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Kids are crazy about cricket

Youngsters on Canada's Under-15 team love to play low-profile sport

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While cricket has a low profile in Canada, the game is the stuff of dreams for Canada's under-15 team.

Under captain Prushoth Senathirajah of Toronto, Canada had a shot at winning the International Cricket Association Americas U15 Northern Championship as the three-team event concluded on Friday afternoon at Assiniboine Park, but the hosts fell 174-154 to Bermuda.

The USA won the tournament by run rate, a tie-breaking calculation comprising runs for and against.

"It's been pretty exciting to be part of this event, the competition is really good here and it's fun representing your country, you feel honoured that you are picked," said Guyan Ferdinands, 15, of Scarborough, Ont. who was named Best Bowler for the tournament. The bowler is a key player, as he delivers the ball to the batsman.

"The coaches told me that it's great that you made it to this level but now you've got to perform at this level to get noticed. Every game I've been trying to do my best. Aim high. My next goal is to make it to the Under-19 Canada side and then hopefully onto the national senior team. This experience has helped me a lot."

Cricket is huge in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, so Ferdinands had to compete with players from 30 teams Ontario during the selection process. Ferdinands said it was his personal statistics, which included taking 20 wickets in league play with his Centurions club team that helped elevate his chances with the national team.

Team Canada also included Winnipeg's Sarbjot Singh, a Grade nine student at Sisler High School who was named Best Wicket Keeper for the tournament. He said being part of the national team in his favourite sport has changed the way he sees his future.

"I tried to play hard here and I want to work hard and go to the next level," said Singh, 14, who was joined on Team Canada by alternate Ricky Persaud of Winnipeg.

In the morning, Singh took four catches for Team Canada. "Playing here was so exciting, it meant a lot to me to play for Canada. It was exciting to know that they (national coaches) were watching so I hope I did well for them."

The Best Batsman for the tournament was Abrash Khan of Toronto while the tournament MVP was the USA's Dave Parikh.

Team Canada's Under-15 team is the entry level national team under the Canadian Cricket Association umbrella. The next level is under-19 followed by the senior men's team which had competed in the last three World Cups. Canada didn't qualify for 2011 so the excitement is already ramped up for 2015 when Canada plans to be ready with more players with greater skill sets.

"This is the group of boys that are going to be put into a pool to be working and building towards the next Under-19 team," said Garvin Budhoo, vice-president of the Manitoba Cricket Association and a member of the ICC event's technical committee. "To be part of this event is a great opportunity for these young players to be noticed. Coaches here are looking at the players and evaluating them."

While Winnipeg is one of the few Canadian cities which has three playing fields (also known as wickets or pitches) in a single location with the natural grass fields at Assiniboine Park, Budhoo said the MCA has its own dream.

"This is the highest we can go for hosting international events given the type of wickets, or playing surface, that we have here," said Budhoo, a member of Canada's national senior team from 1981-1992. "We could get to the next level if we had turf pitches. We are talking with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and working together with them to see how we can make this feasible."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2011 C8

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