Two rising South Surrey cricketers were part of the team representing B.C. in U17 Canada Cup play last week in Toronto.
The India-born Bhagat brothers – Dhruv, 16, and Kartik, 14 – moved to Ocean Park from New Delhi, with dad Ashish and mom Bhavna, just over a year ago.
But even in that short period of time, the talented Elgin Park Secondary students have made their mark with the West Vancouver Cricket Club, Dhruv even receiving the club trophy for most improved player last year.
Travelling to the North Shore every week for practices may seem intense, but not when one considers that when the cricket-oriented family emigrated to Canada, proximity to the West Vancouver Club – one of the most active in Western Canada – was a major factor in settling on the West Coast.
“Every time we searched the Internet for cricket in Canada, Vancouver would come up,” said Dhruv, an all-rounder who combines skills at bat with off-spin bowling.
He admits he’s been obsessed with the game since he was four.
“As soon as I started walking I was playing cricket,” he says. “In India, it’s like ice hockey is here – everybody knows how to play it. All the kids are playing and practising six hours a day.
“It’s in our blood, basically. You develop an interest in it early. It connects with us, and it’s also a good team sport that involves a lot of kids – you need 22 people to play it properly.”
Dhruv also admits he was a strong influence on Kartik to get involved – and encouraging his more lightly-built sibling to specialize in fast-bowling, which requires a sprint to establish momentum before releasing the ball.
“When I was about five or six he’d take me along with him and his friends whenever he played,” Kartik said.
While both brothers admit Ontario is the country’s centre for cricket – the province entered two teams into the tournament, which wrapped up July 4 – B.C. and Alberta each fielded a team, and there was a combined Manitoba/Saskatchewan team as well.
Those raised in the game know that it includes a number of imponderables, including style and condition of the pitch (or playing field) and performance on the day, which can sometimes outweigh skill and experience.
“Cricket is a funny game,” Dhruv said. “Anyone can win.”
Playing at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground, the official home of cricket, would be an ultimate dream, Dhruv said, acknowledging the sport’s decidedly British roots.
But it’s no secret that the passion for the game in former colonies – including India, Australia and the West Indies – has long eclipsed Britain’s pre-eminence in the sport.
Both Bhagat brothers trained for years at a prestigious cricket academy in New Delhi established by famed Indian cricketer Vijay Mehra.
And since connecting with the West Vancouver club they have appreciated the mentoring of president Alex Turko, also B.C. Mainland Cricket president, as well as the opportunity to learn from visiting coaches from as far afield as Sri Lanka.
The cricket scene on the west coast is far busier than some might suppose, with eight divisions in the B.C. league alone.
Chances are the Bhagat brothers will continue to play cricket for a while yet before entering post-secondary studies.
Kartik, who has just finished Grade 10, said he has plans to study architecture, while Dhruv, who will enter Grade 12 in the fall, said he might put post-secondary on hold temporarily.
“I’m going to continue cricket for as long as possible,” said Dhruv. “If I perform well, I might drop a year of studies and become a cricket player.”