It is the simultaneous pursuit of those two goals that has now brought Saini to his recent exciting announcement of an official Agreement having been finalized with the India based Mercuri Entertainment group for a Canada’s multi-year hosting a Global Twenty League. Under the terms of the Agreement, the League will be comprised of six teams, each of which will include four Canadian players within the first year. That number will be increased to five within the League’s second year and will max out at seven, hopefully by year three.
The challenge for Cricket Canada will therefore be to immediately identify 24 players capable of performing at international standards and within three years growing that number to 42. The financial resources coming to Cricket Canada from the Global Two League will therefore have to be used for player development to ensure that the required roster of 42 players is realized within the first three years of the League’s existence.
Cricket Canada’s plan is for this objective to be realized through two-tiered approach. The immediate short term plan is for there will be a talent search among current players for those who can, with professional contracts and off-shore training, be quickly brought up to meet the required international standards.
Simultaneously, over the long term, plans will be put in place to identify, develop and train additional players. These plans will be put in place at the U15 and U17 levels with the objective being a two to four year realization of U19 World Cup standard level players.
The advent of Canada’s now July 2018 scheduled inauguration of the Mercuri sponsored Global T20 League is therefore a key piece in Saini’s Cricket Canada masterpiece puzzle. One of the Global T20 League’s six teams will be comprised solely of West Indies based players, in addition to its Canadian allocation of course. The remaining five teams will be made up of both marquee and exciting emerging players from other cricketing around the globe, hopefully four to five per squad.
Saini’s vision is for the Global T20 League matches to be played on one or two grounds within the Greater Toronto Area, mostly on weekdays during the early evening 5:30 pm –8: 30 pm time slot when it would still be bright enough for lights not to be required. Sunnybrook Park has been touted as a potential eastern Toronto match location, while Mavis Cricket Club ground will be used to host matches for west end based fans to attend. On weekends multiple matches will likely be held at King City.
One of Saini and Mercuri’s challenges will be to quickly develop a large enough local fan base for each participating team. As such during the forthcoming player draft, which is expected to be held very soon, core players from each team could well be selected as a reflection of anticipated support from Toronto’s Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Caribbean communities.
Having developed the previously mentioned four nation Tournament within a mere twelve days, Saini feels overly confident about his abilities to pull together a world class tournament within the now available time frame. Player selection has to be moved up and that may be the greatest challenge, but with the Tournament management responsibilities being jointly shared between Cricket Canada and Mercuri, with valuable administrative expertise input to be provided by Cricket West Indies, Saini is optimistic that the Tournament will indeed be successfully launched this coming July as scheduled.
Cricket Canada and Cricket West Indies will be responsible for everything concerning tournament administration: the playing conditions, grounds and officials. Mercuri in turn will be responsible for Tournament finances, marketing, sponsorships, television and the provision of the required financing to cover all associated costs. Towards that end Mercuri has already registered its Canada Division of the company and will be expected to have an office here very soon.
As a development that will be much welcomed by Canadian cricket enthusiast, the Cricket Canada, Mercuri Global T20 Agreement also includes provisions for adequate funding to be set aside for the development of a Canadian cricket facility. Under the terms of the Agreement the facility must now be completed within the next three years.
For Saini and Cricket Canada this is a most welcome development as the availability of Mercuri’s committed funding should now make it much, much easier for the Board to identify and secure a suitable venue. Towards that end the Board is now actively in search of a Policy and Special Projects Advisor to oversee the implementation of plans to secure the facility within the established time frame.
Cricket Canada’s current harmonious relationships with all three country’s government levels will be beneficial to the acquisition of the support required at such levels, notwithstanding the lobbying opportunity that could be potentially available given the forthcoming Ontario Provincial Elections. The Liberals Federal Government’s full support for the project is virtually assured, given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proud wearing of Canadian cricket shirt during his participation in a cricketing event that was a well-publicized part of his recent India Tour. The event was organized by Canada’s High Commissioner in New Delhi with Saini’s direct assistance.
With the cricket stadium development initiative now being more focused and dedicated than ever before and soon to be provided with full time professional expertise, attention is being turned to the type of facility that will be required and also to its ideal location. In terms of the latter, the Federal Government owned lands at Downsview, as centrally located and subway accessible as they are, will definitely be among those to be considered. So will be the proposed Coronation Park which has been touted for development in downtown Toronto.
Where ever the final location may turn out to be, Saini feels strongly that in order to be economically viable by way of meeting its associated maintenance costs, the constructed facility will have to be of a multi-sport and entertainment complex. Cricket’s usage is realistically likely to be limited to the four to five spring –summer months. As such a suitable, indoor, winter months sport will have to be identified so as to prevent the facility from being usage idle for seven months each year. Saini’s view is that even cricket’s sharing of the summer month availability with other entertainment oriented activities. He envisions that the hosting of community heritage days for Toronto’s various ethnicities might be among the possibilities worthy of consideration. The facility should also be developed with a view towards its potential future hosting of Olympic events, should Toronto ever win the bid to host the Summer Games.
With the Global T20 League scheduled to be launched in July and with the cricket stadium development plans well under way, two large pieces of Saini’s Canadian Cricket masterpiece vision have seemingly become available to be put in place. In keeping with that vision, Saini’s ultimate objective is now no longer for Canada to just be regarded as a leading ICC Associate country, but rather for it to become a full-fledged member of the international cricket community.
The realization of Saini’s vision would result in Cricket becoming a mentioned sport within all levels of Canadian society and among stakeholders, government, corporate funders and all other interested parties. In so doing cricket would be returned to its historical roots as a national sport, as it was first played by resident British soldiers during the early 1700’s and so identified by Canada’s first Prime Minister John A McDonald during the 1768 Confederation celebrations.
Says Saini, with the right development plans being adequately funded, the available talent pool should certainly be sufficient to ensure outstanding Canadian performances at the highest international levels. This will include routine ICC World Cup qualification which is currently seen as the benchmark for progress. That will surely come once the game develops beyond its current boundaries and progresses to becoming a mainstream sport. A process which the Global T20 League’s advent will definitely facilitate.
Ranjit Saini, indeed a man with a vision and a plan for its fulfillment that is definitely worth implementing.