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Island cricket mentor Franco manager of Team Canada at World Cup

T-20 tournament begins Saturday in U.S.
Alphonso Franco is the president of the Victoria District Cricket Association. CRICKET CANADA

Break out the tea and ­cucumber sandwiches, with the crusts cut off, of course. The world’s second-most popular team sport is coming to part of North America, with Canada qualified for the 2024 cricket World Cup hosted by the U.S. and Caribbean nations.

The format is T-20, popularized by the Indian Premier League, which is the version in which games last three hours or less.

“Given the patience level of North Americans, we will not be playing [multi-day] Test cricket here anytime soon,” said Alphonso Franco of Victoria, manager of the Canadian national team for the T-20 World Cup.

“T-20 is short and sweet and is the fastest-growing version of the sport. The Indian Premier League [which is to pro cricket what the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL are to pro hockey, basketball, baseball and football] has really brough T-20 to the fore. It is the version going into the Olympics. It is sheer entertainment.”

The T-20 World Cup in the U.S. is a big deal for the sport, as is its inclusion for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Exhibition play has started with world No. 23 Canada beating No. 17 Nepal by 63 runs Monday in Dallas with Canada set to meet No. 15 Netherlands in another warm-up match Thursday in Dallas. Team Canada opens the World Cup in Group A against the No. 19 United States on Saturday in Dallas followed by group games against No. 11 Ireland in New York and powerhouses No. 7 Pakistan in New York and top-ranked India in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The World Cup runs through to the championship game June 29 at Kensington Oval in Barbados. The defending champion is England.

If Canada manager Franco is daunted to be playing the likes of India and Pakistan, giants of the sport, he isn’t showing it. It’s because the shortness of the games in the T-20 format is a great leveler.

“We almost beat Pakistan in 2011,” said Franco.

“We have to go in with the mindset that anything is ­possible.”

Although far from the big-four North American team sports, cricket has had a fringe degree of following in Canada, especially among immigrant families from Commonwealth nations. Cricket has been played in Greater Victoria since 1849, preceding the founding of Canada.

“Most of the Canadian team members were born here, and have learned the sport here and not from outside, as cricket continues to grow in Canada,” said Franco.

Five of the players on Team Canada are from B.C.: “My job as team manager is to make sure everybody on our national team has everything they need. I am glad to represent B.C., Victoria and Vancouver Island on our national team.”

Franco came to the Island from Goa in India at a young age and has been a dynamo in the Victoria and District Cricket Association for 47 years in various capacities and is the six-time and current president of the VDCA and owner of the B.C. Super League-champion Victoria Patriots team.

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