Are you riveted by the World Cup? Nobody will blame you if you have been brushing up on your high school mathematics, juggling the permutations as to the likely semi-finalists.
But hang on. There is another global tournament on the horizon, where the stars of the World Cup, as well as legends of the game, will combine to spread the game’s wings in a non-traditional center. Where cricketers from Associate teams will pit their skills against the game’s superstars. The second edition of the GT20 in Canada is upon us. Time to fasten your seatbelts.
Prepare for Gayle v Boult, Russell v Shakib, Williamson v Afridi and McCullum v Wahab. But also expect battles you are unlikely to see elsewhere, like Yuvraj v Ali Khan, or Daren Sammy v Sandeep Lamichhane. All this in a north American venue, in front of spectators starved for high-profile cricketing action, in a country with a rich cricketing legacy, on the cusp of a revival.
What would it mean for a Canadian teen to take a day off from school and watch Yuvraj Singh smash a fifty? The same Yuvraj whom her cricket-mad parents adore. The man whose exploits she has heard so much about, some of which she has glimpsed on YouTube videos, but a legend she has never had the chance to see in the flesh. Here is her chance to hear the sweet woody sound of ball cracking the bat when Yuvraj swings with abandon. Here is her chance to seek him out after the game. Here is her chance to get within touching distance of greatness.
But that is merely an initiation. To watch the legends is to be enamored. To see players from the non-Test teams hold their own against the big names is to be inspired. If young Canadians are looking for role models, they need not look further than Nikhil Dutta, Babar Hayat and Ali Khan – three cricketers who have come into the spotlight despite playing for teams outside the top ten.
Nobody who witnessed the GT20 final last year would have forgotten that it was Saad Bin Zafar, the unheralded Canadian allrounder, who stole the spotlight away from the shooting stars. Zafar had played only two first-class matches up till then and hadn’t passed 36 in either of those games. He was deservedly chaired by his team-mates after putting up his finest performance.
It was a moment not lost on Brian Lara, one of the finest batsmen to have played the game. “The hallmark of the event was a local boy Saad Bin Zafar winning the Man of the Match in the presence of stars like Chris Gayle and Andre Russell,” he said recently. “It proves that cricketers from these countries need these kinds of endeavors to prove their talent.”
Enjoy the World Cup as it reaches its climax.
But remember: the world soon comes to Canada.