Toronto: Even if it doesn't win a single match in South Africa, Canada will be more than happy just to wipe out one of the sport's less flattering records. Back in 1979, it made its only other appearance in the World Cup and was horribly outclassed by England where it was skittled out for just 45 - the lowest total in a final. This time around, Canada, which qualified by finishing third at the ICC Trophy in 2001, is making all the right noises and has experienced West Indian campaigner Gus Logie as coach.
"The wickets are harder here, but they've seen the South African players and the international teams. They are mentally strong enough to handle the conditions," boasted Logie. Team manager Karam Gopaulsingh said he hoped their play would please the supporters at home although they will have their work cut out in a group, which includes South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka. "We hope that people will be pleasantly surprised by our performances here. There are five million people who are aware of cricket in Canada and we owe it to them to do well."
The Canadian squad is made up mostly of expat Asians and West Indians and they struggle for recognition in a country where ice hockey is king and until the end of last year they were still expecting to have to pay for their own shirts. Qualification for the World Cup meant a $ 100,000 grant from the International Cricket Council (ICC) but facilities are still poor for the game where players practise on matting pitches. That's when they do train together.
Two of the squad live 2,000 miles away in Vancouver which conspires against team bonding. "Toronto had eight turf pitches for the ICC Trophy but the maintenance was too expensive and so it was back to playing on matting," former coach Jeff Thomas told Wisden Cricket monthly just before he was replaced by Logie. "The matting is supposed to be watered and rolled but it isn't. Most balls bounce around your ankles, dangerous ones around your nose. It's not ideal development for the game."
But Canada does have some cricket history - the earliest known reference is to games in Quebec when it was played by British soldiers in 1759 while, incredibly in 1975, an eastern Canada side defeated the touring Australian World Cup side led by Ian Chappell at Toronto by five wickets. At the World Cup, it will be led by Madras-born skipper Joseph Harris, who boasts a healthy ICC Trophy average of just over 41 with the bat while off spinner John Davison, who has played with Victoria in Australia, will be expected to take wickets.
The squad: Joseph Harris (captain), Ashish Bagai, Ian Billcliff, Desmond Chumney, Austin Codrington, John Davison, Nicholas de Groot, Nicholas Ifil, Davis Joseph, Ishwar Maraj, Ashish Patel, Abdool Samad, Fazil Sattaur, Barry Seebaran and Sanjayan Thuraisingam.