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Cricket Canada is planning a multi-city league to generate more interest for the sport in the country. "This is just the beginning," Cricket Canada CEO Atul Ahuja told IANS. "Like the National Hockey League [NHL] in North America, we now plan a multi-city league to take cricket to the masses.
"We have a five-year strategic plan to take the sport to the grassroots. We want to introduce a multi-city franchise professional league - on the lines of the NHL. Discussions are underway and we are keen that we play this league in the winter months in an indoor arena. We know we can present a world-class league for our spectators and global TV viewers."
Cricket Canada, an associate member of the ICC, took a big leap forward in July when cricket became officially recognised by the government, leaving the sport eligible to potentially receive huge amounts of funding. And under Cricket Canada, the sport has managed to attract top banks and corporates as sponsors.
With the help of Scotiabank, Canada hosted its first T20 national league in May. This was followed by an ODI tri-series in King City featuring West Indies, Bermuda and the hosts, in August, where Canada lost the final against West Indies by seven wickets.
In October, King City played host to the T20 Canada, the world's first Twenty20 quadrangular series, involving Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and the hosts. Canada once again came up short, finishing fourth as Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in the final by five wickets.
Ahuja, however, said he was not worried about the financial aspect as more sponsors were keen to jump on to the cricket bandwagon after the success of the events this year. "When I took over in 2007, I straightway chose to drive change in key areas like corporate sponsorship, spectator-driven events, year-round training, and bring ICC full-member nations to play here," he said.
"For the first time in Canadian cricket, we got corporate sponsorship when Scotiabank signed for a three-year contract to become our national sponsor.
"Global TV coverage of these tournaments put Canada on the world cricket map. No other country hosted six ICC members or four ICC full members this year," Ahuja said.
It has been an indifferent year for Canada though, winning two of the six ODIs and two of the seven Twenty20 internationals they played. They also finished a disappointing fifth in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers, which featured the top six associate nations, and were third in the 2008-09 ICC Americas Division 1 tournament which saw the USA clinch the title.
However, Ahuja said the impetus from future tournaments may result in a turnaround for the game in the country. "We will be hosting the Under-19 World Cup in 2012 and this will be an opportunity for Canada to be counted as 'grown-up' on the world stage - both from governance and performance standpoints. Currently, we are focussing on our U-15 squad to be counted as a winning nation by 2012."