For the love of the game: Cricket on the rise in Timmins

·3 min read

The recently concluded cricket tournament between Timmins and Sudbury is now a talking point around town.

The matches were held at the Timmins Tigers' home ground. Although the turnout might not have been the same as for matches held in other countries, they evoked Canada's cricket history and the sport's growing popularity in northern Ontario.

After the Timmins/Sudbury tournament, locals' enthusiasm to play cricket is growing. "Neighbours always come and ask questions since this is a new sport for them," says Timmins Tigers' team captain Nikul Patel. "They were very supportive."

Next week, Timmins is visiting Sudbury, where they are expected to play three matches in the Northern Ontario Cricket League (NOCL).

Apart from Timmins, the other teams playing in NOCL are North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.

With 2.5 billion followers worldwide, cricket is the second most popular sport after soccer/football. Many immigrants and international students from cricket-loving countries are taking the sport to the next level in Canada.

One of the cricket players in Timmins, Sagar Menon, says, "if international students come here, cricket will only grow in Timmins."

Menon, a former international student in Thunder Bay, is currently working as a data analyst. "It is completely a different ballgame for the locals," he says. "However, they are very enthusiastic about cricket. They often wanted to play cricket and relate cricket with baseball."

Menon predicts the growth of cricket in Timmins since the flow of international students from India and other cricket-playing nations is on the rise. But he laments, "weather is a huge factor in playing cricket in Canada. You can only play two to three months, as cricket is an outdoor sport."

Australia, India, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are some countries where cricket is very popular. There is also a huge fan following for the sport in Caribbean countries.

Although most people don't know it, the first international cricket match was between Canada and the U.S. at Bloomingdale Park in Manhattan in 1844. Canada beat the U.S. by 23 runs.

Cricket was actually Canada's first official sport, declared in 1867 by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald. A year and a half later, lacrosse replaced cricket as the national sport.

Currently, 'Cricket Canada' is the official governing body of the sport in Canada. Ten different provinces have official cricket bodies.

The history of cricket in Canada dates back to 1785. But at an organizational level, the sport was played in 1834 in Hamilton and Guelph.

Growing up playing cricket in their country, these young people from India are very excited to see an opportunity to play in Canada.

"It's only recently I learned that I can play cricket in Timmins. I was amazed," says Nikhil Varghese, an international student from India. "Looking forward to playing cricket in the future. But I am not sure how it works in the winter."

Varghese came to Canada a few weeks ago. Like him, many newcomers don't know they can play cricket here.

Cricket is Canada's fastest-growing sport. Though the lack of cricket grounds in Canada is a big problem in promoting the sport further, the interest among youngsters is on the rise.

Jinsh Rayaroth, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com

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