Canada and cricket are not usually two words thought of in connection with one another; in truth though there is a long tradition of playing cricket in the country.
Cricket is often referred to as an English game, but from its English origins, it turned into a sport of the British Empire. As the British Empire expanded so the British people, entrepreneurs, workers and soldiers, arrived in the lands of new opportunity, and took their sports with them. Cricket became established in places like the Indian sub-continent, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies and South Africa, places which are still major cricketing nations. In 1745 though, cricket also arrived in Canada.
The first time is can be said that there was “organised” cricket going on in Canada can be dated to 1827 when George Barber established the Toronto Cricket Club, although there were also reports of organised matches taking place in Guelph and Hamilton.
Only 17 years after the establishment of Toronto Cricket Club, Canada was playing its first international, a match against a team from the USA. This match, though not recognised as a test match, is recorded as the first international match. Even today, the fixture is still played, as both teams play to win the KA Auty Cup.
This international, along with the visits of touring teams from England, helped cricket to become an established and popular sport in Canada. As a result other cricket clubs were formed, including Winnipeg’s North West Cricket Club and the Victoria Cricket Club. Indeed the popularity of cricket ensured that in 1867, when Canada as a single nation was born, Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald, announced that cricket would be the country’s national sport.
English and MCC teams continued to tour Canada, including an 1872 team that included WG Grace in its ranks, and the Australians first toured in 1878. Canadian teams even toured themselves, visiting England in 1880 and 1887.
It is often said that the cricket was most popular in Canada between 1890 and 1910, and in 1892 the Canadian Cricket Association was formed (known as Cricket Canada since 2008). The First World War, and the growth in popularity of baseball, restricted participation, and cricket numbers have never been as high as they were before the war. Despite this though, Don Bradman visited in 1932 as part of a strong Australian team.
It is a long time since cricket was the national sport of Canada, and statistically cricket no longer appears in the top-25 most participated in sports in Canada, but there as been some recent increases in numbers. Increases can be partially attributed to wider television coverage of international events, but also an influx of immigrants playing the sport.
Domestically, Cricket Canada oversees six administrative areas (Atlantic, East, Central, Prairies, West and Pacific). A national club competition is run to find the best domestic team, with trophies (the John Ross Robertson Trophy) awarded to the best team in the west and the best team in the east. Where possible the two teams then play to find the best team overall. In addition Cricket Canada has also instigated a National T20 Championship and Under 19 tournament (the Scotia Shield). Compared to many other cricketing nations though there are a lack of appropriate pitches and facilities to allow for greater growth of the sport.
Internationally, Canada is classed as an associate member of the ICC (International Cricket Council). This status means that Canada is not a test playing nation, but does compete in limited overs, and first class matches. The first class matches are played against other associate members, but the limited overs matches can be played against any cricketing nation. Canada has qualified to play at the Cricket World Cup on a number of occasions and has regularly played international one day matches against many of the “bigger” cricketing nations in tournaments and warm-up events.
The ICC is of course interested in expanding interest and participation of cricket in Canada today, but the variety of sports now played in the country, as well as the lack of facilities, will probably always ensure that cricket in Canada will be a “minority” sport.