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Former Canadian Cricketers Inducted Into Wall Of Fame

Oct. 26th, 2009
(Ron Aldridge, a principal in TSMI, was inducted into the Cricket Wall of Fame at the Toronto Cricket Club, at a dinner attended by a large number of Canadian Cricket luminaries, both past and present. The guest speaker was Rev. Doctor Wes Hall and the event was sponsored by the Barbados Tourist Authority).

Though born nearly 9,000 miles apart on different continents, Tony Clarke and Ron Aldridge converged in Toronto in the early 1960s, via Guyana and India with stops in Jamaica and England, to make significant cricket contributions to Canada and Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club (TCSCC) which inducted them into its Wall of Fame last weekend. Born in what was then British Guiana, Clarke attended St. Stanislaus College and the University of the West Indies Mona campus in Jamaica prior to coming to this city to pursue Chemical Engineering studies at the University of Toronto and enjoy a successful cricket career. India-born Aldridge, on the other hand, was raised in England where he played cricket for several clubs, including Berkshire, before making the transition to Canada. The right-arm medium pacer and middle-order batsman captained Toronto & District Cricket Association (TDCA) club Grace Church and Canada's first field hockey team to participate in the Olympics in 1964 in Tokyo before joining TCSCC a year later.

While his performances on the field were noteworthy, it is as an organizer that Aldridge stood out. He played a pivotal role in bringing India and Pakistan - and later the West Indies - to participate in the Sahara Cup and DMC Cup limited-overs tournaments at the scenic Toronto Cricket Club in the late 1990s, and he was the organizing chair of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Trophy tournament for Associates - the 23-team competition is the largest cricket event ever to be held in Canada - which was staged in the Greater Toronto Area in 2001.

"Ron is an amazing organizer and leader," said author and Financial Post columnist Peter Foster, who introduced the inductee. "A lot of people have vision, but it's being able to execute that counts and that's what Ron is just fantastic at. He loves challenges, especially when the exercise of charm is involved."

International Management Event (IMG) senior vice-president Andrew Wildblood, who conceived the idea for the Sahara and DMC Cup tournaments, worked closely with Aldridge who had to convince the TCSCC membership - the majority are not cricket enthusiasts - of the financial benefits for the club.

"What we created in the mid-1990s remains unique in the history of international cricket," said Wildblood in a congratulatory e-mail to Aldridge which was read at the induction ceremony. "The Sahara Cup was the first officially sanctioned international cricket event to be played in North America and it left a genuine legacy not only for cricket in Canada by the number of grass pitches for use in the ICC Trophy tournament, but also to Toronto Cricket Club which hosted the event.

"We recognize fully the critical role you and the club played in turning a dream into a stunningly successful reality...You could not have been more supportive or productive in securing the support of a very rightly skeptical membership."
In his acceptance speech, Aldridge admitted spending a lot of time defending the use of the club's facility for cricket.

"I challenge the incoming president and general manager to ensure that we remain one of the most famous cricket clubs in the world because this is one of the best grounds anywhere and we must maintain it," said the 76-year-old Aldridge.

Clarke, an outstanding opening batsman, off-spinner and slip fielder, led TCSCC to six first division championships in the 1970s. He also captained Canada on several occasions, including the MCC's 1967 visit and tours to Jamaica in 1973 and Barbados four years later when the opposition included Rev. Wes Hall who was with Banks at the time, Charlie Griffith who played for Empire and Carlton opener Desmond Haynes.

"Tony exemplified the highest level of leadership that this club has ever seen," said friend and race horse owner, Les Pereira. "He has a fantastic knowledge of the game which allowed him to point out the weaknesses of every player on the opposing side."
Longtime Canadian cricket administrator and Share columnist Errol Townshend said Clarke is the best Canadian captain he has seen.

"Absolutely, he's the best in terms of leadership, tactics and instilling discipline," said Townshend who attended the induction and awards ceremony.

Clarke commented on how the face of the sport in Canada has changed in the last few decades with the majority of players now being of South Asian background.

"It was mostly West Indians that played the sport in my time," he said. "I have not seen one in here tonight except for the guys I knew from 30 years ago."

He said his proudest moment in the sport was when he batted with his son Patrick in England during the MCC tour, and his most satisfying and enjoyable was playing with many talented young players at Toronto Cricket Club.

As for the most emotional moment in his life, Clarke pointed to the 1969 tour of England when he walked out at Lords to open the batting against the MCC. His stay at the crease was short-lived as he was dismissed first ball leg before wicket to Middlesex left-arm seamer, Ted Clark.

TCSCC won the 2009 TDCA second division title while its Elite Division side finished sixth in the nine-team competition.

All-rounder Shaheed Keshvani, the leading run-producer in the Elite category with 458 (av. 57.25) and three centuries, won the club's batting award while medium-pacer Arsalan Qadir, who captured 21 wickets (av. 16.67) in 17 matches, secured the bowling prize. Keshvani also took 10 wickets (av. 19.60).

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