Hmm… Talking of cricket in Canada

The Canada Cup, as this twenty over tournament the Sri Lankan team is playing in was organized in a rush when the Champions trophy got called off. Not being a test playing nation Canada is not in a position to make arrangements to conduct a tour of this nature. It is an event organizer who has taken over that responsibility. That company has to sublet each of the arrangements to another professional organization and so it is non stop action when all has to be done within a few weeks.

My job as a commentator was confirmed only ten days ago! The e-ticket to fly reached me less than ten hours before the flight! The bags were packed thereafter and the journey half way across the world commenced. How much the world has progressed since they shot the movie “Around the world in eighty days”, some fifty years ago!!

Kapugedara batted well in first outing

In less than twenty four hours the destination, Toronto, was reached. Taking the same route was Ashley, A Sri Lankan who had been holidaying and returning to his adopted home. Like millions of others he too was a cricket fan.

Shortly after introducing himself at the Dubai airport he mentioned that he was a school mate of Sumitra Warnakulasuriya at Royal and a relation of Roshan Mahanama, enough to simulate a conversation. His initial connection to the game was similar to mine. At an age when we were just beginning to remember, listening to radio commentaries of test matches between England and Australia was common ground.

Many men used to glue their ears on to the big radios to the voices of John Arlott, Brian Johnston. Lindsay Hassett, Alan McGilvray and others who used to describe those Ashes battles.
When a father is such a devout follower of the game, then the sport gets into the blood of a four or five year old. He does not have to be a participant or former participant, the keenness and enthusiasm is good enough an influence. That situation has changed now. Youngsters have the opportunity to follow the fortunes of the national team and all other international teams thanks to television. That is a huge advantage, with the game being brought to the doorstep.

On the reverse side it does not make you desperate to have it. It is there and so much of it, maybe even an excess, so why bother? The radio and the Ashes, was the only way then and it simply could not be missed. The coverage started early in the morning when played in Australia and when played in England the games went late into the night. This meant the entire household gets affected!
A reason why Sri Lanka took the giant step up to International Cricket fairly comfortably was that the game was established, was in the blood of a large sector of people. Let us not forget that Canada played in the first World Cup in 1975, with Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka had the men to take them on from strength to strength. Canada did not and they are in the same position they were thirty three years ago. So it is difficult for any nation to get close to the major playing nations. A few generations must absorb the sport before successful candidates emerge, to get on to the world stage. Bangladesh are going through a struggle for over a decade now without achieving the desired results. They have to be patient. This is part of the apprenticeship; it will take them another decade or even two, to get amongst the big boys. I explained all this to Ashley who absorbed every word thoughtfully.

Quite naturally, he inquired on the state of Sri Lankan Cricket and how the game has progressed since the World Cup triumphs of 1996. Too much to say, too many issues to talk about in a short period of time was my initial reaction. One thing for certain, the talent is very much available. That was how it was during times when his father and mine listened to commentaries on the Ashes series. The Ceylon team produced good players and performed well since the Second World War against all touring teams that led to being granted ‘test’ status in 1981. Only a few months ago spinning sensation Ajantha Mendis emerged to bamboozle the best batsmen in the world. Not too long ago Lasith Malinga and Chamara Kapugedera emerged and that is proof of the pudding. The West Indies for a long time and Pakistan in the nineteen seventies and eighties was like that, with their production lines producing brilliant players. It has dried up for the Windies and Pakistan are struggling somewhat. Sri Lanka must watch that the same fate does not befall them.

Since the 1996 World Cup there have been an umpteen number of appointed Cricket Board’s and Interim Committees. The petty rivalry and infighting has persisted. The development of the sport has been affected. The teams do well enough at all levels. The just concluded ‘A’ team’s tour to South Africa was a success. The players through thick and thin have served their masters well and done the country proud. How delighted we would be should those aspiring to govern the game be united and have one goal, one ambition, to emulate the Australian system and then beat them at home and in their own den! Ashley listened intently and nodded in approval!

The temperatures are low and its rain that greets us in Toronto. It is mid autumn and that is to be expected. The good news is that it should get better by Friday and through the weekend. Cricket in Canada it will be - yet another grand cricketing experience.

  • Ranil Abeynaike is a former Sri Lanka cricketer and curator of SSC
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