By RON FANFAIR
This has been an extremely challenging month for Canada’s men and women cricketers.
The males finished second to last in the six-team World Cricket League (WCL) Division One tournament in The Netherlands, while the females failed to qualify for the 2012 World Cup qualifier in Bangladesh.
Winning their last two matches against Kenya, including the fifth-place play-off contest, was not enough to discourage Cricket Canada’s vice-president and High Performance Manager Ravin Moorthy from calling out the team again.
For the second time in the past few months, he has strongly hinted that there could be drastic changes just seven months before the start of the World Cup.
“We really don’t seem to be able to compete at this level,” admitted Moorthy. “Our batsmen, particularly, are not applying themselves and batting for lengthy periods. That’s not good.”
Moorthy refused to speculate on whether Cricket Canada would consider making a coaching change this year.
“We have to make some brave decisions soon,” he said. “We will look at every aspect of the squad and decide what we should do to make the team produce winning results.”
Canada ended the tournament with back-to-back wins against Kenya.
Skipper Ashish Bagai and Toronto Cricket Club teammate Zubin Surkari put on 83 in 19.1 overs in an unbroken fifth wicket stand that steered Canada to a six-wicket win over the East Africans in the final group match.
Bagai hit 61 off 78 balls with nine boundaries and Surkari scored 23 off 47 balls.
In the play-off for fifth place last Saturday, the same pair played a huge role in a three-wicket win with three balls to spare.
Bagai and Surkari were associated in a fifth wicket partnership of 85 off 18 overs that guided Canada to 194-7 in the last over in reply to Kenya’s total of 190. All-rounder Rizwan Cheema, who struggled with the bat during the series, scoring just 18 runs, was the top wicket-taker with 3-39 off 10 overs.
“The wickets were flat and slow and Rizwan did not adjust to the conditions,” said manager Mike Henry.
Bagai, on the other hand, was the tournament’s second leading scorer with 245 runs (av. 61.25) despite a painful knee injury that has been bothering him for the past six months.
“The injury is really hampering him,” said Henry. “But he’s a trooper and he adapted to the conditions and batted extremely smart.”
The diminutive wicketkeeper/batsman scored three half-centuries and was in contention for the Player-of-the-Series honour awarded to Dutchman Tom Cooper, who amassed 312 runs (av. 62.40). Bagai won the award in the inaugural 2007 tournament in Nairobi.
In addition, Bagai was the only Canadian named to the WCL team of the tournament that included four Irishmen, two Dutch and Afghan players and one each from Scotland and Kenya.
Ireland defeated Scotland by six wickets in the final.
Canada’s women cricketers, meanwhile, were no match for their American counterparts, losing the three-match qualifying series by 112 runs, nine wickets and seven wickets at King City.
“We are obviously disappointed,” said coach George Codrington. “The Americans were more experienced and it showed on the field.”
Former Guyana player-turned USA skipper/coach, Indomatie Goordial-John, averaged 119 in the series.
“She was the difference,” added Codrington. “To have someone with her experience coaching and captaining the team was huge for the Americans. We did not play up to scratch and we have a lot of work to do to become competitive at the international level.”
Canada salvaged some pride winning two Twenty/20 contests against the Americans.