With Christmas only a few days away I cannot help but reflect on an amazing year.
We moved to Canada towards the end of 2015, and I don’t think we have slowed down for one second. Some highlights include opening ONEseven Sports Centre and our sports store, touring Trinidad with the Ontario Cricket Academy U-15 Squad, and coach Derek Perera taking the ICC Americas Team to the Caribbean for the Nagico Super50 competition. We also hosted the Ultimate Sports Coaching Camp in India with our business partner Yeragaselvan Kumarasamy of Golden Goose Sports, with legend coaches Lance Klusener, Courtney Walsh, Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje as part of our team. The Mississauga International Youth Festival was held at our home ground Courtneypark on turf for the first time ever, with teams from USA crossing the border for the inaugural event. This was followed by the Mississauga Cricket Festival under lights, and on the personal front, I was named Head Coach of the Canadian National Team, with a successful tour to Los Angeles for the Auty Cup. Of course I have to mention our OCA Super Elite team qualifying for the T20 Final for the first time in the club’s history, and the exciting news that we partnered with Peshawar Zalmi, another exciting pathway to pro cricket through our system.
Typing all of this just made me realize what a crazy year it has been. Through all the excitement, setting and achieving one goal at a time, my mind sometimes just wanders off, and it really got me thinking. OCA produced the first pro player in Canada, Nikhil Dutta, who started at OCA as a little boy. This year’s U-19 Canadian Captain Abraash Khan also came through this system. Over the years Derek has sent his academy boys to Loughborough University in England, to New Zealand, Sri Lanka and even South Africa. I have only named a few, there are countless success stories. I have seen an 11year old boy winning a game with the ball in Trinidad in an U-15 match. A 13 year old wonder-kid scoring three hundreds in a season. I’m standing there thinking, man, if they were only in South Africa, India, Australia, any of the test playing nations, they would be right up there. It amazes me how many good cricketers there are around the world. It also reminds me how fortunate you are if you managed to make it to the top, and played professional cricket. It sure makes you appreciate the people and support systems that got you there too. Just last week I witnessed a mother feeding her 10 year old son bowling machine balls for two hours. Incredible. Parents actually helped us build ONEseven Sports Centre, and by that I mean, physically helped putting up nets, gluing carpet, and bringing us food at 2am while we were drilling holes and doing framework. This is what we have around us, people who will do anything for each other, to give their own, and other children, everything they need to succeed.
Another side of it that I really enjoyed was seeing new members join the academy. Kids not knowing how to hold a bat, or how to bowl a ball. Fast-forward a couple of months, and they are charging in off long run-ups, taking their first ever wicket in the PRCL league, and hacking balls over midwicket. That is the true joy of this, and why I love sport. There is nothing quite like seeing a kid’s face as he looks up after doing something he has never done before.
It is certainly not lost on me nor do I take for granted the fact that we are doing what we love, every single day, I know it is a rare thing. But society demands perfection, and the amount of pressure on the Millennial Generation is immense. Winning, in every walk of life, seems to be the driving force behind everything, and people will go to all ends of the earth just to get ahead. I am all for excellence, and I do love winning. But I don’t agree with all of it. In saying that, you have to be totally ignorant not to realize that the world has changed, a lot. What we do is therefore so important, and it all comes with massive responsibility. We aren’t merely coaching cricket. We are shaping the future. We are molding tomorrow’s leaders. Sure, it’s all been quite new to me, being from South Africa, so set in our ways, our culture, our habits, the flawed paradigms enforced on us since childhood because of our troubled past. I’ll always be a South African, and I will always be proud of it. But let me tell you something, I have become a better person since moving here, and to be perfectly honest, it is hard not to. Canada is quite possibly the greatest country in the world, and the Ontario Cricket Academy, is right in the heart of it.