When was the last time you witnessed a family come together for a sport as a single team?
This is the beauty of cricket. The sport brings people together — friends, family and community — in true sportsmanship.
Cricket is well-known as a commonwealth sport; it’s popular in countries like India, England, Australia and South Africa.
What’s not so well known among Canadians is that cricket was Canada's first official sport, having been declared as such by prime minister John A. MacDonald in 1867. (It was replaced by Lacrosse not long after.)
For many immigrants, especially from South Asian communities, where the sport attracts a religious-like devotion, cricket is invested with cultural identity that helps many newcomers stay in touch with their roots.
The international league Last Man Stands (LMS) brings an opportunity for amateur cricketers to hone their skills.
LMS is the world’s widest-reaching amateur cricket league, gaining popularity worldwide with a global ambassador like AB de Villiers, former South African captain.
The league, meant for those aspiring to play cricket but whose busy schedules and life get in the way, has its own quirky rules.
As opposed to the conventional ‘playing XI,’ LMS has an eight-side team for short-format cricket, with a game lasting just two hours.
Unlike traditional nailbiting last overs, the LMS games are thrilling in a different way. Like the name suggests, the last man stands, meaning that the last wicket/person on the crease leads the team to victory (or loss).
The league was started in 2005, in England by lifetime cricketers Wayne Greve and Bjorn Briggs, and has found players and fans in different corners of the world — including for the first time in history, Canada.
After University of British Columbia professor Emrul Hasan was introduced to the league by his business partner, Redowan Chowdary, he took an interest in bringing the LMS to British Columbia.
He recognized the gap in cricketing leagues available for British Columbians and applied for a B.C. franchise in August 2021. As participation and support for the league grew locally in the initial stages, the business partners decided to franchise across the country.
The league has since expanded to different provinces, with B.C. matches held in Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby.
With the motto “It’s anybody’s game,” the organizers are encouraging members of the local community to register for the next season after a scintillating end to the debut season.
On Sept. 24, the Vancouver Vikings defeated the Okanagan Hawks cricket club in a nailbiting final, with the Vikings qualifying for the LMS World championships in South Africa from Dec. 11 to Dec. 18.
The Hawks, who drove seven hours for a two-hour game, lost the match, but won over fans for their sheer determination, and qualified to the world championships along with the winners.
Go local, grow global
The intent is to help grow the sport at a grassroots level, said Hasan, director of strategy with LMS Canada.
Through affordable registrations and flexible schedules for busy participants, LMS seeks players from all backgrounds.
“We have a team — Rajput Royals,” said Hasan. “It is a whole family. The dad, three sons, two cousins and friends all come together as a single team to play, which is heartwarming to see.”
National NDP leader and Burnaby South MP Jagmeet Singh was among the fans watching the Vikings’ victory.
In a statement to Glacier Media, Singh said. “To grow any sort of sport or grow any community, we need space. So making sure there’s good grounds, making sure there’s good spaces, and supporting initiatives and community groups that are setting up the games; it’s good. I know, kabaddi is another sport that people love to play. And we see in different communities, grounds are made for that. We also want to make sure that young people can get exposed to different games.”
He said that fostering opportunities for young people to play those sports here in Canada creates opportunities in the future.
“We have to look at what the community wants to play, what they enjoy playing, and make sure we create the space for them to play,” he said.
Last Man Stands will return for the next season as Canada's cricket season is nearing an end. Registration is open on the league's website.