BRINGING CRICKET BACK TO KERR HALL

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By Wing Hong Tse

Abhimanyu Sharma hasn’t shaven or cut his hair since he set out to get cricket back on Ryerson campus.

He’s 21, in his third year of Information and Technology Management, and now has a shoulder-length mass of curls with enough bounce for a Pantene ad. His friends sometimes tease him about it, he says. “But everyday that I get up in the morning and see myself in the mirror, I say to myself, ‘you know what? I have to achieve something for cricket,'” he says.

“It keeps on reminding me, ‘I have to get this done. I have to get this done.'” Sharma’s the president of the Ryerson Student Cricket Association (RSCA), a 502-member-strong group that will have pitched and batted for its fifth time this semester in the upper Kerr Hall gym after the sport’s hiatus last fall.

The RSCA has been granted, after much negociation with Ryerson sports and recreation, four hours a week in the upper gym — twice as much as last year. “We’ve been struggling for it,” says Hamid Ahmed, 21, also in ITM and the RSCA’s treasurer.

“It’s been a step forward. And we’re greatly thankful for that.” Cricket was suspended last semester while sports and recreation waited for floor protection to arrive for the upper gym. (Cricket bats are fantastically good at wrecking hardwood.) The university recently spent $6,000 to repair 16 to 18 damaged spots.

Fresh from England, the floor protection, a 22-yard green rug looking like it was ripped off a mini-golf course and topped with Velcro, is now rolled out and stomped on with gleeful impunity. Sharma says he’s pleased. He said so in his last two e-mails, which, combined, were 1,068 words long.

After last year’s executive splintered and the future of cricket at Ryerson was in the air, Sharma took over as president. Now at bat, he wants cricket to leave its mark not only at Ryerson, but across Ontario. Sharma says his aim is to make the sport official with Ontario University Athletics (OUA), so that one day those kids stepping on a bus bound for a joust with McGill, Guelph, or wherever, will be holding not only volleyballs and basketballs, but cricket bats as well.

“I know the OUA, it needs at least eight universities to have some kind of league cricket going on,” he says. “When I think about it seriously, I think I can come up with eight. “If somebody takes initiative, then maybe this thing can be done in a couple of years, three years, four.”

At the moment, the RSCA is an unofficial club at Ryerson, just clutching the bottom rung of what Sharma needs for the sport to hit the top. If the club is made official, sports and recreation would take over the administration from the RSCA. An official club would also charge a fee (right now RSCA members only need a RAC card) and get guaranteed gym times. The association currently plays Mondays from noon to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m.

Sports and recreation had to bump a few hours of recreational basketball time to allow for these hours. Sharma says he suspects resources are an issue in the club’s proposal for official status and more gym hours. He’s right. When it comes to official clubs at Ryerson, sports and recreation’s Jenga tower is teetering and cricket is riding the bottom block. “They want to have official status. I can understand that,” says Dave Dubois, director of sports and recreation.

“But right now, we’re not taking any new clubs. We just don’t have the facilities. We’re just tapped out. Now, if you get us another triple gym somewhere…” Dubois, who as a kid played cricket with tomato cans and baseball bats, says he’s also been forced to turn down requests from wrestling, baseball and cross country clubs. Still, even with official club status out of reach for cricket, Dubois says he’s pleased with the restart. “I hope they enjoy it,” he says. “I’m happy. It’s a great sport. And it’s our job to accommodate them.”

As for cricket hitting the OUA, Dubois says Sharma has a long way to go and needs to get organized. Sharma says he’s got the message. “It wasn’t as organized as well as it’s going to be from now on,” he says. “We want to make it easier for Ryerson and sports and rec to digest us, to understand how we play the game, to understand our mentality.

“We really are responsible, even if we’re unofficial.” Sharma says he’s been in contact with different universities, making sure their cricket clubs have at least 200 people. “That’s the kind of determination and devotion (Sharma) has. That’s why it was even possible to (have) cricket here,” says Ahmed, who is still getting calls from people wanting to join the RSCA — a good thing, because Sharma graduates in three semesters and is looking for future keeners.

“I know even after I leave Ryerson, I’m definitely going to make sure there are some people who are able to take this thing forwards,” he says.

“I’m still trying to find youngsters to carry this on.” And what about his hair, which he was supposed to cut by now? “Maybe I’ll keep it this long, because now I need to get it accomplished in Ontario,” he says. “You have to be a dreamer and you have to be a doer.”

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