Cricketing Stars to battle it out in Toronto

February 18, 2012
James Christie in the Globe & Mail, 16 February 2012 with title “Toronto cricket match will pit Asia vs. the world”
Canada's captain and wicketkeeper Ashish Bagai appeals unsuccessfully for the wicket of Australia's Brad Haddin during their ICC Cricket World Cup group A match in Bangalore March 16, 2011. - Canada's captain and wicketkeeper Ashish Bagai appeals unsuccessfully for the wicket of Australia's Brad Haddin during their ICC Cricket World Cup group A match in Bangalore March 16, 2011. | REUTERS

The most talented international cricketers to play under a Canadian roof in almost 20 years – a mixture of legends and up-and-comers – will meet at Rogers Centre on May 12 in an all-star match that organizers hope will be at catalyst to move the sport into the Canadian psyche. “We got the idea from watching NBA and NHL all-star games and we’re putting together a couple of good teams, one representing Asia and one International,” said Herb Choga, president of Kat Rose Inc., which is promoting the event with Cricket Canada.

Canada’s national squad will not play, although two Canadians – wicketkeeper Ashish Bagai, 30, and top-of-the-order batsman Rizwan Cheema, 33 – were among players picked for the International XI Thursday. “The proceeds from this game will go toward the development of the sport in Canada,” said Ingleton Liburd, operations officer for Cricket Canada and a former national captain.

There are more than 300 teams playing recreational and competitive cricket in the Toronto area, drawing mainly from an immigrant base. Some Mississauga schools have greater cricket participation than they do for conventional football, but organizers say cricket still has to make the leap into the sports mainstream from being a sport popular because of heritage.

The players chosen Thursday include, for the International XI: Zimbabwean wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor, 26; fast bowler Tino Best of Barbados, another West Indies Test veteran, 30; Mark Boucher, 35, of South Africa who set a record for most dismissals by a wicketkeeper; Canadians Bagai and Cheema – who in 2008 hit 10 sixes in one match (hitting beyond the boundary, the approximate equivalent of a baseball home run); and a contract is pending with Brian Lara, 42, from Trinidad who captained and starred for the West Indies in Tests. Grant Flower was appointed as the coach of the International XI.

Named for the Asia XI: big-armed all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya, 42, of Sri Lanka; outstanding all-rounder Shahid Afridi, 34, of Pakistan; Sunil Joshi, 41, of India; right-armed fast bowler Mohammad Sami, 30, of Pakistan; Saeed Ajmal, 34, of Pakistan who impressed when he made his international debut at 30; opening batsman Tamim Iqbal, 22, of Bangladesh. Because of the Indian Premier League’s operation at the time of the Toronto match, it is expected that various Pakistani players will form the nucleus of the Asia XI.

The umpires will be Canadians certified by the International Cricket Council.

The match will be played on an artificial surface, and the format is called T20 – each team has a single innings, batting for a maximum of 20 overs. Each innings lasts around 75 minutes.

Organizers said the halftime show would be a Bollywood showcase, with a musical appearance by Imran Khan – a melting pot himself as a Dutch-born Pubjabi singer of Pakistani heritage – with the birth-name of Singer.


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