Canada's cricketers suffering identity crisis

Umar Ali writes that Canada's national men's cricket squad is in the process of developing a new identity under newly appointed captain Jimmy Hansra and in the absence of a permanent head coach.

It has been an eventful year for Canada's men's national cricket team, with a noteworthy performance in the Caribbean T20, its most impressive showing at the Cricket World Cup — and a significant roster shakeup.

The squad underwent serious changes in the aftermath of the Cricket World Cup as several veterans left the program, notably head coach Pubudu Dassanayake and and captain Ashish Bagai.

But a recent 10-day tour of Ireland provided the Canadians with the chance to compete against a top-ranked opponent for the first time with a revamped roster and interim coach Ingleton Liburd at the helm.

"It is a challenge to play any international cricket," said newly appointed captain Jimmy Hansra. "It was a big tour for us.

"But the experience we're going to gain and the cricket we're going to play [has] got people very focused."

As much as the exposure and experience obtained are welcome attributes, the results were far from satisfactory.

Canada opened the three-match tour with a narrow 11-run loss, was whitewashed washed away by 133 runs in the ensuing match and left winless after suffering a 56-run setback in the finale.

Add to that a pair of losses to Afghanistan on Canadian soil in August and it would seem the program is headed in the wrong direction, with the progress made earlier in the year swiftly squandered.

Yet for all the concerns, Hansra sees bright spots to focus on going forward.

"I'm just hoping and being patient with these youngsters that they keep learning from these mistakes so they don't make them again," he said. "We got a lot of positive vibes in the locker room after discussing these things.

"These youngsters are quite open and honest about what they've done wrong and they're willing to improve in the future and work for it."

Among those being counted on to carry the team is a trio of youngsters brought to the Cricket World Cup — Ruvindu Gunasekera, Hiral Patel and teenager Nitish Kumar. Heralded as the likely core of the national team, their experience on the world stage is preparing them for the daunting task of competing against the top-flight competition.

"I would say the confidence level is really high for these youngsters," Hansra said. "And obviously, it's a good learning curve for them to learn from things like the World Cup.

"Not a lot of people get a chance to do that and that has created a big impact on their batting and also just on their outlook on the cricket game. Before they talked about the players they were going up against, now they're just talking about the cricket they're going to play and the teams they're going to be playing against.

"Mentally,I think they're pretty much prepared for the games. It's just about putting the words and strategies into winning combination."

'Looking to improve'

Hindering Canada from realizing its potential is the uncertainty of the coaching situation.

Though Liburd has filled the void on an interim basis, implementing a permanent fixture remains a matter of serious concern.

However, that issue might be resolved in the near future, with a new coach supposedly waiting in the wings and, hopefully, a new approach ready to be applied to better prepare the squad.

All part and parcel of this year of change.

Yet Hansra, for one, is hopeful Canada can rebound from its recent misfortune and build on a campaign that began with such promise.

"To be competitive at that level, I think fitness and fielding is the utmost important, so that's what I'm going to be focusing on with this group with a new coach coming in the next few months," Hansra said. "I think batting and bowling will come into place after that is taken care of.

"We're looking forward to the next few months, in the off-season, looking to improve … we got a new coach coming in, obviously, fresh blood, a fresh way of thinking and we'’re looking forward to putting good strategies into our games and looking forward to the [world] T20 qualifiers next year."