By RON FANFAIR
Canadian all-rounder Rizwan Cheema has moved a step closer to competing with and against some of the world’s exciting players.
The hard-hitting opener and useful medium-pacer is the only Canadian selected among 51 overseas players whose names have been submitted by the eight Indian Professional League (IPL) franchises.
The selected players will form the pool of cricketers for the auction to be held on January 19 in Mumbai.
“This is quite an honour for me,” Cheema told Share before flying out to Sri Lanka with the Canadian squad last Friday night to prepare for next month’s International Cricket Council (ICC) Twenty/20 World Cup qualifier in Dubai. “I would love to play in the IPL because it would give me the chance to play with the big boys and show off my stuff. I am hopeful that I will get that chance and be able to prove myself.”
The IPL list includes 11 Australians, nine South Africans, eight Sri Lankans and eight West Indians, seven Pakistanis, four New Zealanders and one each from Bangladesh, The Netherlands and Zimbabwe.
The Pakistan-born Cheema was a finalist for the 2009 ICC Associates Player of the Year award which was won by Ireland’s captain William Porterfield. It was presented in Johannesburg last September. Cheema attended the event.
“It was good to be in the same room with the world’s top players,” he said. “I had the opportunity to interact with Pakistani players Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan and Umar Gul. It was great to be around these guys and to talk some cricket. It was also good exposure for me and Canadian cricket. The two days I spent there were precious.”
The captain of the Toronto & District Cricket Association’s (TDCA) Elite league champions Popeyes Cricket Club, Cheema made an impact in his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Bermuda in the triangular series that also included the West Indies on August 18, 2008 at King City. He smashed 34 off 24 balls and took two catches and a wicket in his team’s 25-run win.
In the next game, he belted the West Indies bowling attack that included Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell for 89 off 61 balls with six huge sixes and 10 boundaries.
He ended the competition with a series-best 184 runs (av. 61.33), 12 sixes and three catches, prompting former West Indies fast bowler and competition adjudicator Colin Croft to select him as the Player of the Series.
Cheema also shone in the 2008 Al Barakah Twenty/20 international series at King City, finishing as the third leading scorer with 127 runs (av. 31.75) and the top sixes hitter with 10. Test-playing nations Sri Lanka and Pakistan and ICC Full Member Zimbabwe participated in the Thanksgiving weekend series.
Cheema, who has compiled 426 runs (av. 42.60) in 11 ODIs, is the current Toronto & District Cricket Association (TDCA) Player of the Year after registering 289 runs (av. 22.23) in 15 innings and securing 24 wickets (av. 11.88) with Popeyes two years ago.
The league’s top club and players last season will be recognized at the TDCA awards ceremony on January 24.