Connect with us


‘A dream come true’ for Brampton cricketers playing Canada’s 1st T20 World Cup | CBC News



For two decades, Saad Bin Zafar worked a full-time job and spent his nights playing cricket for unpaid local leagues. There weren’t many opportunities to play professionally for the Brampton resident.

He started playing for the Canadian national team in 2015, but that was one year after the team lost its One Day International (ODI) status, and he says there weren’t any contracts for cricketers in the country. 

That changed last year, when the Canadian team won a qualifying World Cup match in Zimbabwe and regained ODI status. 

Now, for the first time, the Canadian team is headed to the T20 men’s World Cup, happening in cities across the U.S. and West Indies from June 1 to 29. And Zafar is Canada’s captain. 

“It was my dream to play in the World Cup, and finally it’s coming true, ” Zafar said. “Going in as a captain and a leader, it’s a privileged position to be in.” 

He’s one of 15 players on the team, five of whom are from Canada’s cricket capital, Brampton. Canada will play the opening match against the U.S. on June 1.

“What an honour for Canada. We’re going to have our our players play with the best in the world. It’s phenomenal,” Mayor Patrick Brown said. 

Brampton investing in cricket pitches

Aaron Johnson, who’s also playing in the T20, knows what it’s like to have the passion and skill but only a few full-sized cricket pitches to practice at.

Johnson, who has been playing professional cricket in Jamaica and England since the age of 15, says he moved to British Columbia in 2019 and was told there was no future in the sport. 

“People told me, ‘You will not be treated like you were treated in England because we don’t have any money and it’s just recreational,'” said Johnson. 

Seeing a successful Canadian cricket league, Global T20 in Brampton last year, he decided to move to the city. He will be the opening batsman for Canada at the international tournament next month. 

“I don’t think I can put it in words,” Johnson said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Aaron Johnson says he decided to move to Brampton last October to play cricket. He’s Canada’s opening batsman in the world cup and says it’s a ‘dream come true.’ (Photo by Panda Man/Takumi Images)

Brampton currently has 19 cricket sites and has plans to open five new ones this year — part of its plans to upgrade cricket amenities through its annual recreational spending to meet the community’s burgeoning demand. 

The city is spending $8 million in park pitches, including ones for youth, according to the city staff. 

“It starts with kids,” Brown said. Brampton will kick-off its first youth league in July, according to a city news release.  

Brown says the city plans to build a domed pitch at Ernst Cliff. 

The city has also partnered with multiple private companies to build a city-owned stadium, which city documents estimate would cost at least $100 million. Brown says the state-of-the-art stadium could actually cost $200 million. 

“You’ll see a lot of cities that have 150 baseball diamonds where many of them are unused and yet there’s no cricket amenities. This is not Canada in 1950,” he said. 

In Brampton, he says those wanting to use cricket facilities face the longest wait time of all the city’s recreation programs because of the sport’s growing popularity.

Inspiring youth

Players like Zafar and Johnson have taken it upon themselves to inspire youth by volunteering at summer training camps and schools to teach kids.

“I know the sacrifices people have to go through to carry [play] cricket on the side. I’m happy to see that the next generation would not have to see [do] that,” Zafar said. 

Johnson says he will continue to advocate for a better cricket infrastructure and funding in Canada even after he stops playing the sport. 

“I want to help change the system. I feel very proud that I’m one of the few players who believe that we could bring all the estates back into Canada. We have made such a big change in Canadian history,” Johnson said. 

Cricket fans will be able to see the T20 World Cup trophy during the trophy tour at Ken Whillans Square in Brampton on May 11.

Continue Reading