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This article was published 7/8/2011 (3361 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With every new player, the Brandon Cricket Club has slowly grown from a small grassroots organization to a serious club on a mission.
With 40 members and counting, the BCC has its sights set on the development of a true cricket pitch; a first in Brandon and a first for its players who have made the field at Kirkcaldy Heights School their unofficial pitch despite its bumpy, unpredictable terrain.
"We're a serious team and we really want to expand the sport here in Brandon," club spokesperson Naseer Malik told the Sun. "It's a good way to attract new people to come to the community. We really feel cricket is a huge selling point. When people come, they look at the community and say, 'OK, you have this program and that program but you don't have cricket, and I really miss playing it.' Like they say hockey is a way of life here -- well, it's the same thing as cricket in many other countries."
BCC, formerly the Brandon University Cricket Club, was established in 2003 but the club has struggled to feel at home anywhere since.
Some schools have turned the club away outright, while during winter months, renting a gym for $50 per hour is an added expense modest annual member fees just don't cover. Raising the fees, which also cover equipment costs, isn't a quick fix either, Malik says. Of the 22 players on the field Sunday afternoon, the eldest was in his 60s and the youngest was a teenager who isn't likely able to afford much more to cover the fees.
With their hopes set on developing a true cricket pitch, BCC invited Mayor Shari Decter Hirst out Sunday to take in her first-ever cricket match.
After a brief education on "the gentleman's game," Decter Hirst said she was surprised to learn that dozens of local cricket enthusiasts faithfully come out on Sundays to play the sport they love.
To officially introduce cricket and the BCC to Brandon residents through the development of a pitch makes sense given the multicultural face of Brandon, the mayor said.
"Obviously the interest in cricket is here ... and we should be looking at this as part of our recreational strategy for the community," Decter Hirst told the Sun. "(Cricket) wasn't mentioned in previous recreation plans, but as Brandon is becoming more multicultural, we better pull our socks up."
A commitment from the city would mean that the Manitoba Cricket Association would consider funding for the BCC.
A proper pitch would cost about $2,000 and Malik says the pitch alone would put the club on the map as a serious competitor in the provincial league.
League rules stipulate each team must commit to nine matches per season. Without a dedicated pitch in Brandon, the team would have to travel to Winnipeg every second week for a match.
Christopher Walwin moved to Canada from England nearly a decade ago. The Miniota resident travels to Brandon every Sunday to play the sport he has loved since he was a boy. As a farmer, travelling to Brandon is manageable, but anything further is out of the question.
If the games were split between Brandon and Winnipeg, Malik and Walwin say BCC would be happy to join the provincial league.
"Right now the Winnipeg teams refuse to come out to Brandon ... we can't really blame them," Malik said. "The pitch is so uneven, there are holes all over it. You can't predict where the ball is going to bounce. It can be very dangerous and unfortunately accidents do happen out here."
Upon seeing the pitch, which BCC members dutifully mow and set up before each match, Decter Hirst says she can't blame the Winnipeg-based teams for not wanting to come to Brandon.
A proper pitch, therefore, could be a great addition to the city's recreational offerings, she says.
"The big picture things is what intrigues me because of course, you use recreation to recruit people to your community and again, the quality of life is an important characteristic in Brandon," she said. "If we want to have people who are passionate about cricket considering Brandon as a place to live and work and raise their families, we need to have a team and a proper pitch."
At first blush, Decter Hirst says the parcel of land at Veterans Way could be an ideal spot for a cricket pitch.
Cricket was declared Canada's national sport in 1867 by Sir John A. Macdonald, but the mounting influence of baseball and hockey soon saw Canadian cricket enthusiasts left far behind.
BCC members, the majority who are now Brandon residents, hail from countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, England, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies, where cricket is king among sports.
With more than 40,000 registered players across the country and perhaps 50,000 more who are not registered in any league, according to Cricket Canada, the sport has been labelled as the fastest growing sport in the country.
Anyone interested in participating or learning more about cricket in Brandon can check out the BCC website and on Facebook.
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