Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 is over and it’s time for new T20 league — Canadian T20 League. The latest T20 event is being held in association with Cricket West Indies (CWI). The league will consist of six teams, five representing Canadian cities — Edmonton Royals, Montreal Tigers, Toronto Nationals, Vancouver Knights and Winnipeg Hawks — with a sixth, a CWI representative team, consisting players only from the Caribbean.
A total of 22 matches, including playoffs and the final, will be played in the league that will run from 28 June to 15 July, 2018. All matches will be played at Maple Leaf Cricket Club, a cricket-specific facility just north of Toronto.
The league will consist of marquee players such as Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi, Darren Sammy, Lasith Malinga, Steve Smith, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, David Miller and Dwayne Bravo, and teams will pick players through a draft which will take place on 31 May.
Global T20 Canada’s director Jason Harper spoke to Firstpost about the league, their mission, impact, his role and the reason behind the tagline of the league.
What do you think about the cricketing culture in Canada?
There is an opportunity for growth. There is a robust club system and the game is being played in school. The clubs are growing day-by-day and there are over 15,000 registered cricketers. So as I said, there is an opportunity for growth in the existing framework and by adding Global T20, it should help growing interest for the game more in Canada.
What are the areas that need to be taken care of to increase interest towards cricket in North America?
It is exactly what we are doing now. We are bringing international competition and bringing lot of awareness by telling inspiring stories about players and the game itself which is really important in my opinion. We can attach players from national teams, pre-national teams and junior-level teams to participate in a league and the interest can be generated by organising the qualitative tournament which should be attractive to players, and of course to the people. Then you will see an update in the development and numbers. More youth will participate and we can design programs such as growing use of marquee players and identification of players which you see on television. Right now, the players in Canada don’t have a marquee player with whom they can attach themselves or look up to and Global T20 Canada will help them with that.
Please explain the mission of Canadian T20 League along with its structure.
We hope to help cricket-loving fans in Canada to enjoy cricket and see international stars which will be an unbelievable experience for them. We would like to do the global development of the game and the global reach of the game will increase with this big opportunity in North America. From Cricket Canada perspective, we would like to help them develop players and national team programs which can be incredible and it will help them compete in ICC ODI World Cup 2022. They have not been part of World Cup regularly, so the main goal is to help them get back into World Cup. I know that 50-over format and 20-over format are different, but this league surely will help them raise the standard of their game. Our goal is not only to generate revenue from the business perspective but also to leave a mark in this part of the world.
What kind of impact it will make in this region as per your expectations?
We have been trying to market traditionally but it has not connected with the other sports lovers yet in this region so we have an opportunity to do that in the upcoming days. Moreover, there are quite a few immigrants who know about the game in Canada. So, we will target them as they have seen international cricket and players and we also want them to introduce their kids about cricket so may be the second generation can play cricket for Canada. We want to increase awareness about cricket among certain communities to help it grow in this region and once we do that, we will get the desired results.
What specifically have you done to attract people towards this event?
It’s just the talent that we have. We have brought many international stars who are the marquee players, such as Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Chris Lynn, Steve Smith and others. So, we would like to cover the school public who are interested in cricket. Moreover, we have a draft system and about 1600 players have registered for the event from 43 different countries. So you can see the diversity already in the league and it will help cricket to grow not only in Canada but all over the world.
Can you enlighten us more about the auction?
It will be a private auction as we are using the draft system. We have hired five franchises coaches who will sit down with 1600 players available to them to pick along with marquee players and form their teams. We will try to make it public immediately after finalising the agreement.
How big this event will be for Canadian players?
There are 600 Canadian players who have already registered in the draft. So, the main point here will be the excitement and the opportunity that they will get. Canadian players have nothing to lose. If they perform well in these kind of tournaments then it can be a stepping stone for them to get an IPL or a CPL contract. The hunger and the excitement from them will be the catalyst for their own growth in international cricket.
How does it feel to get an approval from ICC and seeing that the event will start in a month?
ICC’s support is absolutely critical for us. They believe in us from the beginning and the credit should go to them for that. Obviously, the goal is to develop cricket throughout the world and they understand that in this part of the region, we have only Caribbean Premier League. So this league will help cricket to grow in North America.
Apart from the marquee players, will we see other international stars in the league?
The list is impressive. Just wait for the day and you will get to know.
Are there any chances of Indian players participating in Canadian T20 League in future?
I can’t say about it but none at the moment.
What is the reason behind putting tagline ‘Cricket Comes Home’ for the Canadian T20 League?
There is a simple reason behind it, because the first international cricket game was played in North America (Canada and USA in 1844 at St. George’s Club in New York) and lot of people don’t know it as they think otherwise. So we decided to put it like 'Cricket Comes Home' as we already have history for it.