Ahmed Bakhtiar is about to have one of his life’s dreams come true.
An avid cricketer who has represented Canada in international competition, Bakhtiar is now getting the chance to visit the place he considers to be the home of the sport — England.
The Toronto college student is one of 14 youths from the GTA who will form the 2009 CIMA Toronto Mayor’s team. The club will travel to the UK for 10 days this August on a fully paid scholarship to train, compete in exhibition matches and visit famous cricket sites, including Lord’s Cricket Ground.
“I know a lot of people say it’s a dream come true and it really is that,” said Bakhtiar, 20. “When you dream about cricket, you have that thought of nice green lush grounds, a nice pitch and the sun shining — that’s exactly what it’s like over there.”
The scholarship, which is now in its second year, is officially titled Cricket Across the Pond. Sponsored by various corporate and media partners, it’s the result of a joint initiative between Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation and CIMA Canada. Over 100 youths from what are considered “priority/at risk neighbourhoods” tried out for this year’s club.
Event co-ordinator Ranil Mendes said that each member of the team will receive leadership and community development training from Toronto city hall. The hope is that these players will come back from the U.K. and be positive role models in their communities.
With the mayor’s team playing matches in the U.K, there is also a chance to be scouted by local clubs.
According to Mendes, a top player from the 2008 mayor’s team is currently being considered for a stint on a semi-pro British club. Such are opportunities that the youth would not otherwise receive through Canadian cricket.
Bakhtiar is fully aware of these prospects.
“It’s going to be obviously a life-changing experience,” he said. “As far as my career is concerned ... I’ll feel like I’ve found gold if I get a contract there.”