Cricket is now officially a part of Ontario’s physical education curriculum.
The Ontario Schools Cricket Association (OSCA) has provided equipment and teacher training to 50 schools that will implement the sport in their curriculum this fall. The provincial government announced in September that it is officially adding cricket to its Phys-ed curriculum and plans to bring the sport to all schools in the future.
The OSCA secured sponsorship from the Canadian Tire Corporation and a grant from the Ontario government to be able to provide free cricket equipment to schools. The organization formed as an offshoot of the Canadian branch of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, which has been involved in youth cricket as corporate social responsibility for years. The OSCA became an official entity in 2020 and has been working to get cricket in schools and promote youth physical and mental health with the sport.
Namita Kanishkan, a member of the OSCA board of directors, said she is excited about the progress of the organization’s mission.
“We are very pleased by the sponsorship we have received, and most of the schools are on board because everything is sponsored,” she said.
The OSCA secured equipment for 50 initial schools and held an online seminar for educators with plans to expand the sport provincewide. The group also worked for a grant from the province.
Kanishkan said that the OSCA’s goal is to promote healthy living and character development in kids.
“Our mission is to reach out to all the students and to create leadership, and [in] marginalized kids to get them out of their comfort zone,” she said. “We find at a certain age group that the kids do not pursue extracurricular activities [and] recreational sports. So we are trying to get sponsors and pursue this through the schools, but using cricket as a tool.”
The OSCA also holds an extracurricular cricket program for girls to keep them active and interested in sports. It is run through school boards, and students can attend for free. Twenty schools agreed to participate in the fall 2021 term.
Kanishkan said the initiative aims to get girls involved in sport through the ages at which they typically stop participating.
“We found that girls [between nine and 15] – almost one-third drop out of extra-curricular activities [and] recreational sports,” she said. “There are a lot of issues to that: one is cultural, and another is because it’s mixed gender. So we are trying to bring in a gender-specific team and also make it more user-friendly; they are not using the actual equipment, they are using something more user-friendly.
“The reason for this is that we want to get them out like I said and empower the girls.”
While not the intended effect, former Bangladesh international cricketer Mehrab Hossain said the sport’s introduction to Ontario’s phys-ed curriculum will likely help improve Canada as a cricketing nation.
“I think it’s a huge start and huge move from a cricketer’s point of view,” he said. “If you look at other countries, that’s where cricket begins – from school. I came from my school cricket, […] and that’s how I gradually became a cricketer. It’s a huge step.”
Cricket was once a very popular sport in Canada, but its participation levels fell as baseball’s grew in the early 20th century. The country has maintained a fair reputation on the cricket world stage, but the national team lost its ability to play one day international (ODI) matches in 2014. Maintaining ODI status is an important goal for cricketing nations, as it grants access to one of the sport’s most important formats and the chance to qualify for the Cricket World Cup.
Hossain said youth programs will lead to more skilled players and an increased awareness of the game.
“Now if all the schools start playing cricket, the number of people will increase in terms of involvement,” he said. “I doubt that many local Canadians know about cricket. So now they will have an idea, and slowly it will grow interest. The more people who get involved, there’s a possibility you get more good players, and you can go from there.”
However, Kanishkan ensures the focus of OSCA’s programs is on the enjoyment and well-being of students.
“Even though our name says ‘cricket association,’ that’s not our goal,” she said. “Our goal is mental health, physical education, and physical activities, and to empower the kids.”