Cricket was a sport barely heard of in northern Ontario when Tarang Ingle first moved to Sudbury from Gujarat, India in 2009.
After some searching, he learned of a group of students at Cambrian College who shared his passion for the sport.
For years, the group played tape-ball at the college – amateur cricket using a tennis ball wrapped in tape to make the ball heavier
As the number of players at Cambrian began to grow, Ingle, along with three other players, decided to start the Big Nickel Cricket Club in Sudbury. In 2014 they built northern Ontario’s first ever cricket ground.
“Eventually, an idea came [to us], that how about all the communities come together and play one big tournament,” Ingle said.
I quit two jobs to be able to play.– Darshit Patel, Cambrian student and a player on Sudbury’s team
Subsequently, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins and Thunder Bay also established their own cricket club and registered under the Cricket Council of Canada as the Northern Ontario Cricket League (NOCL).
This weekend, Sudbury’s Big Nickel Cricket Club will host NOCL’s sixth annual tournament at their cricket grounds in Capreol, the third time they are hosting the event.
Ingle anticipates that this will be the largest turnout of players they have seen yet.
“This time, it’s really big because a lot of teams are coming, almost six teams,” Ingle said. “We’re going to have almost 100 players on the ground.”
Teams representing Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay are scheduled to compete against each other for the NOCL trophy.
Due to its immense popularity in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia, team members of the cricket clubs in northern Ontario are mostly international students and recent immigrants, although the region’s clubs let anyone join, Ingle said.
Darshit Patel, a Cambrian student and a player on Sudbury’s team, said the game is like “an emotion.”
“Cricket is everything for me,” Patel said. “I quit two jobs to be able to play.”
Ingle pointed to the fact that many newcomers to the north struggle with depression caused due to isolation, financial challenges and homesickness, and playing cricket helps them cope with their anxieties about being in an unfamiliar environment.
“We have been broadcasting about this almost every month telling students to join, freshen up, and meet people on the ground,” Ingle said. “And that has helped the community a lot”
They have brought their love of cricket to our campus– Dan Lessard, Cambrian spokesperson
The push to reach out to more students and newcomers escalated after two suicides that shook up their community, Ingle said.
“We want to help students come out of their depression, their anxiety, and just come out and play.”
Yash Jariwala, a college student from India, said that he faced depression in the first two years after arriving in northeastern Ontario.
“Once I came across a few cricket enthusiasts, that put me in a really excited state,” Jariwala said.
Colleges and universities in northeastern Ontario are adopting ways to attract more students and are making sure that international students know that the city is adopting ways to help them feel more at home.
Xuan Zhao is the International student recruiting manager at Laurentian University. She said that they provide incoming students with information on activities like cricket, using it as a recruiting tactic.
“They feel more comfortable if they have a community there, or some familiarity or something to cure homesickness,” she said.
Cambrian College also recognizes how passionate their international students are for cricket and are adapting to the needs and interests of their international students.
In a statement to CBC News, Cambrian spokesperson Dan Lessard said the college emphasizes to prospective students how the city’s international community has grown in the last 10 years.
“We have students from approximately 50 countries and many are from India,” Lessard said. They have brought their love of cricket to our campus, and we have just purchased a 37-foot outdoor cricket mat in response to this love of the game among our students.”
Ingle hopes that this tournament will be a call-out to not only cricket enthusiasts in the region, but also to people who have no knowledge of the sport.
He also said that most of the interest has come from male players, but he wants to encourage women to join as well.
“We really want to create a women’s team.”