The University of Toronto Association of Student Cricketers (UTASC) is only two years old, but has an impressive following. Created by students Beebarg Raza and Remo Reuben after the pair realised the demand for the sport on St. George campus, the club has since generated a positive response and is looking to expand.
Bilal Ahmed UTASC events coordinator, explains that due to the demand for organized cricket, the UTASC executive team decided that this year they would facilitate UTSG’s first ever cricket tournament. “This year we wanted to do… an event like a tournament and… make it kind of big and the response we got was huge,” Ahmed explained.
The tournament, hosted in the last week of January, was a test run for the club to determine if the UTASC had generated enough campus wide popularity to pursue more drop-in hours or even a league of their own on campus. Although Ahmed says that the club’s drop-in hours at the Varsity Dome and Hart House were usually packed, he was still apprehensive about the response the tournament would garner from the St. George community.
Once the executive team had organised everything for the tournament, doubts started creeping in; Ahmed recalls feeling nervous that no one was going to sign up for the event. These fears however, proved to be unfounded. “As soon as we opened registration we got a ton of requests so our initial thought was lets tone it down a bit because we don’t want to go too far fetched,” said Ahmed. He had initially only anticipated to accommodating eight teams of eight — a cap he soon had to revise to 12 due to the demand.
Working closely with facilities managers at the Athletic Center, Ahmed was able to book a space more conducive to cricket play than the spaces the UTASC had used in the past.
Ahmed says that the kind of cricket played at these facilities had to be modified significantly, which he believed would be a barrier to getting students involved in the tournament. “Cricket was being played at a very kind of toned down level, basically baseball where you have to keep everything on the ground and you basically just have to not swing 100 per cent” said Ahmed, adding, “I mean because of that people get turned off because you know obviously if you’re coming to play you want to play proper.”
UTASC partnered with the UTSU to host the tournament. Ahmed credits much of the success of the event to the creation of a team atmosphere — something sorely missing from drop-in activities.
“What we noticed is that even for drop-in cricket, people come out more if its… organized in terms of, ok I have my team you have your team and you have your team,” he said. “People… engage more in cricket when its kind of team oriented because it’s more competitive for them and gives them an incentive to show up.”
Although much of the UTASC executive team will be graduating this year, Ahmed hopes that the momentum and excitement generated by the tournament continues throughout the St. George campus, reaching the level of popularity that other universities like Ryerson and even UTM experience.
“If you compare cricket at St. George to cricket at UTM… [the latter] has lots of resources in terms of space, funding, and everything, even at Ryerson… all these universities have a lot of funding and have a lot of resources in terms of their gym space and everything,” said Ahmed. “It’s not because they have more people that play cricket than downtown St. George” he said, “I’m pretty sure there’s more people at downtown St. George that play cricket, than UTM for sure, Ryerson we can probably equal them as well.”