As a devoted follower of cricket, my mind, like millions of others, ought to be completely captivated by the Champions League T20 at the moment. Coming off a stellar Ashes series (and heading into another one) with sprinklings of various internationals to keep me interested, I should be in a tizzy thanks to all of the international cricket that is constantly happening across the globe. The truth is, though, that I have a confession to make - while the CLT20 is fine and dandy, my entire cricket life force is being directed somewhere else right now; somewhere far from Jaipur and, in fact, much closer to Ottawa.
If you think of sport in Canada, you think of hockey. Think a bit harder, and baseball, basketball, soccer and a few other games may bubble to the surface. Cricket? Maybe somewhere next to rugby, far behind curling, skiing, and speed skating. Be that as it may, there is a rapidly growing movement for the sport in the Greater Toronto Area (which is home to hundreds of thousands of expatriates) in the form of competitive club cricket.
In the Toronto and District Cricket Association (TDCA), the foremost league of the region, it's playoff season. The most prestigious level of the TDCA is the Elite Division and, with the cool air of autumn quickly setting in, teams that have fought and clawed all summer to afford themselves a chance to participate in the 50-over championship are now within touching distance of their elusive goal.
Club cricket in Toronto has, in recent years, absolutely blown up. It's a byproduct of the immigration boom that Eastern Canada has experienced, and the game is better for it, for there are now vast numbers of ardent fans and players in a place where "cricket" has predominantly meant "a grasshopper-like organism" for decades. While confined to the indoors during the grey months of winter, players suppress their desires to hit the field with artificial turf in indoor practice nets.
There's an incredible motivation that drives one to don winter gear over cricket gear, proceed in frosty conditions to a practice, strip your winter gear off, play cricket, and then reload it onto yourself for a return trudge to your heated car and home. The commencement of the summer season that follows this wintery reality is like the sweet reward after an arduous journey. This isn't just another set of games, for the value of time, effort, and care that has been put in is on the line.
While the Brisbane Heat and Otago Volts won't be facing off at the picturesque Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City, elite division clubs (and clubs from other divisions) of the TDCA will be lining up. They will feature the crème de la crème of Canadian talent. The players, all with jobs, families, lives, and various other commitments, will be performing for their clubs because of their strong ties and unflinching commitment.
It's the epitome of "team sport". Guys come from all corners, some driving from hours away, wear their colours and show their allegiance to the club. It's a bond that seems odd in the context of a Highveld Lion or a Mumbai Indian getting his pay cheque at the end of the month, but it's a bond that persists because of the clichéd but very apt "love of the game".
There is no Hawkeye, just seagulls circling above. There are no international stars, just players of many national backgrounds trying their damndest. There are no million-dollar payouts, just a whole lot of pride and respect on the line. Club cricket is the secondary pursuit of many players, but those in Canada unwaveringly put their personal agendas aside for a team cause. It's the kind of thing that makes a supporter - nay, a fan - like myself take notice and pay attention. It's cricket, in its purest sense. Let the games begin.
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