It’s not widely known that cricket was the first sport to be declared the National Sport of Canada.
And while it’s never been seen as one of the dominant sports in Canadian culture – at least, not since anyone alive today can remember – it is seeing somewhat of a boom these days.
So much so, in fact, the once thriving Campbell River Cricket Club that folded almost a decade ago has been reborn and is practicing twice weekly at the Carihi baseball diamond.
It’s not ideal, according to club president Jim Bagley, but they’ll make it work for now.
“We’ve been working with the city to try and get a pitch,” Bagley says. “We’ve been making some progress, but we’ll have to see how it goes. Getting a wicket around here would be absolutely fantastic.”
The team has been travelling down to Qualicum Beach to play, because there simply aren’t many places closer where a match will physically fit.
“You need a big field,” Bagley says. “The boundary goes 50 metres in every direction, so you need more than the size of a soccer pitch to play, which makes it somewhat cumbersome. Right now, if we want to play here, we need to rent two soccer fields side-by-side for six hours.”
But that’s exactly what they’ll do, when it’s an option. In fact, the team is set to host its first home game on Aug. 21 at Willow Point Park, “if we can manage to get all our ducks in a row, so to speak,” Bagley says with a chuckle.
The good news is that they won’t have to worry about having enough players.
A team consists of 11 players, and the club’s mailing list is over 30. There are even some players who make the trek up from the Comox Valley on Monday and Thursday evenings.
“There’s a lot of interest, for sure,” Bagley says, adding that he can easily see it becoming a North Island squad, and then splitting back up into smaller clubs once membership gets too high. There used to be clubs all over, he says. There was one here, one in Courtenay, and one in Sayward.
He’d like to see that happen again. And he thinks it’s on its way.
So does ex-club president Eiko Jones, who was involved with the club back in the 1990s and 2000s. He’s been hearing from people once in a while over the years about their interest in playing, but not in enough numbers to re-form the club. Recently, however, he felt that there was maybe enough interest again, so he called Bagley to see what he thought.
They decided to give it a shot, and started recruiting a few people here and there. Once word got out that there might be a club forming, it quickly escalated.
“I think there was always the interest, but it needed a spark,” Jones says. “There’s a bunch of young guys around now who want to play. I used to be the young guy, and I’m sure not anymore.”
While the club continues to work with the city on a place to call home more permanently, Bagley says there’s an open invitation for anyone who wants to try the game to show up on Monday or Thursday evening starting at 6 p.m. at Carihi.
“You don’t need any gear and you don’t need to know anything about the game,” he says. “We’ve got everything you need to play, and you can learn as you go along.
“Just come on out.”
For more information, you can join the team’s Facebook group by searching Campbell River Cricket Club or reach Bagley directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org