The Peterborough Cricket Association (PCA) is back in competitive action after a years-long hiatus due to the pandemic. On August 24, the team played a friendly match against Toronto’s Nightwatchmen Cricket Club at the Milroy Park sports field, their first formal game since 2019. And they’ve got one more game coming up on September 24 against the Canadian Police Cricket Club, as well.
Peterborough lost their match against Nightwatchmen CC, though only by a small margin. And the result isn’t as important as the fact that they’d played a game.
Pradeep Naik, the club’s secretary, couldn’t be happier that the club can compete again. “It was so hard,” Naik says of the COVID-19-induced absence. “It really felt like we’d been missing something.”
While some cricket teams in the Toronto area were playing matches last summer, Peterborough’s team waited until the end of the 2022 season to start back up again because they felt the risk of spreading COVID-19 was too great. Competitive cricket took a back seat and the team stuck to practising locally with COVID-19 precautions in place. “We’ve been playing amongst ourselves,” says Naik.
But the team missed the spirit of competition and the social aspect of welcoming other teams to Peterborough.
“I take great pride in saying that Peterborough is a good host,” says Naik. “You ask any Toronto team, give them a call and they just love to come here. They travel more than an hour and a half and they still love coming here. After a game, we’ll usually still be out there with the other team chatting for more than an hour.”
Peterborough is the only non-GTA team to play in the Markham Premier Cricket League. The other clubs in the league have agreed to play their matches against Peterborough at Milroy Park, saving the Peterborough team multiple trips into the GTA.
Cricket is traditionally a game of ebbs and flows; of long, slow narratives that can change in an instant. This is certainly true for the story of cricket in Peterborough, which, thanks to Naik and many others like him, is now enjoying its second act.
Cricket was once thought of as one of Canada’s and Peterborough’s most popular sports. In 1867, the first Canadian Prime Minister John A. MacDonald singled cricket out as the country’s national sport. In 1876, The Cricketer’s Guide noted that there were hundreds of teams in Ontario alone. “Cricket is capitally supported in Peterboro[ugh] and the team is one of considerable strength,” the Guide explained to readers. Richard Birdsall Rogers, the designer of the Peterborough Lift Locks, was a regular player and helped establish the club’s first constitution.
The sport flourished in Peterborough over the next few decades, and even hosted a side on tour from Bermuda, too. But around 1960, the club and the sport — which used to be played at Nicholls Oval — disappeared from Peterborough life.
In the early 2000s, Naik and many others got together to organize a comeback for local cricket, and a cricket pitch was proposed for Morrow Park as part of the Morrow Park master plan. Eventually, though, the sports field at Milroy Park became the new home of cricket in Peterborough.
“Many people did not know that cricket had been played in Peterborough,” Naik says. “But by showing the council this history was there, we saw what we were doing as a revival.”
With support from an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, the City, and the PCA’s own members, a large area of grass at Milroy Park was leveled out and a green astroturf pitch was laid for the club. Henry Clarke, Jeff Leal, and Daryl Bennett — a city councillor, the MPP, and the Mayor at the time — all attended the opening.
“Peterborough Cricket Association can’t thank the city, its recreation department and the public works enough. Without them, none of this would be possible,” says Naik.
Now, Naik is just happy that the team is playing again. Currents asks about the club’s plans for next season, but Naik says they are taking it season by season for now. And he wants more people to come along and join.
“Before coming to Canada, you play cricket because everyone is playing cricket. But here, you play it because you love it. I want more people to come and use the facilities we’ve got. I should be on the sidelines scoring!”
Naik says he hopes that the cricket-playing students of Trent and Fleming will come back to boost the group’s ranks — and give him a well deserved rest.
The Peterborough Cricket Association’s second and final match of the season is on September 24 at the Milroy Park sports field at 10:00 am. Anyone who wants to learn more about the sport and the community that plays it locally can come along to watch — and Naik will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Dan Morrison is a 2022 Peterborough Currents editorial fellow reporting on local sports culture. He moved to Peterborough from England after studying as an exchange student at Trent University. Since graduating in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Lancaster University, he’s co-edited Arthur newspaper and worked for Pagemasters North America. He is currently the editor of the food journalism magazine Sliced.