February 12th, 2012 | Published in Pirates in the Press
January 19 2012
Howzat! Montreal’s Cricket Experiment
Parc-Extension’s Howard Park will become the home of Montreal’s first permanent, publicly-accessible cricket training ground in the spring of 2012.
The facility is a joint venture between the Royal Bank of Canada and the Pirates of the St. Lawrence Cricket Club. As part of its RBC in the Community initiative, the bank agreed to finance the facility after months of lobbying by the Pirates’ main organizer, Angus Bell. A grant of $25,000 was awarded to the borough for the construction of batting cages.
“Cricket is a growing sport in this city,” said Bell. “We’ve coached more than 4,000 school children in the last four years, so we need [batting cages] to take the kids to the next level. We’re clamouring for facilities.”
Further details were finalized after a recent meeting between Bell and Parc-Extension city councillor Mary Deros. Deros, who also serves on Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s executive committee as the Member responsible for youth and cultural communities, informed Bell that the Pirates finally had a home on the island at Howard Park.
The city’s public works department determined that the equipment will be erected on the site of a disused baseball diamond on the northwest corner of the park. The location was chosen by city planners in part to reflect the diverse cultural character of the area. A large concentration of people of South Asian descent live nearby, originating from places like India and Pakistan where cricket is the national pastime. No further details have been released, though Bell promises more will be forthcoming once ground is broken.
“Working with the city’s boroughs and school boards we aim to create a legacy that will enable diverse communities to build on their love of cricket and pass along a cherished tradition to their children,” said Diane Jacob, RBC’s regional vice-president for Montreal and La Mauricie, in a statement made when the project was initially announced in the Spring of 2011.
In the past, the South Shore-based Pirates had to make do by improvising with whatever they could find. Their regular playing field – pitch, in cricket parlance – was hastily set up behind a chocolate factory owned by a friend of Bell’s. To train their batsmen, the team would have to make the long trek up to a baseball batting cage in Laval in order to practice. The trip sometimes took up to two hours depending on the traffic. Also, the machines were designed for baseballs; cricket balls are slightly smaller, stitched differently, and are half an ounce heavier.
As the team has experienced explosive growth in the four years since its inception, Bell has been actively pursuing a more sensible way to train. The team will now benefit from the same world-class training facilities normally available in cricket-mad nations such as the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka.
The facility is part of a growth strategy by Pirates founder Bell. A Scottish-born cricketing enthusiast with some truly unique experiences – he once struck a ball from Europe into Asia during a match in Turkey – he has big plans for the sport in Quebec. Bell says the Pirates have already introduced the sport to people of all ages. A recent profile on the ESPN Cricinfo website declared the Pirates to be the most ethnically diverse team on the planet. Bell is quick to point out that diversity and cricket are both intimately linked with the Canadian experience.
“The first international sporting competition of any kind was a cricket match between Canada and the US,” he says. “We have representatives of 56 nationalities in our group. If every club was more accessible, cricket would be the number one bat-and-ball sport in this country.”
The Pirates are gearing up for their annual Snow World Cup, to be held at McGill’s McTavish Reservoir on Saturday, Jan. 21.
To read the full article, click HERE.