Tuesday 29 July 2008 

Davison Returns To Lead Canada's Charge

Canada wicketkeeper-batsman Ashish Bagai says his team will look to all-rounder John Davison to guide it through to next year’s ICC World Twenty20 2009.

“John is rated amongst the best and it is great news that he is back to bolster the side for this important event,” said the 26-year-old Bagai ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier to be staged in Belfast, Ireland from 2 to 5 August.

“All the players are definitely looking to him to guide us through to the next year’s event in England. His return to the side (after a gap of 14 months) gives a totally different look to this talented team,” said Bagai.

The six Associate countries, including Ireland, Kenya, Scotland, the Netherlands and Bermuda as well as Canada, will go head to head in the four-day tournament at Stormont and at stake will be two or possibly three places in the England event.

Both finalists will qualify for that tournament which will take place at Lord’s, The Oval and Trent Bridge next June.

The third place, to be decided by a third and fourth-place play-off, is dependent on Zimbabwe Cricket’s Board ratifying a decision taken by its officials during ICC Annual Conference week, to step back from the tournament.

The 38-year-old Davison has been the mainstay of Canada cricket for almost a decade. He was Canada’s star in the 2001 and 2005 ICC World Cup Qualifiers (formerly the ICC Trophy) where the North American side finished third to secure places in the 2003 and 2007 ICC Cricket World Cups in South Africa and the West Indies respectively.

In 2001 in Canada, Davison scored 145 runs and took 15-298 while in 2005 in Ireland, his contribution was 312 runs and 6-124 with the ball.

In the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa, Davison took the world by storm by belting the fastest World Cup century in history when he clubbed six sixes in a swashbuckling 111 from only 76 balls against the West Indies.

He followed this up last year with the third-fastest World Cup half-century against New Zealand on way to becoming his side’s top performer.

Davison has played 25 ODIs and 51 first-class matches and has also attended the Australian Cricket Academy in 1993. He played for Victoria and South Australia and presently works as a coach at the Cricket Australia’s Centre of Excellence.

Bagai said Davison’s stature was unique within the playing group. “He is more than a player to the Canada team. He is a strategist, an inspiration and mentor to everyone in the side. He is receptive and the players listen to him.

“Whenever he has represented Canada, he has brought all these qualities with him and has played each role to perfection. I think Canada cricket owes him a lot,” said Bagai, who appeared in the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup 2000 for the Americas.

Canada’s preparations for the Belfast tournament are far from ideal with defeats against Bermuda both in the ODI series and the ICC Intercontinental Cup matches earlier this month. “I think the team prepared itself nicely for the two events but it just couldn’t produce the desired results,” said Bagai, who skipped the four-day match but contributed 149 runs with the bat in the ODI series which Bermuda won by 2-1.

“I also think Bermuda played its best cricket in both the events. But those defeats have given us an opportunity to look at the grey areas, work on them and travel to Belfast better prepared.”

Bagai lives in England and admits it is not the best preparation for any team to assemble just days before an important event. “John (Davison) lives in Australia while I live in England and it is not an ideal situation where you get together as a team only a few days before the start of the tournament.

“But John and I know the players and likewise, the players know us so we can overcome this disadvantage. In our absence, the team is preparing as hard as it can.

“It’s the best side that has come together for Canada in a long time. I am confident that the results in Belfast will echo my views,” he said.

Bagai attended the ICC Winter Camp in 2006 and he went on to win the player-of-the-tournament award at the ICC World Cricket League Division One the following year.

And Bagai was was not affected by the fact he will not be captaining the side. “I think it makes sense when you have a captain who is always available to the team as compared to someone like me who is only available for selected matches because of work commitments.

“There is mutual respect between me and the players and I am motivated and committed to play my role as a senior member of the team. For me, representing or being involved in any role that can help Canada cricket is an honour and a privilege,” he said.

Bagai added his side would not worry about which team was in its group. “It doesn’t matter to us which teams we face or who is likely to be our semi-final opponent. Instead of worrying about that part, we would prefer to focus on our preparations and try to convert those preparations into quality performances.

“We will not show disrespect to any team by taking them lightly. Instead, we will to go match by match and play as hard as possible,” he said.

Canada, seeded fourth, is drawn with Kenya and the Netherlands and play the African side in the opening match of the tournament.

© ICC