Living the Dream: in the Home away from Home-II

By Team Kalamwali in Experiences
Updated 12:07 IST Jun 22, 2019

Living the Dream: in the Home away from Home-II 

- By Gautam Govitrikar

 

 

UPDATE: In a sensational development, Ashish Bagai has agreed to a 9 month contract to help his "Home" country qualify for the World  T20 as well as the Real Deal-The ICC World Cup to be held Fown Under in 2015-probably the last chance for Associate Members like Canada to participate in the World Cups!
   
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Last week, I covered the journey of Sushil Nadkarni from representing India U-19 to becoming the mainstay of the USA Cricket team. Today, we will talk about a dear friend and easily Canada’s best cricketer-Ashish Bagai!

Ashish moved to Canada from Delhi at the age of 11 in 1993. While he had played plenty of “galli cricket”, he had never played it at a competitive level in India. It was his brother Akshay, now a Cardiologist at Duke, who joined the local cricket club and got him hooked to the sport. The local Cricket Academy noticed his speed, agility and talent. By converting talent into potential as the wicket- keeper for the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club - Toronto, he got selected both for the Under-15 and U-19 World Cup Canadian team.  Indian and Pakistani cricket fans will remember the Toronto Club for this!

In 1999, he was made Captain of the U-19 team and led them in two World Cups. To train for the World Cup, Ashish actually took a year off – uncommon for an Indian - each from high school and college. Over the next five years, he cemented his position in the national team as the wicket-keeper, cricket’s equivalent of the catcher. It was a matter of time before he was selected for the senior team and made his international ODI debut in the 2003 World Cup against Bangladesh, when Canada shocked them in their very first game of the tournament. He went from strength to strength and was a lock for the wicket keeper position in the team, while building his batting prowess.

Ashish, the Vice-Captain for the 2007 World Cup was offered the captaincy right after the
tournament. He accepted, but it was a short-term move. Cricket then being an amateur sport in Canada, he moved to London to start his banking career.

In the fall of 2009, the Canadian Board offered professional contracts to its players asking Ashish to lead the team once again. With the support of friends and family, Ashish returned to lead his ‘new home team’. It paid off, as the team qualified for its third consecutive World Cup - to be held in India, the original home country! It was a matter of great pride when he led his team in Delhi, where he was born and lived till the family immigrated to Canada. 

 One big task Ashish faced was changing the mindset of Cricket Canada from an amateur to a professional organization: like converting a non-profit organization into a corporate entity for accountability. Leading a team with players of varied backgrounds was challenging. Giving each of them quality time, he motivated them to play together as a team.
  
Prior to the World Cup, he played club cricket in Canada and domestic cricket in Sri Lanka, for quality preparation. The team pulled a rabbit out of the hat beating Kenya in an upset victory. Ashish also came very close to scoring his first World Cup century against a strong New Zealand team before the heat took  its toll and caused severe dehydration and cramps. 

Post the 2011World Cup, he had to resign as captain because of a dodgy knee.  He feels his biggest achievements to date are to lead his country in a World Cup and personally contribute to the development of the next generation of Canadian cricketers. 

Today, Ashish is an MBA student at the Wharton School of Business and will graduate next month.

 

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