A rejuvenated Ashish Bagai is back from his honeymoon and injury and ready to lead Canada in Intercontinental Cup and One-Day Internationals against Ireland at Toronto Cricket Club ground, starting next week.
For the past seven months, the reliable wicketkeeper/batsman has been hobbled by patella femoral syndrome, a common knee injury among active athletes characterized by intense pain around the kneecap that increases with activities.
Surgery is not an option with the start of the World Cup in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka just five months away.
“The rest helped and the knees are doing better,” said Bagai who was married on July 31. “I am looking forward to playing against the Irish in both the long and short forms of the game since this is the last time we will be meeting a leading Associate member before the World Cup.”
Canada opposes Bangladesh in Chittagong on February 12 and England four days later in Dhaka in World Cup warm-up matches before meeting 1996 champions Sri Lanka in its opening game on February 20.
The Intercontinental Cup runner-up in the inaugural 2004 season and again in 2006-7, Canada is languishing in the basement in this year’s tournament with just nine points and one game remaining.
Canada lost to Scotland in Aberdeen by 29 runs, Kenya at King City by 247 runs, Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates by six wickets and a Zimbabwe XI at home by an innings and 73 runs. The contest with The Netherlands in Rotterdam ended in a draw.
“I am very disappointed with the way we have performed in this year’s competition,” Bagai said. “Our players however are not used to the four-day format and we have not had our strongest team in these matches because most of the guys use their vacation for the limited-overs matches. Hopefully, we will be competitive against the Irish.”
Canada’s Intercontinental Cup squad for the four-day game starting on August 31 is Ashish Bagai (capt.), Rizwan Cheema (vice-capt.), Umar Bhatti, Hemnarine Chattergoon, Khurram Chohan, Abzal Dean, Parth Desai, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Jimmy Hansra, Nitish Kumar, Henry Osinde, Hiral Patel, Zubin Surkari and Hamza Tariq.
Osinde and Dean are replaced by medium-pacer Harvir Baidwan and leg-spinner Balaji Rao in the One-Day International squad. The matches are on September 6 and 7.
Afghanistan leads the Intercontinental Cup points standing with 77 followed by the Scots with 69, Zimbabwe XI 63, Kenya 43, Ireland 32, The Netherlands 15 and Canada nine.
The final takes place in Dubai beginning on November 25.
Bagai, meanwhile, has been nominated for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Associate & Affiliate Player of the Year award. The other nominees are Dutchmen Mudassar Bukhari and Ryan ten Doeschate, Irishmen Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and Trent Johnston, Mohammad Shahzad and Samiullah Shenwan of Afghanistan and Richie Berrington of Scotland.
“It’s quite a long list, but it’s quite an achievement to be nominated,” said Bagai, who was shortlisted in 2007 when he won the World Cricket League Player of the Series award. He scored 345 runs (av. 86.25) in the Namibia tournament.
In nine One-Day Internationals this year, all of them on the road, Bagai has amassed 431 runs (av. 61.6). He averaged 36.2 in four Twenty/20 Internationals and was Canada’s leading scorer in the Jamaica Cricket Festival, comprising 50-overs and Twenty/20 contests.
India-born Bagai said he will be honoured to attend the awards ceremony on October 6 in Bengaluru, India.