By Paul Mayne, Western News
Like many young Canadians growing up in the heart of sports-minded Toronto, Amish Taploo dreamed of playing for Team Canada. Only not the one that skates on ice.
“It’s always hard explaining to people what cricket is, so I try not to get into it too much – unless you really want to know,” laughed the first-year Social Science student, a self-admitted bookworm growing up. “When I was about 4 or 5, I saw my dad playing (cricket). He played at the state level in India. Obviously, when you see your dad doing something, you say, ‘Hey, I want to do that as well.’ So, I started watching and started playing and told my dad, ‘I’m a cricketer.’”
Just this past month, the 18-year-old returned from three weeks in Bangladesh where he represented Team Canada at the International Cricket Council Under 19 Cricket World Cup, which brings together some of the top teams from 16 nations.
“We won a pair of games, but I was more impressed we were competitive in all but one game,” he said. “Obviously, you want to win. But it was nice to see we’re competing on the same level with people that, in three or four years, will be professional cricket players.”
Taploo, like most young kids, told his parents he wanted to be something different each week. “Whenever I saw something cool, that’s what I wanted to do. So they put me in a (cricket) club and, instead of being in it for a week, it has been more than 10 years now.”
In that last decade, Taploo has taken his skills from the local cricket pitches of Toronto to England, India, Jamaica, Bermuda, Sri Lanka and across the United States.
At 13, Taploo embraced the game during a summer trip to India.
“Obviously, you can’t escape cricket there,” he said. “And, instead of playing with a bat, we played with a stick; bats were too expensive. Playing two months like that was sort of a turning point for me and that’s when I started getting better. It brought me into other sports as well, like basketball, badminton, volleyball and track. Anything I could get my hands on.”
By the time he turned 15, Taploo was working out daily over the winter months and, come summer, playing on the pitch five days a week. That hard work paid off, earning him a spot on the U19 Team Canada squad this past summer.
Beyond his team pressures, Taploo is new student at a new university in a new city. He admits balancing his life has become a huge chore.
“It’s harmed my school year because during the winter I was preparing for the World Cup and was going back to Toronto every weekend to train,” admitted Taploo, who hopes to apply to the Ivey Business School in his third year. “When I was back here, I was going to gym so much, and then, on top of that, school work. I’m getting used to it and catching up with things. My profs have been great.”
No matter, he cannot put the bat down. Beyond travelling the world, experiencing different food and cultures and creating lifelong friendships, there is more to the game for Taploo.
“I keep doing it because there is a certain feeling you get – it’s the gratification,” he said. “I’m a batsman. You only get one chance; you screw up, you’re out and done for the day and have to field for however long a period of time. Most times, you won’t be scoring big runs, so you will be getting out pretty fast. Cricket is the most infuriating game in that sense, where you just want to say, ‘Oh my god, I want to quit.’
“But then there’s always that one game where you really succeed and it gives you the biggest sense of euphoria. That’s why I keep going back to it. Because when you play at higher levels, and you perform at that certain level, it gives you the best feeling.”
While cricket is now taking a back seat to schooling, Taploo knows once summer comes around he’ll be competing in the Toronto domestic league and, possibly, joining the U19 team for a couple tours this summer in the United States and, perhaps, South Africa.
“It’s such a large sport outside of North America; it’s about the people you meet and the experiences you have. I’ve met so many cool people simply because of cricket.”