A bewildering mess of a performance
The World Twenty20 Qualifier was the tournament that was supposed to right the ship for Canada and put them back among the best teams in Associate cricket. A 16-team tournament with a curious format that opened a window every time a door closed meant that a team prone to inconsistency, like Canada, could slip up a couple of times and still be one of the six teams to qualify for the World Twenty20 in March. To not make it, Canada would need to fall to both equal and better teams, lose the plot when facing weaker sides, squander winning positions, and generally have no discernible game plan. They duly obliged.
For the first time in years the selectors got it right: Of the available talent, of the players still in the system, of the players with international experience - the best 11 were picked in the squad of 15. It is a different matter that the ideal combination never played a match together, but this was still a team that was talented enough to comfortably qualify.
Before heading to the UAE, Canada made a brief stop in Sri Lanka to play a handful of warm-up matches (including one against Scotland) and try out combinations. At the conclusion of the trip, coach Gus Logie said: "We leave Sri Lanka feeling a lot more confident about our ability to play the T20 format… during the past ten days we saw a marked improvement in our fitness levels and skills levels. We tried many different batting and bowling combinations, and we are quite confident that we have a good idea of what works."
If there was any such planning, Canada didn't trust it. More disappointingly Canada didn't trust their players, chopping and changing the line-up every game, moving players up and down the order and bowling them inconsistently - all of which indicated that players had no defined roles. In a team where almost everyone fancies themselves an allrounder, it was important to make it clear that if someone was selected as a batsman, their job was to score runs and not count on retaining their spot by bowling two overs and picking up a wicket.
An unexpected loss to the unfancied USA shocked the team, but they were still buoyant enough to give Ireland a fight. That disappointing loss, by a mere two runs with seven wickets in hand, seems to have knocked the wind out of Canada. Suddenly down 0-2, they panicked at the first sign of aggression from Hong Kong, and used eight bowlers inside 12 overs, signalling that they were running scared; 0-3 now, Canada looked like a ramshackle, rudderless side.
The match against Uganda was an opportunity to regroup and return the best team to the ground. Instead Canada jumbled the XI again, typified by playing the reserve wicketkeeper, Hamza Tariq, as a specialist opening batsman. A win confused the issue of whether to stick with a winning combination in the next match, against UAE. Tariq opened again and walked off with a duck for the second game in a row. Raza-ur-Rehman, a specialist batsman who had bowled in every other game, wasn't bowled in this one, yet he batted at No. 8, exposing a bewildering lack of resource management. The UAE coach, Aaqib Javed, quipped to a Canadian player that he didn't know how to prepare his side against Canada, because no one could understand what Canada were trying to do. One-four, and the tournament could not end soon enough.
The failure to qualify for the World Twenty20 Championship was painful for Cricket Canada and before the last matches were even played, the board president released an open letter calling the performance unacceptable and the worst-case scenario.
With results this disappointing, board officials who never think to step down, and a player pool too shallow now to make any meaningful changes ahead of the 50-over World Cup qualifiers, the only one who was ever going to be shown the door was Logie. He may not have extracted the best out of his charges, but to lay the blame entirely at his doorstep is unfair when results have been sub-par for more than two years.
Speaking to ESPNCricinfo shortly after his removal was announced, Logie was philosophical and magnanimous. "As a coach you're subject to the vagaries of the game. If results don't go your way, you pay the price. It is a hazard of being a coach in the international arena and at the end of the day I take responsibility. I wish the team well for the future."
Logie refused to criticise any player or the captain, but in describing the requirements of T20 cricket, lamented Canada's lack of execution, "If someone's role is to give us a start in the first six overs, they have to produce." And perhaps more tellingly, "In T20 cricket, making 40 runs off 40 balls isn't going to do it."
Canada's steady fall from grace is alarming, with results on the field belying any claim to still being one of the leading Associates. This team was the best Canada had assembled since the 2009 World Cup Qualifiers and the utter pasting it got at the hands of other Associate teams in the UAE should have a sobering effect.
With mere weeks before a truly daunting qualification process gets underway for the World Cup proper, Canada have little time to regroup. Things have been coming to a boil for a while now, but with a World Cup berth, ODI status and funding through the ICC's High Performance programme all now on the line, the stakes have never been higher.
Faraz Sarwat is the cricket columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of The Cricket World Cup: History, Highlights, Facts and Figures