The game of cricket, a popular sport in countries like India and the UK, is still alive and batting on the Saanich Peninsula. But, as cricket player and school team coach John Wenman describes, its low profile makes it one of the best kept secrets in local sports.
Wenman, a retired history teacher, is the coach of the Stelly’s secondary school competitive cricket team. It’s a team that has been around since 1977 but has been flying low on the school sports radar ever since.
According to Wenman, cricket has been treated as a “minor sport” in Victoria schools in recent years, compared to the boom of cricket teams in Vancouver.
He attributes this to the difference in demographics, referring to it as a cultural sport where interest is passed down through generations. Unlike Vancouver, he said, it is hard to attract players in areas like Victoria where cricket is not part of the culture.
This unfortunately draws interest away from what Wenman calls a low pressure sport that is good for kids to learn.
“It’s a subtle game,” said Wenman in an interview during after-school practice. “It doesn’t have usually many moments of high drama.”
He refers to it as a mental game, consisting mostly of players trying to psych out their opponents.
Right now, three schools in the Victoria area have competitive cricket teams — Stelly’s, St. Michael’s University School, and Oak Bay High. They also travel to Vancouver to compete against teams there.
On the Stelly’s team this year, Wenman said they had around 25 kids sign up, which is a small number considering the 11 people needed on each side for a full size game. The kids that do sign up, however, seem to think that the sport is worth more attention.
Karen Ann, a Grade 10 student, describes it as simply “the best.” Warming up for her turn at bat during the practice, she said she was drawn to the sport as it runs in her family.
Neil Baskerville-Bridges, Grade 11, said he plays it “just for fun, [and] a chance to get outside.” During the practice, he worked on his bowling — similar to pitching in baseball, except that players are required to keep their throwing elbow locked. He said it’s his favourite part of the game.
Players who graduated from these school teams go on to make up in large part the midweek recreation league, put on by the Victoria and District Cricket Association. The 15-team night league is predominantly sponsored by local pubs, and play condensed games with nine players a side.
Wenman points out that the Midweek season, as well as the school season, is weather-dependent, with the season usually starting around Easter. However this year, he said, “the weather is so discouraging.”
Though he was personally drawn to the game through family connections, Wenman hopes that local interest in the sport will pick up soon, drawing more people to a game that he calls “competitive, but more enjoyable” than other warm weather sports.