offcourse, after India, who will always be my first choice to cheer for, since I spent 7 years in India. But really, it is quite surprising how no one knows about the world cup here in Canada

  • binkaf on February 20, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    Yeah, not much of hope but Good Luck Canada BTW, Bryan Adams was here, LIVE, at Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday Feb 19 rocking the 20000+ strongly passionate crowd!