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culture

Toronto’s Thriving Cricket Scene

The sport's popularity is greater than ever—especially with a new generation of players

Teaching cricket to youth in Flemingdon Park  Image courtesy of Valley Park Go Green

Teaching cricket to youth in Flemingdon Park. Image courtesy of Valley Park Go Green.

This spring, while Toronto buzzed about the prospect of getting a professional-calibre cricket stadium built in the city, thousands of Torontonians of all levels of experience, talent, and age were washing their whites and preparing for another season of bowling googlies and hitting sixes. While it may not be the sport most commonly associated with Toronto, we are something of a cricket hub. The Toronto and District Cricket Association (TDCA) has been a fixture in this city since 1920. In its current form, TDCA is made up of over 1,200 players, on 110 men’s and women’s teams, in six adult and four youth divisions—making it North America’s largest cricket league.

TDCA is not the only game in town for serious cricketers, but it’s where some of the best, including the majority of Canadian national team players, ply their skills. From May to September, teams from the association make the rounds of 25 different cricket grounds across the GTA, including the stately Toronto Cricket, Curling, and Skating Club, which has hosted matches since 1827.

TDCA has a mandate to promote and improve its sport in Toronto and beyond. “[We] are working full-heartedly on achieving the organization’s maximum potential in order to exceed the expectations of all cricket lovers of the GTA,” said association representative Hassan Mirza.

With cricket seemingly becoming more popular by the day, some of those expectations involve the creation of more playing space across the city. “The sport is growing at a very accelerated rate—and is being curtailed by the lack of facilities,” said Praim Persaud, president of the Cricket Council of Ontario and the Brampton and Etobicoke Cricket League.

In one of Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, a soon-to-be completed cricket facility is the centrepiece of a community development plan sponsored by the City, the Jays Care Foundation, Rogers, and a host of other high—profile organizations. Four years ago, when the movement to rejuvenate the land behind Valley Park Middle School was taking shape, cricket was not on the agenda. But local residents were adamant that the Valley Park Go Green project include a cricket facility in addition to the naturalized green spaces, and baseball, basketball and soccer amenities. Slated to open in the fall, the Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field is now a major selling point of Go Green’s free programs for at-risk youth in the surrounding Flemingdon Park and Thorncliff Park communities. In addition to giving kids a safe place to play, the field is being touted as a bridge to the many immigrant families living nearby.

“These neighbourhoods have a large South Asian population, mainly new immigrants [from countries] where cricket is a big sport,” said Aparna Mishra, executive director of the Go Green Project. “This field means that they can play the game they love so much at a facility literally at their doorsteps.”

It’s expected that hundreds of people will use Go Green when it opens—and that number will likely grow rapidly in the coming years. It’s a common refrain with anyone involved in cricket in Toronto: this sport is blowing up and getting bigger all the time.

Kids, particularly the very young, are flocking to school cricket teams. The Toronto District School Board reports that there are 375 high school cricket players on 25 school teams across the board and that 1,275 elementary school kids are involved with their schools’ cricket programs. The Toronto Catholic District School Board, meanwhile, has been partnering with Cricket Canada over the past two years to provide elementary school students with free cricket programs—so far, 8,000 students have participated.

Maybe a premier-calibre cricket stadium is a few years away yet—but this sport has serious roots in Toronto, and they’re growing all the time. It’s globally adored and welcoming of fans and players from all backgrounds. Could there be a sport better suited to this city than that?

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