| A January 29 picture of Canadian batsman Davis Joseph, wicketkeeper Ashish Bagai and Abdool Samad practising on a frozen pitch in Toronto in minus-20° C. (Reuters)
Toronto: During Canada’s final preparations for the World Cup, captain Joe Harris spent more time gripping a snow shovel than swinging his bat.
Welcome to cricket in the Great White North, where ice hockey rules and four months of often harsh, biting winters can make for sticky wickets — especially when they are hammered into the frozen tundra.
“We haven’t played for over five months, it’s not exactly the preparation you want going into the World Cup,” lamented Harris, as temperatures dipped to minus 20 Celsius just before the team set off for South Africa.
“We haven’t played as a team since August,” said Harris. “We have six months of winter to deal with. Considering we’re amateurs going against professionals it’s not the ideal situation. All we’ve been doing since October has been indoors. The weather has been a bit chilly this winter.”
While cricketing powers such as Australia and India were tuning up for the sport’s showcase event in the southern hemisphere summer, Canada did not emerge from the North American winter and set off for Africa until January 25, just two weeks before the tournament begins this weekend.
With the exception of their employers and immediate family members, few Canadians are even likely to notice the country’s intrepid cricketers have gone.
Canada’s qualifying for the World Cup may rate as a major sporting achievement but the feat has received scant recognition in this hockey-mad country where cricket is about as well known as curling is in Sri Lanka.
In their last appearance at the world championships in 1979, Canada were bowled out for 45 against England.
“That’s the game, things happen,” shrugged Harris. “We don’t want to see that again.
“The motivation is there that you’re going to play at the highest level of your sport but it is a little bit difficult given our situation. It’s a huge challenge to go and compete against the best with what little you’re given.
“We’re underdogs, let’s go out there and try and pull off a couple of surprises. They’re not going to feel sorry for us.”
The Canadian team is an unusual mishmash of cultures and careers held together by one common interest — their sport.
Teachers, students, salesmen and graphic artists originally from Pakistan, India, Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies reflect the team’s diversity and strength.
Off-spinning all-rounder John Davison can be described as the only real professional, having made a career playing in the Australian state of Victoria.