Everything we know about the celebrity players competing in Toronto’s first major cricket tournament
Soccer is gaining some traction as a professional sport in North America, and now cricket wants a piece of the action. The game, a distant cousin of baseball, is popular in other former British colonies, but Canada has never taken to it. Now, a group of cricket enthusiasts and businesspeople is trying to change that.
Cricket Canada, in partnership with an Indian sports marketing and management company called Mercuri, has organized what may be Canada’s first international cricket event of any consequence. The three-week tournament, called Global T20 Canada, is currently underway at the Maple Leaf Cricket Club, in King, Ontario. (Tickets are available.) In addition to homegrown talent, the tournament’s six teams will include some well-known international cricket players—heavy hitters from countries where the game is adored. Who are these legends of the cricket pitch? We found out.
Darren Sammy, 34
Although Sammy, who comes from St. Lucia, is a respectable batsman and a solid bowler, his true renown stems from when he led the West Indies team to two wins in World Twenty20, an international cricket championship, in 2012 and 2016. To date, West Indies is the only team to have won the tournament twice, which might explain why St. Lucian authorities rechristened the famous Beauséjour Cricket Ground as the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in 2016.
Chris Gayle, 38
Gayle is one of the most ferocious batsmen on the West Indies team, known for his unparalleled ability to hit sixes (where the ball sails clean out of the stadium after being hit) and fours (where the ball reaches the boundary of the field before someone from the opposing team catches it). He’s the first cricketer ever to score a century (100 or more runs in a single inning) in every form of the game, from international competitions like the Twenty20 to bilateral test matches, where national teams play games that can last as long as five days. Fans still reminisce with pride about Gayle’s 2009 six against legendary bowler Brett Lee, when Gayle struck the ball so hard that it flew out of the stadium and landed in a nearby schoolyard.
Lasith Malinga, 34
Malinga is one of the Sri Lankan team’s most adored bowlers, and not just because of his bleached hair and his habit of kissing the ball before he lets it rip. He has a knack for adapting his bowling technique to surprise the opposing team, and in 2014 he led Sri Lanka to a win in the World Twenty20. A recent spate of injuries means his future with the sport is in question, so this tournament might be a final chance to catch him doing his thing on the field.
Shahid Afridi, 38
Pakistan’s Afridi has a batting style so explosive that most fans call him Boom Boom. He’s an all-rounder (meaning he both bats and bowls, instead of specializing in one or the other) and a master of leg-spin bowling, where the bowler uses his wrist to put some spin on the ball, making it zoom inwards as it approaches the batter. His relationship with the sport is complicated: he has retired from one or another form of cricket at least five times to date, but he has always returned. His most recent declaration of “retirement” from international cricket was in February 2017.
Chris Lynn, 28
With a record for the most sixes in Australia’s professional T20 cricket league, Lynn has quite the reputation. But his spectacular dives on the field have led to serious rotator cuff injuries, the latest of which was in February of this year. Don’t count him out just yet, though: he’s young, and fans are still raving about how he scored a century in 2010, when he was just 19 years old.
David Miller, 29
Miller (not to be confused with the former Toronto mayor) is an up-and-comer from South Africa who’s famous for his ability to clear the boundary for sixes. He’s also famous for pithy soundbites, like 2013’s “If it’s in the arc, it’s out the park”—a reference to how he gauges his ability to land the six. His in-game stats and track record aren’t great enough that he has been approached to play in lengthy international test matches yet, but he’s still a major threat on the field.
Andre Russell, 30
Where many bowlers use the spin and rotation of the ball to defeat batsmen, Russell, who is from Jamaica, is a pace bowler, which means he more often relies on pure speed and the rhythm of the throw itself. This tendency, combined with his characteristic mohawk, has given him a reputation for showmanship, cemented in 2013 when he became the first (and, to date, only) bowler in T20 history to snatch four wickets in four balls. (“Snatching a wicket,” in cricket, means, basically, striking a batter out.) Last year, Russell was banned for doping. With the ban lifted, fans are hoping for a spectacular comeback.
Narine first rose to prominence in 2009 after he bagged all ten wickets in a trial match and was immediately approached by Trinidad and Tobago’s national team. His calling card is off spin, which is when a bowler uses spin that makes the ball veer outside of the batsman’s natural area of focus, forcing him to move his resting leg to hit the ball. Narine has been dubbed the “mystery bowler” for his tendency to use techniques that play fast and loose with the rulebook—so fast and loose that he was actually suspended from bowling in 2014 and 2015 for illegal actions on the field. Chances are high he’ll bring out a trick or two in the upcoming matches.
League fans know Bravo as a triple threat: he bats powerfully and bowls well, and he’s adept at fielding. He’s also a musician: he has released three singles, the latest of which came out in April. It’s a breezy dancehall tune called “Run D World.”