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Score a sixer with Last Man Stands Canada's new university cricket league

League to help promote inclusivity and provide sense of belonging for international students from cricketing countries.
Pitching inclusion: Last Man Stands Canada is hosting a debut cricket tournament for university students in British Columbia. Photo: Jennifer Gauthier

I remember the time I stepped off the plane on arrival in Canada — my heart pounding with both excitement and fear of navigating a completely alien land.

For months afterward, while I tried to immerse myself in multiculturalism, my heart also longed to find a connection to home.

That longing meant scouting for food that tasted and smelled like the kind I grew up with, and craving other sights, sounds and tastes of of home. Then one summer day, my ears picked up a language that sounded familiar. Before long I found the source of the sounds, stopping in my tracks at the sight of a few brown-skinned people playing cricket right outside their homes, just with a small tennis ball and a wooden bat. 

This was the kind of sight I'd been looking for. And, for many other newcomers to Canada, especially from other Commonwealth countries, watching or playing gully (street) cricket provides an instant antidote for acute homesickness.

In the Lower Mainland, as cricket becomes more popular in the area — with clubs like IndCan building inclusive communities for cricket lovers and amateur leagues with quirky, unconventional rules like Last Man Stands (LMS Canada), delivering sixer leagues — there are more opportunities for newcomers to find their connection to home.

With the intention of providing an equal playing field for cricket aspirants of all ages and skill levels to play the sport at a professional level, LMS Canada is introducing a new league this cricket season.

The league will cater exclusively to university and college students across Canada, many of whom are new international students, and give them an opportunity to enjoy the sport.

The debut Last Man Stands Canada University/College cricket league will begin its 2023 season in early July, according to Emrul Hasan, director of strategy with LMS Canada.

Hasan, in a conversation with the NOW, highlighted how the league could be a game-changer for students, especially International students from different cricketing backgrounds.

“It took me seven years to find a club when I first came to Canada,” said Hasan, who hails from Bangladesh. “I have a student who landed in the morning and played in the evening.

"We are trying to overcome different barriers for these newcomers: language barriers, financial barriers, awareness barriers, [as many students] don’t even know they could come and play in a league and transportation barriers.”

For the inaugural season, the organizers said they are reaching out to about 35 universities and colleges all over British Columbia — including the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Simon Fraser University. Some of the universities have already expressed their interest and signed up their teams, Hasan said, while other students from some universities are waiting to be funded.

Organizers at LMS Canada hope that universities can foster an inclusive environment for international students by promoting cricket at a university level.

“When we [come as international students], we are very alone, to be honest,” Hasan said. “At the beginning, there’s a big cultural shock right away. I attended a newcomer workshop by Sport for Life about how can we integrate them better — one way of doing this is actually connecting with people from your culture.”

For example, there is one student from Hyderabad, India, he said. “A polite and quiet guy, and he started playing with us for a floater team. But eventually he went to this team called Hyderabad Cricket Club where there are some senior players already in some companies that can guide him through his career. This is fantastic to watch.”

When the league received a government funding from the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) to help newcomers in Canada to play for free, Hasan realized many were international students who could benefit from a larger-scale university league. So, along with his partner, Hasan got working in early May to introduce the larger university league, slated to begin in a few weeks.

The league will run in addition to the regular 2023 early risers season, which is already in full swing in Burnaby.