Qualifying for the next year’s Twenty/20 and 50-over cricket World Cups is going to be a challenge for Canada, even with temporary help from former captain, Ashish Bagai.
The wicketkeeper/batsman, who has not played for Canada since March 2011 after the national side was eliminated from the World Cup in south Asia, returns after completing his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania.
He joins the squad next week after graduating on May 15.
Bagai has committed to the national program for nine months before taking up full-time employment with McKinsey & Company – a global management consulting firm – in February 2014.
“Canadian cricket means a lot to me and I am excited to play a role in helping Canada qualify for both of these events once again,” said Canada’s most capped player, who is also a University of Western Ontario business administration program graduate. “Fortunately the timing has worked out well as I have a nine-month window before starting employment.”
Cricket Canada’s president, Ravin Moorthy, welcomes Bagai with open arms.
“It’s an opportunity to take a little break after studies and come back and play some cricket,” said Moorthy. “His presence will certainly help boost us in terms of his leadership, his batting in the middle-order and his glove work behind the stumps. To again sign Ashish to a commitment that includes both major World Cup qualifiers clearly signals the organization’s intention to make a serious run to qualify for upcoming major world tournaments.”
Five years ago, Bagai quit his full-time job with the Union Bank of Switzerland in England to accept a central contract with Cricket Canada and prepare for the last World Cup jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“We have been down this road before,” said Moorthy. “In 2008, we were in a similar position ahead of the 2009 qualifiers in South Africa and we were able to make some moves to bolster our experience, one of which included making the case to Ashish to leave his job and be part of the qualification for the 2011 World Cup.”
The 2014 Twenty/20 World Cup qualifier takes place in Dubai in October. A total of six Associates will join the 10-Test playing nations in next year’s World Cup in Bangladesh from March 16 to April 24. The 2015 World Cup qualifier is scheduled to be held in New Zealand early next year.
The top two World Cricket League (WCL) championship teams will automatically join the ICC’s 10 Full Members at the 2015 World Cup while the bottom six teams will join WCL Division Two and Three teams in the ICC World Cup qualifier to determine which two teams will advance to the World Cup. Canada is currently in the WCL eight-team cellar with three points from 10 matches.
In addition, Canada will host the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates for One-Day Internationals and Intercontinental Cup matches at King City in July and August. The national side is winless in 17 four-day matches since bouncing the UAE by an innings and 288 runs at King City six years ago.
A Toronto Cricket Academy graduate, Bagai played in the first Under-15 World Cup in England in 1996, where he was voted the tournament’s best wicketkeeper. He captained the Americas in the Under-19 World Cup 13 years ago and made his first-class debut in 2004 against the United States in Fort Lauderdale.
In 60 ODIs in eight years, Bagai has compiled 1,961 runs (av. 38.45) and effected 67 dismissals before the stumps.
Meantime, Bagai’s former teammate, John Davison, is one of three Toronto Cricket Club members who will be inducted into the club’s Wall of Fame tomorrow night.
Canada’s most productive player in the first half of the past decade, Australia-based Davison announced his retirement from first-class cricket prior to Canada’s World Cup match against Australia in 2011. He represented Canada in 51 first-class matches, scoring 1,177 runs (av. 16.57) and taking 111 wickets (av. 45.61)
The oldest player in the last World Cup at age 40, the hard-hitting batsman and off-spinner was introduced to Canadian cricket in 1999 by former Toronto Cricket Club player, Andrew Bracht, who was visiting Australia.
The other inductees are Les Pereira and Chris Chappell.
In addition, International Cricket Council (ICC) president Alan Isaac and chief executive officer David Richardson will be in Toronto next week for the ICC Development Council meeting from March 13-15.