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Two teams arriving for a friendly game of cricket at Van Horne park in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood earlier this week were frustrated to find the public pitch vandalized and unplayable.
The artificial turf that lets the cricket ball bounce when it's pitched and gives the batter traction to hit the ball and run, appeared to have been cut with a sharp object and another section was ripped out entirely.
Nagarajah Raveen, president of the Vaanavil Sport Club, saw the damage when he arrived for a match last Tuesday evening.
"We usually go there pretty early and we were the first ones to see it. We don't really know what happened," he said.
"What we think is maybe someone drunk came and, maybe with a knife, cut some pieces of the pitch."
Cricket players and associations say the damage comes as the sport is growing in popularity in the city, despite a shortage of places to play it.
Raveen said there are 10 cricket clubs that use the pitch regularly, playing competitive tournaments every weekend and recreational contests during the week. He said there are a few junior teams who also use the space to practice the sport and improve their skills.
"Many people from different communities come to play here", he said. "It is really important for people that play on the pitch because there aren't a lot of pitches in Montreal."
Mehboob Rehman is the head of the Montreal Concordia Cricket Association and has helped install other professional cricket pitches in Montreal, including two replacement surfaces in Jarry Park this week.
Materials shipped from Europe
Rehman says the rubber base and artificial turf is usually shipped from Europe or the United States and materials been hard to come by during the pandemic because of supply shortages and logistical issues. The pitch at Van Horne park cost the CDN-NDG borough $65,000 and was installed in 2019.
"We have been waiting for these kind of pitches to happen," he said.
"They started to happen finally and it's very sad to see them being destroyed.… Cricket was being played in parking lots before these fields came along."
Rehman says he visited the pitch to survey the damage, which only affected the top layer of turf, and spoke to city officials who are making plans to repair it.
"[It] could be around $10,000 to $12,000 for the carpet," he said. "A new carpet plus the installation, so we're looking at $15,000 to $16,000, minimum."
Marvin Rotrand, the city councillor for Snowdon District, says the vandalism happened right as the cricket season was starting to pick up and the borough is looking at all of its options to get the field up and running as quickly as possible.
"Summer is upon us, we're lifting COVID restrictions," he said. "People want to get out there and play and unfortunately it's going to take us a while to repair this."
Rotrand says the borough is looking at the possibility of buying replacement turf in Quebec, rather than waiting on the international suppliers who provided the original materials.
He says he'd like Montreal to look at building more cricket pitches to meet the growing demand for the sport. The pitch in Van Horne park is one of only five public pitches across the island.