x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Multi-cultural Canadians cross boundaries at World Cup

It is Gunasekera's turn in the spotlight in a rainbow nation with players born in seven different countries, from India to Uganda.

Ruvindu Gunasekera, the Canadian cricketer, is determined to help his team make a name for themselves at the World Cup. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
Ruvindu Gunasekera, the Canadian cricketer, is determined to help his team make a name for themselves at the World Cup. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

COLOMBO // The battle for bragging rights between the four Asian nations is one of the main driving forces at work in this World Cup.

Oddly, that local pride is unlikely to be manifest more keenly anywhere than in the Canadian team dressing room.

Canada's national cricket team is a triumph for multi-culturalism. Their 15-man squad includes players born in seven different nations, from cricketing strongholds such as India, Pakistan and Australia, to Uganda.

Only three players were born in the country they represent, and one of those, John Davison, has lived most of his life in Australia.

Six of their contingent brought local knowledge to bear when they played in India against Zimbabwe last week; today it is the turn of Ruvindu Gunasekera.

The left-handed opening batsman was born in Colombo and plays his club cricket against Sri Lanka's finest players in the city's A Division competition.

"I was really happy to get this chance to play here, but I just want to help my team make a name for itself and not have the name of so-called minnows of the World Cup," he said yesterday.

Gunasekera, 19, is planning to put his business studies degree at the University of Toronto on hold to try to make a go of life as a professional cricketer.

Committing to the professional game is not easy for players from non-Test nations. For example, Canada's captain Ashish Bagai, has chosen to put a lucrative career in investment banking on hold to give his best to cricket while he can.

"My first love is cricket and I would really love to see if I can make it in professional cricket," Gunasekera said. "I would love to make a professional cricket career. At my age, just 19, it is a different story [to Bagai]. For now I think I can be a little flexible between studies and cricket for the next five years."

Gunasekera moved to Canada with his family when he was nine, after he had learnt the rudiments of the game in the land of his birth from his father, Niron, who represented Sri Lanka A in the past.

His presence in the Canada line-up is not the only reason they might get the backing of the home support against Pakistan at the R Premadasa Stadium today.

They are also coached by two former Sri Lanka Test players, Pubudu Dissanayake and Chandika Hathurusinghe, the former UAE coach.

Given all the imported knowledge, one might presume the Canada side lack a common purpose. Not so, said Gunasekera.

"Everyone supports each other in the team," he said. "It is not like the Sri Lankans look out for the Sri Lankans.

"When we are out there we are all Canadians, we don't think 'Oh, he's Indian or he's Pakistani'. We are used to multiculturalism, especially in Toronto where there are a lot of diverse communities."

Given their cosmopolitan make-up, Canada usually have the bases covered when it comes to insider knowledge on their opposition. However, Davison said coaxing information from Pakistan-born Rizwan Cheema and Khurram Chohan, has been tough.

"Two of the Pakistani players ... are quite shy guys," he said. "It takes a lot of prodding to get much information out of them."