TORONTO — Cricket Canada got a vote of confidence Wednesday from the sport’s world governing body.
Alan Isaac, president of the International Cricket Council, told a news conference Wednesday that he and ICC CEO David Richardson were “hugely impressed by the progress” in the Canadian governing body, “It’s fair to say … that 12, 18, 24 months ago the ICC wasn’t that happy,” Isaac said.
The ICC president pointed to Cricket Canada’s changes in governance and the new management regime.
The comments were clearly appreciated. “Having your largest stake-holder actually believe in what you’re doing … means a lot,” said Cricket Canada president Ravin Moorthy. “For one of the first times in our organization, we felt that our concerns were listened to,” he added. Moorthy said the ICC had provided “fair and measurable goals to work towards.”
The ICC leaders were in Toronto for a meeting of its Development Committee. The group meets twice a year, usually once in the ICC’s home of Dubai and the other somewhere else.
The world governing body provides about $960,000 to the current $1.6-million Cricket Canada budget. Sport Canada provides another $200,000.
“We see ourselves to be viable,” said Moorthy. “We want to be a $3- million to $5-million-a-year business so we’ve got a long way to go. But we’re happy and today was the first step.”
Cricket Canada revamped its constitution at its annual general meeting in Halifax in March. The changes included reducing the size of the board of directors to seven from 17 while providing clearer definitions of the roles of the CEO and his staff versus the elected policy-makers. Cricket Canada has also put in place specified standards for its selectors, who will be appointed rather than elected.
“We were looking for some improvement,” Isaac said of the Cricket Canada changes. “It feels better, it feels good,” the New Zealander said of the current Canadian cricket landscape.
The moves also helped get Cricket Canada in line with the wishes of the federal government and Sport Canada. The development arm of the ICC has come up with extra money for Canada, primarily aimed at the grassroots side of the game.
The ICC sees North America as an emerging market.
“It’s critical to ICC and our success that Canada is there, not just competing but actually winning as well,” Isaac said. “Our aim is to have a World Cup, 14 teams, where each of the 14 teams can win that World Cup. That’s not the case at the moment,” he added.
Isaac estimated maybe eight countries could currently win the T20 competition with just six contenders for the 50-over version of the world championship. “It’s a big goal but Canada is a very important part of that goal,” said Isaac, who points to Ireland as a second-tier team that has made giant leaps in recent years.
“We will be there,” answered Moorthy. “We’re taking the right steps now … We won’t let you down.”
Canada had been boosted by the return of 31-year-old captain Ashish Bagai, who is rejoining the national team between graduating from the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia with an MBA and taking up a new job as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company in February 2014.
Bagai has played in 119 international matches for Canada including three World Cups but not has played at a top level since some club outings last summer. “It feels great,” he said of his return. “Obviously it’s my passion, so any time I can get a chance to play cricket again, I’ll take it with both hands.”
Even with a contract with Cricket Canada, Bagai is sacrificing financially but says “being a vital year for Canadian cricket, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
“I have my whole life to work,” he added. “This I can only do for a certain amount of time.”
His return is a boost for Canada ahead of the T20 qualifier in November in Dubai and the World Cup qualifier in New Zealand in January.
Canadian coach Gus Logie has worked with Bagai as far back as 2003 when he predicted the wicket-keeper would captain Canada one day. “He brings tremendous experience, professionalism,” said Logie. “He brings a talent that is rare.”‘
Bagai is just one of several veterans who have returned to the national team program.
Also Wednesday, Cricket Canada also announced Admiral as the team’s new uniform sponsor for the next three years. The last time the Canadian national team wore Admiral, which also clothes the West Indies, was in 2003.
The Canadian governing body has also struck a partnership with CricHQ, a digital platform for competitions and data management.
“Today’s a good day for Cricket Canada but we’re not done yet,” said Moorthy.
The upcoming Canadian cricket schedule includes the National Cricket League domestic competition in June-July, the Auty Cup match with the U.S. in late July, and ICC World Cricket League and ICUP matches with the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands in August.