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More cricket fields could be coming to Toronto as sport’s popularity takes off

Toronto cricket fans have a reason to cheer this week after the city’s executive committee pushed forward plans to develop a formal cricket strategy. 

The strategy would lay out ways to create and upgrade more cricket facilities while increasing programs for children amid a growing need for spaces to play the sport. 

The initiative is great news for young players like 16-year-old Yuvraj Jindal, who aspires to play for Canada professionally.

“That’s like a dream come true for every cricketer here in Canada.”

City staff say cricket is the fastest growing sport in the region but the 27 pitches across the city can’t support the number of people looking to play. 

A young brown man smiles for a portrait on a grass cricket field.
Yuvraj Jindal, 16, says he dreams of playing on Canada’s national cricket team. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

In comparison, there are over 230 baseball diamonds in the city — and some are already being used for cricket.

“It only makes sense that we adapt the infrastructure to what’s being demanded and certainly what’s being played out on the fields,” Coun. Parthi Kandavel told CBC Toronto. 

Kandavel said the action is long overdue when considering the boom of immigration from India, especially young students. 

“We need to be able to adapt to the changing demographics of our neighbourhoods and provide a source of recreation that is missing from a community that is without parents, without support networks.”

Plans for more fields, programming

The city says it plans to build five new playing fields in the next five years, including a new full-size pitch at McCleary Park and two additional practice pitches at converted baseball diamonds located in Parma Park and Farquharson Park.

Staff also recommended the city partner with school boards to identify potential spaces, which Kandavel said will make building the pitches even more cost-effective. 

“Setting up a cricket pitch is not terribly expensive. It’s about $60,000 to $80,000,” he said. “So we can do this strategically in areas where it makes sense.”

Map of cricket location in Toronto.
There are 27 cricket pitches in Toronto. City staff say it isn’t enough for the growing population of players and fans. (City of Toronto)

Shiv Persaud, the president of Scarborough Cricket Association, told CBC Toronto that the lack of fields is already a detriment to players.

“They are sometimes subject to the backyard, a small field, small batting cages,” he said. “We don’t all have the full experience just batting and bowling.”

Another part of the strategy proposal includes a maintenance plan for fields, something Persaud said is crucial. 

“If it’s not properly maintained then it’s very difficult for the game to be played properly… We need the grass cut regularly.”

A damaged cricket pitch.
Some players have to compete on damaged cricket pitches, like this one seen at Ashtonbee Reservoir Park in Scarborough. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

Veteran cricket player Danny Singh represented Canada at four world tournaments in the 80s and 90s, and said it’s exciting to watch a new era of cricket in Toronto.

“It’s awesome because when I played, we didn’t have this type of support. Everyone knows about cricket now.”

Singh lived in Scarborough for decades and said Toronto makes important contributions to Canada’s cricket scene.

“The Canadian team of 15 or 16 players usually has like 12 from Toronto. So Toronto is basically the mecca of cricket.”

Lessons from Brampton 

Still, Toronto is taking a page out of Brampton’s playbook. In previous years, it transformed underutilized fields into cricket pitches and grew the sport.

Now the city calls itself the cricket capital of Canada.

“I think the future for Canadian cricket, just like it is for Canadian soccer, is very, very bright,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CBC News.

Last year, Brampton hosted the Global T20, the largest professional cricket tournament in Canada. Organizers said it drew tens of thousands of attendees and 150 million worldwide TV viewers.

Cricket fans take in a match between the Mississauga Panthers and Toronto Nationals at the Global T20 tournament in Brampton on July 26, 2023.
Cricket fans take in a match between the Mississauga Panthers and Toronto Nationals at the Global T20 tournament in Brampton on July 26, 2023. (Patrick Swadden/CBC)

“Last year’s tournament had an economic benefit, according to the financial analysis of that tournament… of $34 million for the city and over $45 million for the province,” Brown said. 

There are hopes that Toronto city council will match or exceed what Brampton has done, and not just because of the economic potential.

“For young brown kids, boys, girls, who are not seeing themselves in the NBA or the NFL or the MLB, here’s a sport where they can find direct, cultural connection with,” Kandavel said.

“We’re saying diversity is our strength. We’ve got to not just say it but invest and build those opportunities.”

City council will vote on the strategy on July 24.

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