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Victoria pre-season cricket finale pulls record crowd, opens city conversation on improved facilities

Vancouver Island should do more for Canada’s fastest-growing and oldest national sport; Haynes

Greater Victoria leaders promised local infrastructure improvements following a pre-season visit to the Victoria and District Cricket Association facility at Beacon Hill Park.

The Sunday match (April 24) was the last before the association regular season started this week. About three dozen spectators and community leaders at the match between the association’s Friends 11 and Incogs and Cowichan teams made for the largest pre-season crowd in 20 years, said Friends 11 captain Manrick Singh.

Today, cricket is among one of the fastest-growing sports in Canada supported by immigration from countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There, play is practically religious, said Amjad Bajwa, president of Cricket BC.

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Cricket has been played in the Beacon Hill Park area since 1858 and is possibly the oldest in North America. Victoria’s association is home for about 15 cricket teams, with a 34-team league operating on the Lower Mainland. Cricket was actually declared Canada’s national sport in 1867, but in 1994 hockey and lacrosse were declared the country’s official winter and summer national sports.

Nonetheless, cricket has been played in Victoria “longer than the city has been a city,” said Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto. attending Sunday’s event on behalf of Mayor Lisa Helps.

The sport, however, has never been played at Royal Athletic Park.

“We are a very fast-growing community, and we are very restricted with cricket grounds and nets,” said Singh. He will be talking with the City of Victoria next week about the possibility of playing at RAP.

“The whole point of having all these guys here is to have them directly converse with the politicians,” Singh said of inviting some of the sport’s top B.C. executives and local political leaders to the pre-season match.

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Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming and mayors Stew Young of Langford and Fred Haynes of Saanich were on hand for Sunday’s busy pre-season finale. Haynes mentioned the imminent announcement of Saanich’s first cricket pitch and his endorsement of the sport for the 55-Plus BC Games.

“I think it’s time the Island stepped up and did more for cricket,” he said.

Rashpal Bajwa, president of the Cricket Canada contingent of the International Cricket Council, said he was glad to hear the news of Saanich’s coming first pitch. “These relationships can only be built stronger. The history of this game, and its attachment to the city, has to be recognized.”

Friends 11 won the day’s game by nine wickets. Highlight performances came from the Friend’s Randeep Laller, who took five wickets for nothing while running, and Cowichan’s Jamison Schulz-Franco, who made 20 runs, said Singh.

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