By RON FANFAIR
Cricket Canada’s President, Ben Sennik, says the entire country should be proud of the national team’s performance.
The majority of the squad returned from South Africa last Wednesday where Canada finished in second place, two points behind Ireland in the 12-team World Cup qualifying tournament and, along with Kenya and The Netherlands, booked a spot in the game’s 50-overs quadrennial tournament.
“We are very happy with the way the guys performed even though they did not finish strong,” said Sennik. “I firmly believe that the intensive pre-tournament camp in Sri Lanka helped the lads and that was a good investment by us.”
Canada lost its last three games – including the World Cup qualifying final against Ireland last Sunday by nine wickets with 45 balls to spare.
The organization’s executive will meet this weekend to start plotting a course for the next World Cup to be jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2011.
“We are having our monthly meeting on Saturday and I can assure you that we will discuss what we need to do to help the team prepare for 2011,” added Sennik.
The national side will make its fourth appearance in the World Cup and its third straight having participated in 2003 and 2007 in South Africa and the West Indies respectively. Canada made its World Cup debut in 1979 in England.
Sennik promised that the team’s achievement will be celebrated.
“We will sit down in the next few weeks to decide how we can show our appreciation to the squad,” he said. “Right now, I would say that it could take the form of a dinner, but there has to be consensus among the executive body. Regardless, we will pay tribute to the players for achieving the target of getting to the World Cup again.
“We should also not forget the contributions that the overseas-based players made. The team has made us very proud and we all should celebrate the accomplishment…”
The overseas-based players were pivotal to Canada’s success. Australian-based left-handed opener, Geoff Barnett, was Canada’s leading run producer with 351 runs (av. 39) while all-rounder, John Davison, who missed the last five games because of a leg injury, joined Barnett and Canadian-based Sunil Dhaniram as the team’s century makers.
New Zealand-based Ian Billcliff recorded a match-winning innings of 96 not out against Afghanistan while batting with a fractured index finger and England-based wicketkeeper/batsman, Ashish Bagai, who captained the team, collected 18 catches behind the stumps which was second behind Dutchman Jeroen Smits, who took 19. Bagai also scored an unbeaten 40 and 68 in Canada’s Super Eight wins against Kenya and Afghanistan respectively.
Dhaniram will be 42 years old and Davison close 41 by the time the 2011 World Cup starts while Billcliff will be 38.
“These players are getting up there in age, but they seem to be getting better as they grow older,” said Sennik. “They stood out and it’s my hope that they can play at this level for at least two more years. At the same time, we understand that we have to start looking for capable young players to replace the veterans when they step away from the scene.”
Explosive opener, Rizwan Cheema, was the tournament’s top sixes hitter with 14 and medium-pacer, Khurram Chohan, was Canada’s most productive bowler with 15 wickets (av. 24.46).
In addition to qualifying for the World Cup, Canada retains its One-Day International status for the next four years and will appear in the 2009-2010 Intercontinental Cup four-day competition along with Afghanistan, Ireland, Kenya, Namibia, The Netherlands, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates.
Canada’s qualification also translates into an annual ICC High Performance Program grant funding of US$650,000 over the next two years. This is in addition to the US$160,000 basic administration and US$175,000 capital development grants that Cricket Canada already receives annually.
“You are looking at almost US$1 million annually which is a substantial increase when compared with what they received before,” said ICC Americas Region Manager, Martin Vieira. “By doing so well in South Africa, there will, however, be more expenses as Canada will play in more tournaments in preparation for the World Cup.”
Afghanistan and Scotland, which finished fifth and sixth, will receive $500,000 annually while the bottom four teams in the just concluded World Cup qualifier, including Bermuda, will get US$350,000 for remaining in the ICC High Performance program.
Bermuda and Canada were the Americas representatives in the last World Cup.
“Bermuda has a limited amount of talent and we knew they were going to struggle this time around,” said Vieira. “Their youngsters are not ready yet to play at this level.”
Several of Bermuda’s veterans announced their retirement after the team exited the World Cup qualifying series. They included middle-order batsman, Lionel Cann, all-rounder Janeiro Tucker and left-arm spinner, Dwayne Leverock, who captured 34 wickets (av. 33.02) in 32 ODIs.
Another veteran player – Kenya’s captain, Steve Tikolo – has said he will not be around for the 2011 tournament. The 37-year-old has appeared in four World Cups.