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Minor League Cricket considering expansion into British Columbia

North American league is top development league for Major League Cricket
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Minor League Cricket is considering expansion into Canada. (Pixabay photo)

Minor League Cricket announced plans for future Canadian expansion last month and league officials stated that they are taking a serious look at Abbotsford and other markets in British Columbia.

The MiLC is known as North America’s top development league in the sport and is a feeder system to Major League Cricket – North America’s top cricket league that was founded in 2019 but began play this month.

MLC consists of six big market teams in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Texas and Washington. A sell-out crowd of over 7,000 watched the Texas Super Kings beat the Los Angeles Knight Riders by 69 runs (181-112) in the league’s inaugural game on July 13.

Cricket is the world’s second most-watched sport behind soccer, but has struggled to build popularity in North America. The MLC and MiLC are a $120 million investment from multiple groups to launch the sport back to the continent in a big way. Key investors include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Ross Perot Jr., Anand Rajaraman (Amazon) and Shantanu Narayen (Adobe Inc.).

The sport came to North American through the British and was Canada’s most popular sport until the early-20th Century. In fact, the very first-ever cricket international match occurred in 1844 between clubs from Toronto and New York. Canadian prime minister John A. MacDonald even declared cricket to be Canada’s first official sport in 1867.

Cricket Canada was established as the country’s governing body for the sport in 1892 and the British Columbia Mainland Cricket League – which still exists today and has teams from Abbotsford – was founded in 1914. It is one of the oldest sporting leagues still competing in the country.

The popularity of baseball, hockey and other sports led to a decline in interest for cricket. However, the sport is massively popular in India, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa and parts of Europe.

Canada has gone on to compete in the 1979, 2003 and 2007 Cricket World Cups hosted by the International Cricket Council.

The MiLC began play in July of 2021 with 27 teams across the United States. The Silicon Valley Strikers beat the New Jersey Stallion in the final, which was played in North Carolina. The 2022 season saw 26 teams compete and the Seattle Thunderbolts earned the league title. The 2023 season begins in August.

Cricket Canada and Boundaries North have partnered with the MiLC to identify potential ownership groups and communities to establish Minor League Cricket teams across Canada as early as 2024.

“In a short time, Minor League Cricket has proven to be a key development ground for North American cricket players,” stated Rashpal Bajwa, President of Cricket Canada. “The league can have an immediate impact on our passionate Canadian market, engaging new fans and providing aspiring Canadian cricketers with enhanced opportunities to showcase their talent on a larger stage.”

Cricket Canada is headquartered in Toronto, so it’s likely that Ontario will be a major focus for expansion. However, Rahul Srinivasan, CEO of Boundaries North, stated that the Lower Mainland will also be considered.

“The BCMCL generates a ton of great talent,” he said. “I think we look at communities where there is thriving cricket, so the Surrey, Burnaby and greater Vancouver area has a really great cricket scene. In terms of participation a place like Abbotsford could also have a big impact.”

Srinivasan admitted that the lack of available pitches will be a challenge for some places in British Columbia, but that the possibility of an MiLC team may increase the chances of that infrastructure to get built.

“For MiLC we are looking at where does it make sense for these pitches and who can get behind them with investments and improved infrastructure,” he said. “We need a fairly sophisticated and professional facility to play with four to six television streams and everything else.”

He said many American MiLC markets used a hybrid wicket, which created a less-capital intensive pitch. But the investments need to be made at the private or public level to make it possible. The Abbotsford teams in the BCMCL play at Exhibition Park. Other BCMCL teams’ home venues include: Coquitlam’s Mackie Park, Kelowna’s Parkinson Recreation Area, Vancouver’s Connaught Park, Richmond’s Minoru Park and Vancouver’s Hugo Ray Park.

Both Brockton Point in Vancouver and Beacon Hill Park in Victoria also have historical cricket grounds. Toronto has the only internationally recognized grounds in the country.

Srinivasan added that he believes a community like Abbotsford could really rally around the identity of a minor league team and noted that one of the MiLC’s biggest success stories is in Morrisville, North Carolina. He added that the MiLC is also looking at markets such as Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna.

“British Columbia is massively important to us and I would say there are no markets that have been crossed out,” he said. “Cricket popularity is going to continue to grow in this country with our thriving communities of South Asian and Caribbean peoples. So I think naturally that demand is going to grow.”

He said the ultimate goal behind the expansion is to grow the sport in Canada and build the national team – on the men’s and women’s sides – back up.

“We have amazing participation in Canada and I think with the right infrastructure, right programming and right level of support we could begin the early stages of a renaissance here,” he said. “Having these teams and leagues funnel talent to our national teams is what we want here and this could be a pathway to get us back onto the international stage.”

Srinivasan said he believes teams could be in place as early as next summer.

“Canada has a strong cricketing tradition, a diverse and multicultural population, and a growing interest in the sport. Having a viable development league in Canada will be key to unearthing talented Canadian cricketers, providing them with structured pathways for development, and ultimately contribute to the growth of the sport at many levels,” he said. “We are looking forward to meeting with key private, public and industry leaders who share our passion for adding strategic initiatives across the Canadian cricketing ecosystem.”

For more information, including further details on the process for ownership group identification, contact info@canadaboundaries.ca.



Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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