Canada schooling in style for Cricket World Cup
First, it was a brief tour of India. Next stop, a training session in Toronto. Then, the Caribbean Twenty20 tournament in Antigua and Barbados.
For the past three months, Canada's national cricket squad has embarked on tours and training sessions across the globe, hoping to hit stride at the onset of the Cricket World Cup, now less than two weeks away.
In its last leg of World Cup preparation, the team opted to travel to Dubai on Jan. 26 to utilize the world-class training facilities available at the ICC Global Cricket Academy. For head coach Pubudu Dassanayake, the experience gained in the Middle East as opposed to staying in Toronto is incomparable.
"Not even close," Dassanayake said. "[Here] we have these fields where we can do all the fielding training and the indoor facilities have all these new machines.
"The boys are in one camp, everybody's together. That's tough to get back home."
Priming the squad to play on the big stage seems to be the final phase of preparation, with all the experience gained over the course of the past few months culminating in a successful showing at the World Cup.
"I just want to see if [we] can build momentum towards the World Cup by achieving our goals and hitting our targets," Dassanayake said. "That's the last thing in my preparation … it's about getting into our plan and into our new roles."
Training at the Global Cricket Academy will help Canada find the edge it needs in order to compete at a high level once it reaches the Indian subcontinent.
The Academy was opened as an important focal point for international cricketing excellence and education. All the resources provided are available to all 104 ICC member countries and, currently, along with Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Zimbabwe are using the facility.
"All of this is being done indoors at what is one of the premier cricket facilities I've seen," said Rathan Moorthy, Canada's director of technical services.
"Outdoors, the facility has two full-size cricket fields and about 15 outdoor nets that [are] broken up into Australian, Indian subcontinent and English conditions.
"I will say that this is an extension of our training indoors in Toronto and in the Caribbean. It all relates to each other — this is the final top up."
With some of the best indoor and outdoor facilities available to the squad, the players and coaching staff have vigorously attempted to improve in all facets of the game.
For example, some of the training technology is helping the bowlers with placement and accuracy.
"Hawkeye has been used in cricket broadcasting for many years for lbw [leg before wicket] decisions," Moorthy said. "We are utilizing it to get actual information on what [our] bowlers are doing.
"We utilize this information to analyze against our bowling plans, to gauge how consistent our bowlers are executing their deliveries [and] variations. It's been invaluable feedback for their training sessions."
Likewise, the ProBatter program assists batsmen in preparing for the elite bowlers they'll face in the World Cup. Essentially, ProBatter is part-bowling machine and part-video wall, which displays bowlers running up to deliver. As the video bowlers release the ball from their hand, the machine spits out a real ball.
"This has given our batsmen familiarity with full-member bowlers," Moorthy said. "As well, it is able to achieve greater speeds than a convential bowling machine.
"We've been utilizing a bowling machine that is designed specifically for spin [and] batsmen have been spending some hours in the nets with that. The technology is further assisting us to adjust and train according to the conditions that we will face in the World Cup."
Quality facilities and advanced training methods are not the only advantages of preparing in Dubai as Canada has received additional specialist coaching from Academy head coach Rod Marsh, who instructs wicket keepers, former Pakistani all-rounder Mudassir Nazar (batsmen) and former New Zealand bowler Dayle Hadlee (bowlers).
With two warm-up matches scheduled in Dubai against international competition, Canada will be able to gauge its progress. Regardless of the outcomes, initial signs are promising.
"I can tell you the confidence level is high," Moorthy said. "We will be leaving Dubai with the expectation to accomplish something for Canadians to be proud of."