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Canadian national cricket team watching World Cup from sidelines

02/12/2015 05:02 EST | Updated 04/13/2015 05:59 EDT
Arman Usman would like nothing more than to be strapping on his pads and swinging his bat for Canada at the World Cup of Cricket when it starts Saturday in New Zealand.

But instead of facing the heat and the best bowlers in the world, Usman is in Montreal slugging through the snow to get to a gym where he can train.

"There is something not right with the state of the game in our country,” he said.

“I was able to identify that at an early age… and it was just a very hard decision to make because playing for my national country would have been an honour and it would still be an honour."

Canada's national cricket program has reached a historical low point.

After qualifying for the World Cup in 2003, 2007 and 2011, the last four years have proved disastrous for the team’s standing.

Canada was relegated to Division Two after it failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.

And then last month, Canada dropped to Division Three when it limped to a second to last place finish at the ICC Division Two championships in Namibia.

"Seriously I really feel we aren't that bad," said national team player Rizwan Cheema."If things had been done differently we might be in a different place."

Cheema was on the Canadian team at the 2011 World Cup and won a game against Kenya.

"That is the best feeling in your career, nothing is better than that, it was amazing," he said.

But since then, he says the program has lacked direction.

"There's a new coach every time a new team every time. The last three tours I think there have been three different coaches... It's very frustrating to see the team has gone down so much," he said.

Power struggle

Former national team player Henry Osinde says the turning point came at a tournament in Dubai in 2013.

"It was just a whole disaster," Osinde he said.

Osinde claims the team’s coach, Gus Logie, and its captain, Ashish Bagai were locked in a power struggle.

After the tournament, the CCA president at the time, Doug Hannum, fired Logie and dismissed five senior members of the team, including Osinde.

Logie insists everyone tried to win in Dubai but it just didn't work out.

"At the end of the day players have a responsibility to play the game and represent their country to the best of their ability and whomever is coach they need to respect that," he said.

After Hannum cleaned house, the plan was to have the captain lead Canada into the World Cup qualifier, but Bagai chose to retire before the event.

The team Canada sent to the world qualifier lost and today Hannum is no longer running the CCA.

Bagai could not be reached for comment.

‘A collective failure’

Current CCA president Vimal Hardat, elected after Canada missed the cut for the World Cup, says there is plenty of blame to go around for Canada's slide down to Division Three.

"It's a collective loss, a collective failure and we all have to go back and we all have to take responsibility one way or another," he said.

"We've lost a lot of key players and the youngsters that we actually trusted or Cricket Canada had invested in since 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, didn't really produce much."

According to Hardat,  the CCA lost $300,000 — nearly 25 per cent of their overall operating budget — in funding from the International Cricket Council when they dropped down a division.

The CCA recently terminated the contracts of all its national players and Hardat says he's balanced the books.

Hardat says he wants to invest in improving cricket grounds across the country but didn't reveal any concrete plans.

And while he agrees that youth programs in Canada need to improve, Hardat passed on much of that responsibility to parents.

"From a junior cricketing standpoint, parents have to take equal responsibility as well. I mean, a lot of times when parents leave their kids, its not a babysitting session...We can create infrastructure, we can create all the opportunity but if the parents are not going to be [involved] at that level, then it's not going to be a success."

Those in the Canadian cricket community fear the damage may already be done when it comes to attracting elite players to play for the national program.

At least three players declined to play for Canada in the tournament in Namibia last month.

The players say the compensation offered wasn’t enough to sustain them full-time.

But Hardat, the Canadian Cricket Association president, says it shouldn't be about money.

"If you go back to the history of Canadian cricket, cricketers used to actually pay from their pocket to play and represent Canada and we used to be really proud about it, and that has been the history of Canadian cricket in general."

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