The GT20: A Fan’s Diary
There’s this random person with dreads wearing a West Indies shirt and holding up a Jamaican flag.
The rest of us in the crowd are watching the match in front of us, but this guy is just staring at us, standing at the front of the bleachers.
Suddenly, in a thick Jamaican accent he yells “Alright everybody we gonna to the wave on 3!”.
The people around me are a little skeptical but by the time he counts down, the entire stand is doing the wave, which moves throughout each stand and eventually circles the whole ground. Even some of the players take notice and smile. The rest of the match, the man keeps getting us excited and on our feet for the cricket.
I’m at the Global T20 Canada, a 2-week Twenty20 tournament held in Brampton, Ontario, just minutes outside of hustling Toronto. It is here that a surprising number of international stars gather to play in a smaller ground where even the smallest swing of the bat sends the ball flying for a 6.
I talk to the guy in the Windies shirt for a few minutes and he said something that stuck out to me.
“Cricket is life my friend, it brings everyone together. It keeps us united”.
And he was absolutely right. I look around me and I see a rainbow of colors in the crowd. I see mostly jerseys of Pakistan and India, but sprinkled between them were people from South Africa, England, and even a few people from Nepal. We aren’t divided by the country we support, rather we are united in the sport we all love.
The people here tonight are coming from all parts of North America. Though most were coming from the Greater Toronto Area, there were dozens of people I talked to who came from far places like California, Vancouver, and New York City. I myself made the 5 hour drive from Ohio.
I asked everyone I met why they made the long trip just for a random T20 exhibition, and the answer I got was the same.
“I love cricket” they all said, usually with a wide grin.
For these people, the GT20 Canada was a groundbreaking experience for them. No longer were matches held halfway across the world, being played in the middle of the night. For the first time, it was being played in front of them.
And this isn’t your regular club cricket match. There are international superstars playing. T20 stalwarts featured included Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, and not to mention the iconic player of the tournament, Yuvraj Singh.
The GT20 Canada provided the opportunity of a lifetime for the North American cricket fans who were desperate for a taste of cricket that didn’t involve walking up at 2AM. Our favorite players were in action right in front of us.
And man, they didn’t disappoint.
The first game I attended was Toronto Nationals vs. Brampton Wolves. I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing pro cricket for the first time, but the man I was most excited that day to see was Shahid Afridi. Say what you want about Lala, but he is a legend.
Runs were endless in the four matches I attended. Batsmen made the most of a smaller ground and amassed boundary after boundary. Every six that came where I was sitting at square leg led to a burst of fans running to the barrier, hoping to be the lucky one to catch the ball. There was also plenty of excellent bowling. Ish Sodhi picked up a 5fer, and I watched fellow countryman Ali Khan send stumps cartwheeling.
During the second day of matches I attended, I watched Vancouver take on Winnipeg, in what would be a preview of the finals. I sit back and enjoy the cricket, laughing with my friends, both the ones I brought with me and the ones I made, including my new Jamaican friend.
It’s a surreal moment, watching my favorite sport in person, nothing could have made it any better.
Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, Shoaib Malik is coming to field at deep square leg, not 10 feet in front of where I was sitting.
No way, my favorite cricketer is fielding right in front of me, I thought.
I grab my miniature bat and sprint to the barrier and said in my broken urdu “Shoaib bhai aik autograph please!”
The second Malik steps towards me, I am instantly surrounded by dozens of other fans, each holding an item they want signed, each yelling Malik’s name and hurling compliments at him.
Moments later, he runs back to his position on the field, and in my hand I’m holding a bat signed by Shoaib Malik and other star players. It’s not just Pakistanis who got one. Indians, Bangladeshis and even a few English fans were grinning with excitement having received an autograph from a Pakistan legend.
What that Jamaican man said could not have been more true in that moment, cricket unites everyone together, and the GT20 Canada did just that.
Haris Ahmad is part of the Down The Ground Social Media team. To know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter here.