Burnaby's INDCAN cricket club has been sharing the joy of the sport through a welcoming, community-focused approach for over 15 years. (INDCAN/ Supplied)

A game of passion: Burnaby cricket lovers connect sport to homelands

Burnaby's INDCAN cricket club has been sharing the joy of the sport through a welcoming, community-focused approach for over 15 years.

By Curtis Seufert | August 5, 2022 |5:00 am

When Sanjay Morar first came to Canada from Zimbabwe in 2000, he was happy to find that he could continue to sate his passion for cricket.

Having played at a high level for many years in his home country, sometimes on an international stage, Morar found the growing cricket scene in Canada to be competitively fulfilling.

But he says that the passionate and competitive nature of Canadian cricket would sometimes lead to a “winning is everything” mentality among its competitors, at least back in the early 2000s.

So when he and a few others founded INDCAN Cricket Club over 15 years ago, it was meant to be a space for him and some Indian university students to play cricket with a greater balance of competition and community. But since then, the Burnaby-based non-profit club has grown into a thriving hub with four teams, dozens of players, and a deeply invested community.

“There wasn’t a club that suited my approach to cricket, which is pretty much all about respecting the traditions of the game,” said Morar. “So when an opportunity came to start a club with another group of individuals that felt the same way, I grabbed that opportunity.”

Today, INDCAN’s four teams play within the BC Mainland Cricket League, competing with over 30 other clubs throughout the Lower Mainland. Morar says INDCAN remains just as invested in competing with others as it is in bringing people together.

At one of INDCAN’s games this week, they hosted a Family Day picnic meet-up where teammates, friends and families, and anyone else could drop by to learn about the sport and meet people in a relaxed environment.

cricket
INDCAN looks to bring players, family and community together with events like Family Days. (INDCAN Cricket club)

Morar says he was partly inspired by village-level cricket in England, where the spectator sport is the perfect excuse for a community gathering event with food and drink.

“It’s an opportunity for all the teams to be there on the day with their families, provide everybody an opportunity to mix and mingle,” said Morar. “Just cool, fun stuff for people to actively participate in and give back to their club as well.”

The club’s welcoming approach has also allowed people to become more involved in the game itself. For example, batter Rashi Allot joined the team after seeing her husband play, and has since been selected to represent BC and play against other provinces for selection to the national team.

Morar laughs that it’s a little “unfortunate” that the INDCAN name has stuck over the years, since the club has grown to include players and coaches from various South Asian backgrounds, and is meant to be inclusive to all who are interested.

But as one might expect, Morar says the people who are typically most interested in the club are those who are already familiar with the sport.

“It is unfortunately only predominantly played [here] by people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka,” said Morar. “We’d love more Canadians to get involved at some stage.”

While Allot herself hadn’t played much before joining the team, she has a family history with cricket: both her sister Saloni and late father Bhojraj played the sport at a high level.

And while the club aims to be open to all, Morar says they’re generally looking for players with at least some experience already, since it can be difficult to introduce and train newcomers given the limited resources that are available to the team.

In particular, Morar says there are only two cricket grounds in Burnaby, meaning just two spaces that everyone has to share for practice and play. Finding the time and space to teach the sport to those with less experience can be a challenge.

“I think some cities have done well to develop more and more grounds, and essentially that’s what it all boils down to is the maintenance of cricket grounds,” said Morar.

But Morar says the city has to meet the demands of all Burnabians, and there are only so many people who are interested in the sport.

For now, the club has looked to grow and bring in community interest through a number of events and opportunities, like teaching kids about the sport with some practice opportunities at Family Days, as well as showing off cricket at Burnaby school sports days.

And while Morar hopes to see increasing interest in the sport, in the meantime the club provides a welcome hub for community members who know and love cricket, as well as their friends and family.

“[I’m] grateful and thankful that there are facilities in Burnaby for us to participate. Although we’d love more facilities I think it’s difficult for them to satisfy the demand,” said Morar.

“We do have a fair number of Burnaby residents, but not enough to say ‘Hey, they need more facilities.’ But we want it to grow.”

Curtis Seufert

Curtis is a summer editorial intern with Burnaby Beacon.

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