By RON FANFAIR
The match-management team for Canada’s senior cricketers has undergone a complete overhaul since the World Cup. Skipper Ashish Bagai has relinquished the captaincy, joining coach Pubudu Dassanayake and long-time manager Mike Henry who quit last month. His captaincy record in 25 ODIs was 8 wins and 17 losses.
Without a Cricket Canada contract and the opportunity to challenge for a World Cup spot in 2015, Bagai is returning to the classroom. He leaves on July 15 to pursue a two-year MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania.
The central contract, which Bagai accepted after quitting his job with the Union Bank of Switzerland in England nearly two years ago, expired last month. There is also no assurance that the International Cricket Council (ICC) would reconsider its decision to shut out the Associate countries – including Canada – from the next World Cup.
The recently married wicketkeeper/batsman also said a nagging left knee injury that has bothered him for the past 18 months played a role in his decision to give up the captaincy. He has been hobbled by patella femoral syndrome, a common knee injury among active athletes characterized by intense pain around the kneecap that increase with activity.
Bagai, who took cortisone injections during the World Cup to ease the pain, said he would only consider surgery if the injury hinders his movement and affects his daily life.
“I have been resting the knee since the World Cup and last weekend was the first time I have actually tested it in a match,” he said. “I would prefer not to do the surgery just to play cricket because the recovery period is lengthy and there could be complications.”
The Brian Hale Toronto Cricket Academy graduate said that surrendering the captaincy he inherited on a full-time basis two years ago was not an easy decision.
“Initially, I had some reservations, but after I made the decision, I felt good because I think it’s the right thing to do now,” he said. “I want to represent Canada still, but that is going to depend on my school schedule.”
The injury and classes are likely to restrict his cricketing role to the game’s shorter versions (ODIs and T20s).
The University of Western Ontario Business Administration graduate leaves for the United States the same week the national side departs for the ICC Americas Division One championship in Florida, July 17-25. He’s also likely to miss Canada’s Intercontinental Cup four-day match against Afghanistan from August 2-5, two ODIs on August 8 and 9 and Two Twenty-20s on August 11 and 12 against the Islamic republic side in the Greater Toronto Area.
In addition to leading Canada in the World Cup, India-born Bagai singled out the last World Cup qualifier in April 2009 in South Africa as the other highlight of his captaincy. Canada was the runner-up in the 12-team tournament to determine the 2011 World Cup Associate participants. It was Canada’s best finish in a qualifier after placing third in the 2001 tournament in the Greater Toronto Area.
Bagai, who has appeared in 60 ODIs, needs just 39 runs to reach the 2,000-run plateau in that form of the game. The next best Canadian run-producer is former all-rounder Sunil Dhaniram with 915 from 44 matches.
Kenyans Kennedy Otieno, Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo are the only Associate players with 2,000 ODI runs.