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GT20: Canada ready to spread wings through new league

Former Australian captain Steve Smith will be a star attraction the upcoming GT20 in Canada

Bengaluru, June 6: When we speak about cricketing destinations Canada will not ring a bell immediately. But the upcoming GlobalT20, scheduled between June 28 and July 15, may just change that.

Some of the biggest names in cricket will be seen in action and working behind the scenes during the inaugural edition of the GlobalT20. But it is more than just another glitzy T20 league, rather its a vehicle to revive to cricket in Canada.

Bhaktisaran Sriram, CEO of Mercuri Talent Management, the driving force behind the GlobalT20, told Mykhel that they are confident of making the tournament big.

"It is going to be an exciting time for all of us involved in the Global T20. In fact, there is a big South Asian population in Canada - Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Afghans etc - making it a big market for cricket. I would say, Canada is the biggest market for cricket outside of India because of that assembly of South Asian population.

"But unfortunately not much work at ground level has been done to tap the possibility of those population in terms of cricket," said Sriram while touching base at Bengaluru.

But Sriram knows that developing cricket goes much beyond having a league like GT20. And he hopes to create the environment for cricket development in Canada through the league.

"Unfortunately, Canada do not have much infrastructure in place in terms of cricket. Our agreement with the Cricket Canada is for 25 years and as part of that we have agreed to build stadiums and other facilities in Canada in the long term. Right now, we are concentrating on strengthening the High Performance Centre and Regional Performance Centre.

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a GT20 function

"In addition to that, we will take the current Canada national team to countries like India, South Africa and Bangladesh so that they get exposed to different cricketing environments. It is important because the cricketing time in Canada is much lesser because of the sharp and long winter there. Our commitment is to Canada cricket is much beyond this league or mere commercial aspects," he said.

Sriram said the GT20 will prompt upcoming players to take cricket as a profession without having to worry about income while offering a stable financial landscape.

"We thought there is a huge opportunity in terms of talent development and commercial front to utilize in Canada. So, we want to show to the world that what can be done in a market like Canada. In the 2011 World Cup, we gave a decent account of ourselves beating Kenya and we came close to beating Pakistan (Pakistan were bowled out for 184 before restricting Canada to 138). But after that, the progress slowed down and the board did not have money to pay the players, not many incentives for them in Canada to take cricket as a profession.

"We want to change that and tell the players that they can pursue cricket as a career with solid commercial back up. In turn, more players taking up cricket can strengthen the national team of Canada and they can qualify with a formidable side for the 2023 World Cup. It will be a big achievement for all of us," said Sriram.

According to Sriram, the first signs have been massively promising. "We can say cricket is coming back to its original home as the first ever international match was played between Canada and USA, more than a century back. There is a tremendous interest about this tournament among the local population and we are excited to see that.

"This is also the first league in an Associate country to be approved by the ICC and we are happy to see Cricket West Indies is joining hands with Cricket Canada in this initiative," he said.

On the cricketing front, Sriram said the GT20 will help Canadian players to interact with some biggest names like Chris Gayle, Steve Smith, who will play for Toronto Nationals, David Warner, who will appear for Winnipeg Hawks, Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine and they also have legends like Waqar Younis and Tom Moody as coaches to learn from.

"The advantage of such leagues is that players from countries like Canada will get a chance to learn the tricks of the trade from big names like Chris Gayle and Steve Smith. They don't have an opportunity to to interact with them or play at this level otherwise. This is an opportunity for them to understand their game and fine tune it while sharing the space with some brilliant players," he said.

Chris Gayle will appear in the GT20 in Canada for the Vancouver Knights

Having worked with the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the past, Sriram and his colleagues used that experience to build the GT20 from the scratches and he said the response from players were overwhelming.

"We have worked with the IPL teams and we have that experience to bank on. The beginning of this Global T20 initiative was in 2011, the year we received the Letter of Intent from Cricket Canada. We have pursuing this for the last seven or eight years and we made sure that no complexities exist once the league get launched.

"It was also heartening to see the players' response. Once we opened the player registration link, more than 1500 players, apart from the 12 marquee players, registered within a week. I am sure we will be putting up good tournament which will only be growing in the years to come," he said.

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Story first published: Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 17:29 [IST]
Other articles published on Jun 6, 2018
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