Canada: Last Chance?

Posted on February 9, 2011 by

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When Canada start their world cup campaign on February 20 against hosts Sri Lanka they may well be playing in their last world cup, regardless of how well they play on the pitch. The International Cricket Council (ICC) took the decision in October to restrict the 2015 world cup to only 10 teams. Historically those countries with full ICC member status have always qualified automatically for the world cup and as there are currently 10 nations in the game’s elite group it appears that nations in the second tier, like Canada, will be denied any opportunity to compete in cricket’s premier event.

The 2011 world cup will be Canada’s fourth tournament, having qualified in 1979, 2003 and 2007. Canada have never made it past the first round and have a disappointing record of 1 win and 11 losses. However, their only victory, against Bangladesh in 2003, was a major upset with the British Racing Post only prepared to offer odds of 1-7 on a Bangladesh win. It was the first time that Canada had defeated a top tier nation in a competitive match, but it was not the first time they had beaten Bangladesh: in 1979 Canada defeated them en route to qualifying for that year’s world cup.

Nor is this the limit to Canada’s cricket history. Cricket’s first international match was played between Canada and the United States in New York on 24-26 September 1844. When American George Wheatcroft failed to arrive in time to bat, Canada were awarded the game by the margin of 23 runs. An estimated $100,000 had been wagered on the result, leading to ugly rumours regarding Wheatcroft’s absence: allegations of match fixing are as old as international cricket itself.

Canada qualified for this world cup by finishing runners-up to Ireland in the 2009 qualification tournament, with Kenya and the Netherlands also booking their places by finishing in the top four. Canada, Kenya and the Netherlands have consistently shown themselves to be the best teams in the second tier, succeeding in qualifying for the last three world cups, whilst Ireland shocked the cricketing world in 2007 when they defeated Pakistan to make it to the second round.  The 2015 world cup hopes of all these teams were all but dashed by the ICC’s decision to limit the tournament to 10 teams and whilst it is possible that the nations at the bottom of the elite group will have to play-off against those at the top of the second tier to determine qualification, this is unlikely as it is the full members of the ICC who make the rules. Unfortunately turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

So there will be extra incentive for Canada, Ireland, Kenya and the Netherlands to justify their participation in the 2011 tournament – and ridicule the decision to exclude them in 2015 – by completing a rare victory over one of the elite teams. What are Canada’s chances of springing such an upset? Zimbabwe are in their group and are currently the lowest placed of the top tier teams, having just been defeated 3-1 by fellow strugglers Bangladesh. Zimbabwe could manage only to tie against Ireland in the 2007 world cup and so Canada will be hopeful of striking a blow for the ICC associate status nations on February 28 when they take on Zimbabwe at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, India.

Canada will also be hoping to defeat fellow associate members Kenya and anything could happen against the mercurial Pakistan team, who lost their right to co-host the tournament due to concerns over security and are still prohibited by the ICC to play games in their own country. Whilst Canada’s chances against the other teams in their group – World Champions Australia, the consistent New Zealand and hosts Sri Lanka – look slim at best, the real contest may have already been decided.

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Preview by Patrick Adams

Patrick has written a book on Canadian Cricket history and can be found at www.historyofcanadiancricket.pbworks.com

Follow him on twitter @CdnCricketHst