Thursday, July 25, 2024

Canada Gracefully Exits the Competition

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Canada arrived at the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup ranked 23rd in the world – the lowest of any team in the tournament. 

On Tuesday, after a 7 wicket loss to Pakistan in New York, Canada were effectively eliminated in the group stages. It would take a wild set of results for them to advance. And while Canada officially have one more match left, against heavyweights India in Florida on Saturday, the weather is pointing to a likely rainout.

That said, the Canadians have much to be proud of. They managed to defeat Ireland, a full ICC member nation, put up a very respectable 194/5 against the US in Dallas, and managed to hold their own against perennial contenders Pakistan. Aaron Johnson, a 33-year old who made his international debut just two years ago, even managed to score a half-century against Pakistan’s formidable bowling attack.  

Against all odds

Much attention has been paid to the United States team’s collection of part-time cricketers with day jobs, in contrast to the full time professional stars from other countries. And justifiably so. 

Yet Canada’s situation is even more extreme in this regard.  

The US team can at least boast Corey Anderson, former New Zealand International; Ali Khan, who has played in the PSL and IPL; and Saurabh Netravalkar, who was on India’s U-19 team. 

Canada’s closest equivalent is Kaleem Sana, who was Babar Azam’s Pakistan U-19 teammate.

And on the other extreme, there’s Dilon Heyliger, the 34 year old Canadian bowler who earned his first cap in 2023, and on Tuesday took the wickets of Pakistan’s Saim Ayub and Babar Azam. Until recently, he was working at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.   

Canada also hasn’t enjoyed the home field advantage this tournament that the US has. Tuesday’s crowd of 16,328 at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium was almost entirely comprised of Pakistani fans, with just a handful of Canadian flags scattered throughout the stands.   

Going for it

What was perhaps most impressive about the Canadians was their composure and quiet confidence throughout this World Cup. They have seemed mentally up for this challenge. 

Their underdog status never seemed to faze them. Wicketkeeper-batsman Shreyas Movva, who, like America’s Netravalkar, immigrated from India and has a full time job in the software field, hit for 37 against Ireland and 32 not out against the USA, seemed unperturbed by the lack of crowd support. “I don’t really pay attention to the crowd when I’m batting. I tune it out.” 

Similarly, the Canadians did not seem particularly in awe of the opposition while on the field despite the disparity in star status between themselves and their current and future opponents. 

This was summed up perfectly by Aaron Johnson in his post-match press conference after hitting his half-century – which included four fours and four sixers off Pakistan’s finest bowlers. 

He noted that while coming up in the cricket world he had always deeply admired all the bowling stars he had just faced, yet “you obviously have to respect your opposition but you also have to respect yourself.”

 

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