In the northwest corner of Malvern lies a discreet industrial sector. But this area — with no sign or clearly marked entrance, on a chilly Saturday afternoon — is a hotbed for young talent in a game that is steadily growing in popularity.
“You wouldn’t believe how many youths are playing here until midnight,” said Morris Joseph, manager of the Canadian Cricket Academy.
Joseph opened the academy doors last year and has drawn youths and teenagers who have nowhere else to learn the game of cricket. In Malvern, there are virtually no cricket pitches, and the academy is the first and only to be built to International Cricket Council standards.
At the academy, cricket has become more than just another sport to youth in the community.
“I look at how many kids were in trouble, and now they’re not leaving this place,” Joseph said. “And they stay afterward. They hang and talk about cricket.”
There is no shortage of talent or dedication to the sport locally. The academy is consistently filled with practising cricketers. A number of clubs exist in Scarborough, including the Malvern and Victoria Park cricket clubs who practise out of Joseph’s academy. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for the clubs to get residents engaged in a sport with practically no funding, and minimal space to play.
“The city spends all kinds of money on correctional services, when they could spend it on this for kids,” Joseph said.
Ronald Silva, a rugby player who uses cricket to stay fit, said money provided by the cricket council and the government is being mismanaged. The Canadian Cricket Academy is funded privately.
“Funds are coming in, but we don’t know where they’re going,” Silva said. “The city has to take responsibility.”
The level of promotion for cricket in Toronto, or Canada for that matter is laughable, Silva said. To discuss the matter further, Ward 42 councillor Raymond Cho was unavailable for comment.
Cricketer Mustafa Qamar said not only is there a lack of pitches, but the pitches that are available are in a terrible state. The pitch he plays at is constantly abused and ruined by people playing other sports, like golf.
“If you try to run on the ground you could twist your ankle,” Qamar said. He added that cricket pitches in Toronto are often found in undesirable locations, such as in hydro fields under power lines.
Former Canadian national cricketer Balaji Rao has seen firsthand the rise in popularity of the game in Scarborough, but he agreed that supply is not close to meeting demand.
“Cricket is a religion back home,” said Rao of his native India. “I came seven years back, and there has been a huge difference because of immigration, but we have a long way to go.”