Cricket Moncton heads to N.B. championship during first season
Club has grown so much it might make 2 teams next year
Cricket Moncton is on its way to the New Brunswick Cricket League final.
They did it all in their first year and without home grounds.
The Moncton club will play the Saint John Cricket Club for the championship on Sunday.
The club formed in 2017 but only started playing league matches this year. They didn't have enough players to field an official team earlier.
Nick Badyal, Cricket Moncton president, said the club is made up largely of newcomers to Canada. He said many players who had played with the club left the city when they received their permanent residency.
But after some restructuring and recruiting, the club now has 40 players on its roster. It is considering a second team next year.
"Cricket is ... the second biggest sport in the world," said Badyal. "There [are] 3.5 billion fans of cricket, second to soccer which has 4.5 billion fans, all over the world.
"So providing that opportunity to the newcomers and for them to [play] the sport that they love to play … it is a great opportunity for them."
Cricket has been present in the province for over 100 years, but has been mostly a niche sport. But it is now growing in popularity.
Many of the current players are originally from India and cheer for their country's national team.
"In India, cricket is like a religion," said Badyal.
While there are several different types of cricket played, Moncton will be playing in the province's T-20 championship, which is a shortened version of the traditional game.
The style favours more powerful batsmen.
"It's a game of power," said Cricket Moncton board member Venky Kulkarni. "It's more entertaining to do."
Cricket Moncton won't have to spend another season as the perpetual away team.
They now have a home pitch they christened on Saturday with an exhibition match against a team made up of Fredericton's three cricket clubs (the Fredericton Cricket Club, University of New Brunswick Cricket Club and the Loyalist Cricket Club.)
Kulkarni said it's been a welcome change for the players. They have played their home games on the road in Saint John and Fredericton all season.
He said the grounds are in great shape.
"Some of the cricketers are picky about the grounds. These are definitely in top-class shape."
A sort of rivalry has developed between championship contenders Moncton and Saint John.
Several of the Moncton players used to play in Saint John, giving Sunday's match an extra competitive flair.
But Badyal said that rivalry is kept on the cricket grounds.
"During breaks, and even before and after the match, we are super friendly because ... we respect the sport," said Badyal
"When we are in the field we are super competitive and you know anytime we're away from the field we're super friendly."
- A previous version of this story listed Venky Kulkarni as a teammate, he is actually a board member of Cricket Moncton. It also listed the club as the Moncton Cricket Club, their official name is Cricket Moncton.Oct 20, 2019 12:36 PM AT
With files from Gary Moore