Sports: Crazy About Cricket

by Shabnum Budhwani

“And that’s a six.” The crowd goes into a frenzy! The recent World Cup opening ceremony was watched and followed by one billion people across the globe. That is the power of cricket or cricket mania. It is amazing how a single sport can help to create so much excitement. How did this game become so popular and widespread?

Cricket originated in England and was initially played by the officers of the British army. They took the game with them to wherever British colonies were established. Today, cricket is a very popular game among many current and former Commonwealth
countries. Cricket is also gaining ground in countries like the Netherlands, Kenya and Nepal, where it is practiced as an amateur sport. The International Cricket Council which is the governing body for cricket, acknowledges that there are over 100 cricket playing countries. In countries like India and Pakistan it is not uncommon to see children playing cricket in alleys using tennis balls and makeshift wooden bats.

Cricket & Baseball

Baseball is a very popular sport played mainly in North America, Central America and parts of South America as well as some parts of the Caribbean and East Asia (especially Japan). Baseball and cricket have many similarities. Both are bat and ball games where the teams take turns in fielding and batting. The team that is batting tries to score points or runs while the other team tries to prevent this from occurring and tries to eliminate players from the batting team through their fielding techniques. This is in contrast to games like soccer, hockey or basketball where both teams are free to score at any time.

History of Cricket in Canada

It is believed that cricket was introduced to Canada by British soldiers, with one of the first matches being played in the 18th century. There is a reference to one of the earliest matches being played by civilians in a small town called in Ile-Ste-Helene near Montreal in 1785. When Canada became a nation in 1867, the game was so popular that it was declared a national sport by the first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. A pitch was laid out at Rideau Hall which is now the official residence of the Governor General of Canada.

The roots of Canadian cricket go back to Upper Canada and to a small town called York, now known as Toronto. During the early years of the 19th century the game was promoted by a young English schoolmaster named George A. Barber who is known as the father of Canadian cricket. He helped found the Toronto Cricket Club in 1827. In fact, until September 2006 the Toronto Cricket Club – now known as the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club – was the only venue in Canada approved by the International Cricket Council where One Day International Matches could be hosted. Very recently, the Maple Leaf Cricket Club, a cricket ground in King City, Ontario has also joined the ranks.

Here are three reasons cricket-mania has not caught on in Canada as much as it has in some other former British colonies of the world.

  1. After the Civil War in the U.S. (1861-65) the popularity of baseball grew in America. Due to Canada’s close ties with the United States, baseball began to take over from cricket here too.

  2. Cricket season here has always been very short. Indoor sports like basketball can be played year-round.

  3. Not wanting to be identified too closely with either Britain or the U.S., Canada has always tried to claim its own identity. Due to the ground being frozen for a major part of the year, hockey grew out of the environment and helped define Canada as a nation.

But cricket never disappeared entirely. Today, Canada receives immigrants from around the globe and cricket is a national sport in many of these countries.

In order to overcome the adverse weather conditions, cricket is now being offered as an indoor sport by the Toronto District School Board. It is gaining popularity pretty quickly too. Cricket has the ability to bring together people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, helps to build team spirit as well as develops individual skills like concentration, patience, decision making and risk taking. Cricket is played not only in Ontario but also in other provinces like BC, Quebec, Manitoba and Newfoundland.

As technology brings down geographical barriers and the world becomes one huge playing field, cricket mania is definitely catching on. Cricket has the power to break down barriers and unite countries, to help build bridges and open up channels of communication which might otherwise have remained closed. It has the amazing power to bring people together.

CNM