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Speculative Thoughts on The Future Of Sahara

Ahmad Saidullah

18 September 1998

The future of Sahara Cup in Toronto appears to be in doubt following another incident on the day of the third Sahara Cup match.

According to reports, residents and tenants in the largely white, upper-middle class Toronto Cricket Club area complained after spectators pushed aside barricades, parked their cars and milled about in restricted areas.

The volunteers who were recruited by security to look after the barriers failed to appear on the day of the match when the incident happened, a source affirmed.

It must be understood that most club members from the tennis section of the elite Toronto Cricket, Curling and Skating Club where the Sahara Cup has been staged for the last three years do not support league cricket or this tournament. Cricket in Toronto is played primarily by the Black and South Asian Canadian communities whereas the club's membership mirrors the neighbourhood. Some club members also live in the vicinity.

Club members are behind the restrictions that prevent Sahara Cup journalists from accessing the patio. Some photographers from the subcontinent who were covering the Sahara Cup were manhandled and threatened with arrest last year for trespassing in an area reserved for members. The patio is where sunburned, wrinkled men and women sip their beer and coffees in their tennis whites clutching their Dunlops and watch cricket or croquet.

Some club members resented the negative publicity resulting from the Haq incident when the Pakistani player charged and assaulted a spectator after he was taunted about his weight. Other news have been about allegations of matchfixing and betting.

Cast out for the last two years by the International Management Group (IMG) and the Toronto Cricket Club, the Canadian Cricket Association lobbied key Indian, Pakistani and ICC officials for better treated.

Dr. Edwards, President of the Canadian Cricket Association, acknowledged that there had been problems in the past but said that they had been resolved.

The Canadian Cricket Association, however, seems to have a lower profile than the club. The souvenir for the series includes very little about Canadian cricket or the national body. By contrast, Toronto Cricket Club long suspected of having designs on the control of Canadian cricket gets fairly extensive coverage. Canadian Cricket Association officials are absent at the awards ceremonies and press conferences. It is unclear if a CCA official continues to sit as a representative on the Sahara Cup committee.

Huge banners saying the Canadian Cricket Association welcomes India and Pakistan that were to be erected at either end of the ground are nowhere to be seen.

If the Sahara Cup was supposed to raise the profile of Canadian cricket, it has not succeeded. Following the government's decision to defund cricket, the CCA has limped along on a handout from the organizers, placing its emphasis on schools cricket. Canada's poor showing in the Commonwealth Games where it was dismissed for humiliatingly low scores in some games emblematizes the lack of progress.

The CCA also cancelled plans for a four-nations tournament that was to be played at Ajax Cricket Club the same year that Sahara made its debut.

There is provision in the contract for the series to be played on another venue. Until the six turf wickets are ready for the next ICC trophy, international cricket in Toronto has no future. Already sources close to IMG are speculating that the series will not be played next year.

In the meantime, the club, nearby residents and IMG are said to be gearing up for a meeting that may decide the fate of Sahara, if nothing else does.

Contributed for CricInfo by Ahmad Saidullah

Source: CricInfo
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