Upwards and onwards

2019-11-11

The journey to create a bunch of world-beaters is long and arduous. It comes with sacrifices but is ultimately rewarding. Cricket Canada’s development squad is currently partaking in the Super50 Cup in the West Indies. Here is a peek into their mindset as they brace for steeper challenges.

By Karthik Swaminathan

 The opening match against Leeward Islands might not have been the best of starts the Canadian development team were looking for, but it is also imperative to see the fine print which is where actual progress reflects. “At this level, my role as a coach has more to do with man management and bringing the best out of the cricketers than just coaching the basics. It is about discipline and setting plans and contingencies…”, says coach and manager Amarinder Bhinder, who also happens to be the only coach in the Americas to have two Level 3s. 

Leeward Islands piled up 257 in the Super50 Cup face-off, but there were two aspects which pleased Bhinder. His young team (average age 23-24) had not only bowled them out within 50 overs, but also kept the extras to just 4. Something to feel encouraged against a far superior outfit. “I’d say 80% of our bowling plans were successful, but batting is a concern. The lads are learning the importance of patience and staying at the crease,” Bhinder adds. 

Going through the process is vital, especially when the sport of cricket is trying to again be noticed by Canadians at large. It has to be remembered that there was a time when cricket was declared as Canada's first official sport (1867). The first ever international match was played between the United States and Canada way back in 1844. So, while there is rich history, sporting priorities have changed over centuries and now the sport will have a much tougher climb – especially given the successes in other fields such as golf (Brooke Henderson), basketball (Toronto Raptors) and tennis (Bianca Andreescu), besides the other usual suspects such as ice hockey and baseball. 

Bhinder and the boys realise just that as they look to take Canada back to the world stage in cricket. And they are not averse to experimenting – be it with the playing XI or with strategies. Nitish Kumar, former captain of the national team and one of the finest Canadian cricketers in recent times, is part of the touring developmental squad as a mentor. 

The 25-year-old, who in 2011 was the youngest player to take part in a World Cup, has had quite a journey himself and stresses on organic development of a cricketer as opposed to drumming in everything from the get-go, especially in a challenging tournament like the Super50. “It’s not super formal with me; I just offer whatever I can… It’s about understanding what [the player’s] role is. Mistakes happen as batting is hard to master, even top players struggle, it is about finding your game and trying to stick to it to the best of one’s ability.”

 As if in sync with Bhinder’s batting notes, Kumar explains the challenges batsmen face at the level when the conversation turns to the mind game. He adds, “The mental aspect grows more when you play more cricket. Experience is a great thing and it comes from being part of different situations in a game and taking decisions.” As pragmatic as it can get, and Bhinder concurs, “They will learn when faced with different scenarios; by setting small targets, we take steps in the right direction.” The players certainly seem inspired. Vice-captain Shreyas Movva is one of them. “Seven or eight players have made their debut in the development team and it is great to have someone as experienced as Nitish around… The positive vibes and out-of-the-box thinking from Amarinder help a lot too.” Positivity breeds positivity, which is among the biggest takeaways Bhinder tries to address. “They are so happy, so hungry, and keen to practice and work…” 

With that attitude, and the backing of the board, the nation and the legion of fans, success won’t be a far-fetched destination. As Ranjit Saini, resident of Cricket Canada, reiterates, “It is just a matter of time.

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January 19, 2019