By Ria Sidhu

For many sports in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), there are enough (or an adequate amount) of facilities and spaces for players to play their respective sports. Hockey players have their arenas, basketball players have their courts, and soccer players have their fields and eventually domes that go up in the winter. But when it comes to batting, bowling and spinning, there is evidently a cricket facility shortage. 

As of 2021, South Asian Canadians formed 19 per cent of the Greater Toronto Area’s population. Time and time again, cricket has been named “one of the fastest-growing sports across the region” by the City of Toronto and other news publications. The sport’s popularity and growth have reflected the city’s diverse demographics of players from India, Pakistan, and the West Indies. But, players from the east to the west feel like there are not enough facilities for them or their children to play at. Despite the sport’s continued enthusiasm and growing popularity, the lack of facilities and existing infrastructure falls short of accommodating the demand. 

In early 2023, BlogTO and CP24 reported a new ‘world-class’ sports facility that was expected to come to Brampton. This new facility has been planned to be redeveloped at the existing CAA Centre, owned by the City of Brampton and located between Kennedy Road, Highway 410 and Highway 407, just west of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The facility, which accommodates 5,000 seats, is anticipated to undergo redevelopment into a multi-recreational sports complex capable of hosting 20,000 spectators. Although there have been several rumours and Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown has shown interest in building a new recreation centre, there is no set date for when it will be finished. Some players are skeptical about how much the new facility will truly benefit them when it’s built. 

Ratan Kumar Gopishetty, captain of Diamond Cricket Club, travels over 30 minutes from Whitby, Ont. to Markham, Ont. to practice with his team. Over time, Ratan has noticed Pickering, Ont.’s three-lane facility which costs somewhere between $65 – $70 to rent one lane per hour is usually booked well in advance. He feels as though the GTA needs 30 to 40 per cent more pitching lanes and cricket grounds for players like him and his teammates to practice at. Not enough facilities force him and his team to travel to Yarl Cedarwood Park in Markham, Ont, an estimated 40-kilometre commute just to practice with his team. 

Sanjayan Thuraisingam, an award-winning Tamil-Canadian cricketer started ActionZone Indoor in Scarborough, Ont. for the same reason; his love for the sport and wanting to pass on knowledge and skill to the next generation. ActionZone Indoor is a multipurpose indoor sports facility located in Scarborough, Ont. that welcomes players interested in volleyball, badminton, and cricket. After COVID-19, Thuraisingam has been forced to downsize his facility due to the increasing rent costs but continues to train a wide range of players from under 10 to under 18 age groups. Over the years, ActionZone has served as a beacon for cricket enthusiasts which offers specialized training and competition opportunities. 

Parents of young people looking to get into the sport have also been affected. With selective facilities scattered across the GTA, parents of young players are forced to travel far distances to provide their children with opportunities to play, practice, and compete.  

Over the last two and a half years, Sandeep and Teena have been travelling over 30 kilometres to bring their 10 year old son Vihaan to ActionZone. For their love of the sport, Sandeep, Teena, and Vihaan come to ActionZone three days a week to practice and nurture Vihaan’s passion for the sport. 

The challenges faced by Sandeep, Teena, and Vihaan in accessing quality cricket facilities are echoed by Shiv Persaud, president of the Scarborough Cricket Association, who has taken proactive steps to address this issue. Recognizing the growing demand for cricket among youth in the community, Shiv has started a youth development program out of the Malvern Family Resource Centre. The program runs out of a multipurpose gymnasium in the Malvern neighbourhood of Scarborough, Ont. With six girls and three boys enrolled by the program’s second week, Shiv’s passion behind starting the program was his passion for the sport and the potential he sees in future generations. “We don’t have the facilities that meet the demand that we’re having for cricket…there’s an insufficient amount of facilities for outdoors for the cricket fields during the summer months and there definitely is not enough in the winter time,” said Shiv in an interview.

The Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, mentioned multiple times how bringing this multi-million dollar multi-sports complex to Brampton would be a money maker on multiple levels. Doing this would also increase and incentivize tourism in the Greater Toronto Area. On the east, more funding and spaces to play would allow players, families, and coaches to play the sport they love, the same way we see other sports being played and loved. 

In response to the observed inadequacy of cricket facilities and funding, stakeholders are actively exploring potential remedies and sponsorships. While there are a variety of grants and funding avenues available, the majority are characterised by short-term durations and privately owned administrations. Notably, during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the Sport Support Program (SSP) granted Cricket Canada $104,550.00. Additionally, the Ontario Amatuer Sport Fund (OASF) provides funding to eligible and recognized provincial sports and multi-sport organizations.