By RON FANFAIR
The retirement of John Davison and the exclusion of Ian Billcliff from the national World Cup squad mark the end of an era in Canadian cricket.
Though residents of Australia and New Zealand respectively, the British Columbia-born players were integral parts of the national side making important contributions when called upon.
Davison, Canada’s most productive player in the first half of the past decade, announced his retirement from first-class cricket prior to Canada’s World Cup match against Australia.
He represented Canada in 51 first-class matches, scoring 1177 runs (av. 16.57) and taking 111 wickets (av. 45.61).
The oldest player in the World Cup at age 40, Davison was introduced to Canadian cricket in 1999 by former Toronto Cricket Club player Andrew Bracht who was visiting Australia. They met at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Davison moved to Australia at a young age, played Grade cricket in Melbourne and attended the Australia Cricket Academy in 1993. He also represented Australian state teams Victoria and South Australia.
The aggressive right-arm off-spinner, hard-hitting batsman and brilliant fielder made an impact in his first season in the Toronto & District Cricket Association’s (TDCA) premier league in 2000 as Toronto Cricket Club’s player-coach, heading the bowling average (12.83) for his 24 wickets and finishing second in the batting average with (30.82) from 339 runs.
The impressive showing led to his national debut in the inaugural 2000 Americas Cup tournament which Canada won and his appearance in the 2001 International Cricket Council (ICC) Trophy tournament for Associates. Both competitions took place in the Greater Toronto Area.
He played in all 10 ICC Trophy matches, registering 145 runs and capturing 15 wickets to help Canada qualify for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa where he made history, slamming the fastest World Cup century (67 balls) at the time against the West Indies with a superb 111 that included six sixes. (Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien now holds the record with his 50-ball century against England earlier this month).
Davison followed this thrilling innings with the third fastest World Cup half-century against New Zealand. He led Canada in the batting and bowling averages with 37.7 from 226 runs and 18.7 from 10 wickets.
Davison, who made his One-Day International debut in the 2003 World Cup, had a dream debut as Canada’s captain in June 2004, producing an incredible all-round performance in an Intercontinental Cup match against the United States in Florida. In one of the most dominant bowling displays in first-class cricket, he claimed a national record 17 wickets and top-scored with 84 in the first innings.
His match-haul of 17-137, the 17th best bowling figures in first-class cricket, eclipsed the previous best national mark of 14-154 by Toronto Cricket Club fast bowler Jack Laing against the USA in 1896. It was also the best first-class figures in 48 years since late England off-spinner Jim Laker took 19-90 against Australia in the 1956 Old Trafford Test.
“He brought credibility when he came to Canadian cricket,” said former Cricket Canada High Performance Manager Ron Aldridge. “He was outspoken which was O.K. and he was also a positive influence.”
Billcliff, 38, grew up in New Zealand and played for Otago alongside former New Zealand opener Ken Rutherford. He also represented Auckland and Wellington between 1990 and 1999 before being recruited by Canada for the 2001 ICC Trophy competition.
He played a significant role in Canada’s first World Cup win against Bangladesh in South Africa, scoring a game-high 42 off 63 balls with six boundaries on his ODI debut.
Overall, he played in 19 ODIs and 46 first-class matches.