By RON FANFAIR
Wicketkeeper/batsman Darren Ramsamy was introduced to the sport of cricket just five years ago.
Now he’s being counted on to lead the Ontario Cricket Academy (OCA) youth team that left here yesterday for a two-week tour of Sri Lanka.
The 12-member squad will play 10 matches against college teams and the Sri Lanka Under-19 side at some of the country’s leading international cricket venues, including the scenic Galle Stadium surrounded by the Indian Ocean and the famous clock tower of the 16th Century Dutch fort towering above.
The Canadians will also oppose some of the top college teams such as St. Joseph’s from which World Cup players Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera graduated; St. Benedicts whose alumni include former Sri Lanka vice-captain-turned commentator Ranjit Fernando and Royal which former national Canadian batsman Rohan Jayasekera attended before migrating to Ontario.
Ramsamy is the vice-captain of the squad that will be led by left-arm spinner Abhi Vaishnav.
“They are our two most experienced players and they are expected to lead from the front,” said the OCA’s founding head coach, Derek Perera. “They are very fierce competitors that the rest of the team will feed off. In addition, they relish the role of leadership.”
The Toronto & District Cricket Association’s (TDCA) 2008 Most Improved Junior Cricketer, Ramsamy is following in the footsteps of his father who represented Canada for eight years before retiring in 1992.
Robin Ramsamy played for Vikings, Cavaliers and Overseas in the local league as a wicketkeeper.
Born in Canada to Sri Lankan parents, Perera played a season with Nondescripts Cricket Club in the Sri Lanka domestic league in 1994-95.
“It was during that time that I developed some contacts which helped me with the preparation for this tour,” said the former Canadian all-rounder. “We have been to Trinidad & Tobago the last two years and I wanted to broaden the players experience by taking them to another part of the world. Apart from the lessons they will learn on the field, it will be a great experience for them to absorb the rich cultural history and traditions in Sri Lanka.
“The competition will certainly be strong and the pitches and weather conditions testing. It will be challenging adapting to the extreme heat coming from a very cold winter here, but our boys are skilled and talented and I expect them to come to grips quickly with the conditions and seize the opportunity to be competitive and play good cricket.
“We have set some realistic goals and we hope to come back with an even record. If we play to our potential, I am sure we can upset some of the stronger sides.”
Fundraisers and sponsorship account for most of the money generated for the tour that ends on March 17.
“We were really very fortunate because the cost of each player for the trip works out to about $1500 which is a real bargain,” said Perera. “We were able to get several deals that helped to make the experience possible.”
Four players – Jonathan Alexander, Rajiv Sivanesan, Vudura Ratnayake and Umashankar Gopalasundaram – have Sri Lankan roots.
“I used to dream of playing for Sri Lanka as a young child,” said Ratnayake, who was born in the Indian continent’s island nation. “Now I will be representing my academy and country with great pride.”
All of the players with the exception of Manitoba’s Waleed Ahmed competed in the TDCA’s first and second division competitions last season.
The full touring party is Abhi Vaishnav (capt.), Darren Ramsamy (vice-capt.), Azeem Ali, Hassam Ali, Jonathan Alexander, Rishi Kanjani, Rajiv Sivanesan, Vidura Ratnayake, Tarandeep Singh, Jasjeet Kalsi, Umashankar Gopalasundaram and Waleed Ahmed.