Getting people to attend an early fall cricket festival in the GTA seems a tough job.
But don’t tell Cricket Canada president Ranjit Saini that.
“[The tournament] was received very well [by the public],” Saini said after the conclusion of the 10-day Cricket Canada Summer Festival. “The turnout was very good, I’ve never seen so many people [at a match in Canada].”
Bermuda, West Indies (High Performance Squad) and Canada got together in Malton for a friendly tune up this week before the 2011 Cricket World Cup, hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The attendance at the event [150-200 people for a weekday game, and up to 400 on one of the weekend days] doesn’t seem that large but Saini thought the tourney was a positive step in the growth of the game in the GTA and across the country.
“There is momentum in terms of numbers in general,” Saini said. “I see a definite upsurge in the numbers of people following Canadian cricket.”
Television is the key
Those low numbers must be taking into context when analyzing attendance at a sporting event in Canada, but CBC apparently thinks the game is going in the right direction.
The national broadcaster provided a live web stream of the 2010 Cricket World Cup and Saini said the viewing numbers, while not fantastic, were an indication that some people are tuning in to watch the games.
“At the T20 [Twenty20 cricket tournament this summer] in the Caribbean, the webcasts on CBC were getting 4,000 plus hits when Canada was playing,” said Saini. “The Caribbean games never went higher than 1,200 people.”
“It shows that people [in this country] want to watch Canadian cricket and the CBC is showing interest in making that happen.”
The president sees CBC as the ground floor to cricket’s rise in this country because, “we have a product that we can present to sponsors for future growth.”
To add further grist for the mill, Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion is floating the idea of a 10,000 seat multi-purpose stadium where cricket could flourish along with other sports.
Moving forward Saini sees nothing but positives for the festival and the sport.
“I’m very excited about the future [of cricket in this country],” he said. “This event will become the premiere event in Canada and a key international event going forward.”
While there were a lot of positive vibes coming from Saini, the action on the field is what drew people to the event.
The on-field action
Even still, national team head coach Pubudu Dassanayake thought the overall effort of the club was satisfactory.
“We performed well,” Dassanayake said. “It was a very good test for us and I was happy with the way things turned out.”
The coach suggested the team was a bit below average in terms of fielding, but hitting was the biggest obstacle.
“Our fielding was slightly behind [in the tournament] but batting was our biggest problem, it’s been that way all year.” Dassanayake said.
“[The] players are talented and capable but they don’t play against quality bowling all the time. “
Two Canadian games were cancelled when Team Bermuda returned home Thursday morning in advance of Hurricane Igor reaching the island.