Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Winnipeg's Guyanese community is passionate about the sport of cricket
Every cultural group that is part of Winnipeg's fabric brings an influence.
Where you see the wickets, bats and bowlers at Assiniboine Park and other pitches about town, you will often see the Guyanese. You will also see the passion they have imported along with their native country's favourite sport.
"Cricket in Guyana is like hockey to a Canadian kid," says Keith Deonaraine. "It's No. 1 there."
Deonaraine is one of several members of the Manitoba premier division Cosmos Cricket Club team who are from Guyana.
He was born in Georgetown, the country's capital, and moved to Winnipeg with his family when he was three.
"I got into cricket because my dad played here in the league," he says. "I also played volleyball and basketball growing up. Really, I consider myself a Canadian kid, growing up here, so I tried skating a couple of times but that didn't work out.
"But I've played a lot of street hockey."
A cricket bat, though, has launched him toward his goals.
He's been captain or vice-captain of Cosmos in recent seasons, proud of the fact the club is likely the most multicultural of the province's highest-level clubs.
He is even more proud of having played for several years on Canada's under-19 team, as well as on the national men's team for a match against Bangladesh.
Today, Deonaraine is Canada's national cricket team's video analyst and a national team selector, helping to evaluate talent from coast to coast.
His talents and his sharp eye are Canadian assets rooted in Guyanese history.
"When slavery was abolished in the 1800s, the British brought East Indians to work as indentured labourers to work in the sugar-cane plantations," Deonaraine explains, well-versed in his native country's history with the sport.
"With that came cricket. And that's how it grew in the Caribbean colonies as a sport."
In Guyana, a relatively small country on the northeast coast of South America with a population of just 756,000, soccer is a distant second in a landscape that includes field hockey and rugby.
Deonaraine's passion for Guyana's main game is also Winnipeg's gain in another way.
His interest in coaching has helped introduce cricket to schools in the Seven Oaks School Division, with help from the Manitoba Cricket Association and Cricket Canada.
"The influx of new immigrants here is incredible, especially in the Seven Oaks School Division," Deonaraine says. "Especially from the south Asian communities, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Cricket is well-known there.
"These kids coming here aren't so much into basketball or volleyball, so this is something of a comforter. They know it and they want to play it."
The programs have been well-received, Deonaraine says.
"In the schools, you might go through 250 kids in a week at an elementary school, and 90 per cent of the kids have never, ever heard of cricket or touched a cricket bat," he says.
"But the good thing about it is when you leave, they love it. They want to hit, and we get good feedback from the phys-ed teachers. There are a lot of repeat schools that want us to come back and give more demonstrations.
"And with Cricket Canada we have kits, and when schools register for our program, we give them free kits, with bats, balls, wickets. We hope eventually it could become part of the curriculum."
Location: northeast coast of South America, just north of the Equator, with 459 kilometres of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.
Population: approx. 756,000, comprised of European, African east-Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, Amerindians (native).
Language: English (official)
Other geography: third-smallest South American country and one of eight that is non-Spanish speaking.
Cricket headlines: One of the host nations (six matches at 15,000-seat Providence Stadium) when the British West Indies hosted the 2007 World Cup of Cricket won by Australia; hosted 2010 T20 World Cup of Cricket.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2012 J14
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