Could Canada's cricket team be competitive on the world stage one day?
Coach behind a new cricket camp for kids in London, Ont., wants to build a future generation of players
Rajath Shetty hopes the dream to build a competitive national cricket team in Canada starts on a dried-out pitch in London, Ont.
The longtime player and now coach believes bringing cricket to children in the city will help develop a crop of talented young players as part of a bigger movement that sees Canada embrace the game.
"We see lots of people coming from cricket-playing nations, but we don't find a lot of kids playing at this age," said Shetty.
He's a competitive player with the London Cricket Club, which competes against teams across Ontario.
According to its Facebook page, the London club is one of the oldest cricket club in Canada dating back to at least 1856.
"The game needs to really grow. It has to come up on the kids' level," said Shetty.
"If there's no base built, the game itself will not expand in Canada."
This month, Shetty launched the free Little Wizards Cricket Camp for kids between ages 5 and 14.
"I've been playing since I can remember," said Shetty, who grew up in India and moved to London 12 years ago. "Every kid who grows up wants to be big in the game."
Canada has appeared in the World Cup on four occasions and has registered two wins in the Cricket World Cup, defeating Bangladesh in 2003 and Kenya in 2011. But Canada is, by all regards, an insignificant player on the international stage.
England, Australia and India, respectively, won the last three Cricket World Cups.
"I come from India and cricket is kind of like a religion," said Ananth Bhimavarapu, who admitted he wasn't a great player himself, but was excited to bring his son, Viyos, 8, to the camp.
"I was more of a cricket watcher," laughed Bhimavarupu. "At least he's better than me than I was at his age. And he's interested in the game, so why not encourage that?"
Viyos has his own ideas about the sport.
"To me, sword fighting and cricket have some similarities," he said. "If you want a sword fight, you've got to block some things, just like when you want to block the ball.
"If you think like the ball is a sword, you need to block it. You have to hit it. Right?"
Although cricket was once Canada's official national sport, as declared by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, it doesn't have the same recognition today.
But Shetty can dream.
"Hopefully in 10 or 15 years we see Canada playing competitively on the international circuit."