International students, newcomers welcomed on the cricket pitch
Our club is more than just cricket; it is a bridge to a great experience in Sault Ste. Marie, says club founder and seven-year Sault resident, Duane Moleni.
The idea to form the Sault Ste. Marie Cricket Club in the northern Ontario city was born during the 7th annual Passport to Unity Multicultural Festival.
Moleni, who grew up playing the game in New Zealand, has played a significant part in planning and organizing the festival. He describes the inclusion of a cricket exhibition in the 2013 event as the genesis of the club.
“I thought it would be a fun idea to incorporate cricket into (the festival). I thought we would get maybe 10 to 20 people come out to try it, turns out we had about 100 people come to take part and watch.”
Because of this interest, Moleni reached out to a few people in the community and he found an enthusiastic response.
It is the growth of newcomers and international students from various countries that is the first factor he cites in the establishment of the club.
Algoma University and Sault College are very actively recruiting international students from countries where cricket is the either the played.
Another interesting and supportive connection: in 2007, Essar Steel of India invested more than $1.5 billion in local steel producer, Algoma Steel.
Across Canada, increasing numbers of newcomers from cricket-playing nations have made cricket one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and now Sault Ste. Marie is a part of that wave of interest.
Students have formed an integral part of the club, with the Algoma University Students Association forming a branch/arm of the club on campus. “We are able to help bring international students off campus and experience community life, and all through the sport of cricket.”
Moleni explains that the club brings students together to play with working professionals and business owners in the city, building bridges and easing the transition for the newest arrivals to the city.
The Ontario Cricket Association provided the club with Associate Member status.
Official recognition fostered the embrace and support of the local community and all else has flowed from there.
“The City of Sault Ste. Marie has been fabulous...the space and preparing of the pitch and maintenance of the field have been undertaken by city staff with no cost to the club.
“This has helped the club keep playing free, which was seen as important in the first year so we can get interest up and build the number of members.”
Having a dedicated space to play has also meant a consistent playing schedule.
Through social media and word of mouth, club members and the curious know when and where cricket will be played on a consistent basis.
The club has even taken to playing indoors, with a slightly modified game as required by the available space.
“Feedback from all members of the club is positive in the sense that getting to play indoors over the winter is so much more preferable to not playing at all.”
The establishment of the club parallels the establishment and growth of clubs in other northern communities.
“We (clubs from North Bay, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie) are now beginning to talk about how we can work together to grow the profile of cricket in the north and how we can connect regularly by scheduling tournaments and matches with one another.”
The future looks bright for cricket in northern Ontario.
Following up on the success of an inaugural tournament in North Bay this past August, the club is looking to host a tournament during next year’s Passport to Unity festival.
The clubs have also floated the idea of creating a northern team to travel and challenge teams in southern Ontario.
“Northern Ontario is cold, the climate can be harsh, but everywhere in Canada the climate is going to be something you will need to adjust to,” says Moleni.
“There is a sense of community here. The cricket club can be more than just the sport, it can help build bridges into the community; it can help foster friendships and unearth commonalities you may never have thought existed.”
– Jason Brennan
• To find out more about studying in Canada, visit Canadian University Application Centre’s website at www.canada123.org.
Posted: Oct 30, 2013