Canada, along with hosts Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Panama will compete in a double round-robin format from Sept. 30-Oct.7 with the winner earning the final Americas spot at next year’s T20 men’s World Cup hosted by the United States and the West Indies.
No. 19 Canada has never qualified for biggest stage in sport’s popular faster-paced format
Marcus Rebelo · CBC Sports
Canada’s men’s national cricket team knows what’s at stake.
A victory at the ICC (International Cricket Council) men’s T20 World Cup Americas Regional Final Qualifier would end the nation’s 13-year World Cup drought.
“None of us in the squad have played [in] a World Cup before … it’s a dream [for] everybody in the squad to represent Canada in the World Cup,” captain Saad Bin Zafar told CBC Sports from Houston, where the Canadian men’s team was hosting pre-qualifying training and practice sessions.
Canada, ranked No. 19 in the world in men’s T20 cricket, has never qualified for the biggest stage in the sport’s popular faster-paced format. The Canadian men have previously made four Cricket World Cup appearances (1979, 2003, 2007, 2011) — never advancing past the first round in the marquee event of One Day International (ODI) cricket.
Canada, along with hosts Bermuda (No. 32), Cayman Islands (No. 38) and Panama (No. 70) will compete in a double round-robin format from Sept. 30-Oct.7 with the winner earning the final Americas spot at next year’s T20 tournament hosted by the United States and the West Indies.
“We are ranked higher than the other teams so we feel very confident but at the same time … we have to make sure that we play our best cricket on the field everyday during the competition in order for us to win,” said Zafar, a 36-year-old all-rounder, who also helped the Canadian men regain their ODI status in April by finishing top four at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier Playoff.
“Everybody knows the opportunity and that the possibility of playing in the World Cup relies on this tournament.”
‘It’s some of the best cricket we will ever play’
The 2024 edition of the men’s T20 World Cup is set to be the biggest one yet, featuring 20 teams in total. It will also be the first ICC World Cup event to feature matches in the U.S. with Dallas, Miami and New York selected as host cities.
North of the border this past summer saw the return of the Global T20 Canada tournament in Brampton, Ont., a prestigious event that attracted several international cricket stars to play alongside Canada’s top players.
Canadian all-rounder Harsh Thaker, who has been a member of the national team since 2019, was recognized as the emerging Canadian player for the Vancouver Knights at the tournament.
“I think it’s huge playing [in] a tournament like GT20, I think it’s some of the best cricket we will ever play,” Thaker told CBC Sports. “Guys have prepared against some of the best players in the world. The players that are in that tournament are top notch. Just being in that environment is huge.”
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Canadian men’s national team head coach Pubudu Dassanayake also highlighted the league’s importance to Canada’s World Cup T20 qualifying campaign and identifying talent.
“We are so happy that some of the top players in our national team players performed really well [and] led their team in the GT20 [tournament],” Dassanayake told CBC Sports. Dassanayake returned for a second stint as Canada men’s cricket head coach in July 2022. “I would say [it’s been] a great build up [to World Cup qualifying].
“Even youngsters like Dilpreet [Singh Bajwa performed well], we brought him into the squad because of that GT20 performance.”
Cricket’s potential Olympic return
A first-ever appearance at the T20 World Cup for the Canadian men next year could be the start of a potential Olympic qualification bid.
Cricket — in its shortened T20 format — is set for a possible return at the Los Angeles 2028 Games that would mark the sport’s Olympic return after a 128-year absence.
Zafar, the Canadian men’s national team captain, believes the potential of cricket at the Olympic Games would open up more opportunities for Cricket Canada, but still remains focused alongside his teammates in helping the program secure a historic berth at the T20 men’s World Cup.
“When I heard the news I felt really happy about it — being part of an Olympic sport that will open a lot of opportunities and possibilities of raising funds and sponsorships, I think it’s a huge opportunity. Again, it’s [also] my dream as well to represent Canada in the World Cup. Everybody’s in a good mood and they’re ready to perform at their best and give their best once the [qualifying] tournament starts.”
- Aaron Johnson
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- Dilon Heyliger
- Harsh Thaker
- Jeremy Gordon
- Kaleem Sana-Ur-Rehman
- Nicholas Kirton
- Nikhil Dutta
- Pargat Singh
- Navneet Dhaliwal
- Saad Bin Zafar
- Shahid Ahmadzai
- Shreyas Movva
- Srimantha Wijeyeratne
- Ammar Khalid