One of the world’s most popular sports has a long, colourful past, and a vibrant present in Victoria. Even if cricket has usually been relegated to the margins of the 21st-century Canadian sporting landscape, it is certainly alive and well on Vancouver Island.
There are an estimated 2.5 billion cricket fans worldwide, and around one billion people tuned in to the broadcast of the India versus Pakistan rivalry match last month. For perspective, the latest Super Bowl was the most watched show in U.S. television history with a measly 114 million viewers.
The 11th Cricket World Cup is currently being hosted by Australia and New Zealand, and while many North American sports fanatics may not be privy to the cricket buzz, much of the world is.
Here at UVic, philosophy professor James Young has been playing cricket for 25 years and had a hand in creating a UVic men’s team. “[There is a] surprisingly large cricket culture in Victoria” he said. “Cricket has been played in Victoria since about the middle of the 19th century.”
According to Young, Beacon Hill Cricket Grounds is the oldest cricket ground in Canada—not surprising considering the local history of the game. The Victoria and District Cricket Association website notes that only one year after Victoria’s incorporation as a city, the first cricket match was held in Beacon Hill. Reportedly, cricket was even played on the island as early as 1849 when a British Army officer arrived with cricket gear in tow.
Citing more recent history, Lenore Davis was one of the first women in Victoria to start a women’s team in 1995. Calling themselves the Wicket Maidens, Davis stresses that a sense of community is key in their game. “It’s always been the focus of the Wicket Maidens that the team is something that grows out of the club. To us, it’s the community of women playing cricket and being together in a cricket atmosphere that is the important part.”
Cricket’s story in Victoria is not relegated to the history books. In 2006, the Wicket Maidens had seven members playing on the national team. Today there are two leagues in Victoria, boasting over 25 teams in total.
But while the sport thrives here in Victoria, it still holds a reputation for being an opaque sport with many confusing rules and antiquated uniforms—a far cry from the sleek, streamlined, and commercialized playing fields of North American professional sport. However, those who play say otherwise. Young stresses that anyone interested should simply come out and try it. “It’s actually a very simple game—once you have the game explained,” he said.
The interest for Young comes with the variation of the game. As opposed to baseball where nine players stand in relatively set positions, in cricket there are an infinite number of positions on a 360 degree field. “It’s an intellectually intriguing game. There’s a delicate balance between bat and ball,” he said.
“When you first start playing cricket, what you have to realize is that it’s very different from a North American sport,” said Davis. “The vast majority of your time on a cricket pitch is spent fielding. It’s not like baseball where you’re guaranteed to get a bat in your hand three times in a game.”
Though it may not be apparent to most, cricket is an integral part of Victoria’s past and present culture. According to Davis, “Those who look for it know it’s here.”
If anyone is itching to get a cricket bat in hand, the men’s UVic team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and the Wicket Maidens at email@example.com