While all the sports-related chatter around City Hall is focussed on Toronto’s soccer stadium, BMO Field, another proposal could be next on the agenda. Probably the only game with a proper set of laws, cricket is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada, even overtaking tackle football in popularity among kids in Toronto, according to Ward 20 councillor (and enthusiastic champion of the game) Adam Vaughan. But while the city boasts an active cricket community, we are currently without a local cricket pitch that meets the International Cricket Council‘s standards. Vaughan wants to change that, by pushing for the construction of a national state-of-the-art cricket stadium in Toronto.
If you’re itching to score a century and knock over wickets on a world-class pitch, then this news should really excite you. But even if it doesn’t, here’s why it should:
1. It would be inexpensive
“It’s not a lot of money, it’s basically reorganizing baseball diamonds,” says Vaughan, who argues that building cricket pitches would actually be cheaper than building baseball diamonds. He thinks Coronation Park near Ontario Place would be an ideal location.
2. It would make Toronto an international cricket hub
Doug Hannum, CEO of Cricket Canada, says that, with a proper cricket pitch, our city could become an attractive option for international tournament play. “We have the [audience] capacity to support Americas events, under-19, and even the Cricket World Cup,” all of which are organized by the ICC. “Canada could potentially be a host to one of these world events in the future with the new infrastructure and people interested in the sport,” adds Prateek Samtani, president of the Royal Legends Cricket Club.
3. The facilities would always be in use
Hannum says there is “no question” an ICC cricket pitch would be in very high demand. Leagues that play Twenty20-style cricket, whose games usually last three hours, are always looking for pitches. And when the facilities aren’t being used by elite players or hosting exhibition matches, they can be used by local amateur cricket clubs.
4. It would help Toronto’s economy
Councillor Vaughan, who plays cricket every weekend, says that this idea has the potential to go beyond Toronto. For example, he says that matches in Toronto could be broadcast overseas during prime time in countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Australia. The downtown location of the prospective pitch site—and its relative proximity to hotels and restaurants—is also promising in terms of local economic benefits. (Vaughan says teams could potentially be sponsored by Canadian banks; according to him, many local cricket players are employed in the financial sector.)
5. The sport needs this to grow in Canada
“Cricket was played in Canada as early as 1785 and the development of this sport compared to others for the same time period is quite disappointing,” says Dominique Deonarine, vice-president of the Royal Legends Cricket Club. Think about it like this: The Raptors are celebrating their 20th anniversary next season—how much Canadian talent was in the NBA 20 years ago? You’d be hard pressed to find anyone notable. But look at how many young Canadians are in the NBA, or are prospected to be in the NBA now: Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, and potential 2014 number one draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Waqas Butt of Black Ash Sports, one of the GTA’s leading cricket equipment stores, sums up the situation like so: ”If basketball can grow that fast when it wasn’t that popular [20 years ago], imagine how fast cricket can grow when many young people already know how to play.”
Don’t know how to play cricket? Read this primer.