Can Vancouver Knights Defend Their GT20 Canada Title?

Exactly a year ago, there was joy and ecstasy in the Vancouver Knights camp as they finished the inaugural Global T20 Canada tournament as champions. Local player Saad Bin Zafar was the hero in that final against West Indies B and Read Scoops even had an exclusive chat with him after that final.

We’re now very close to the start of the second season of GT20 Canada and this tournament promises to be bigger and better than the first edition, with many bigger names and international stars in the line-ups. Between 25 July – 11 August 2019, we’re going to witness some mind-blowing cricketing action at Brampton, Canada.

Vancouver Knights are the defending champions of the GT20 Canada 2019 and we decided to catch up with some of the players from their 2019 squad. We wanted to dive deeper into personal preparations, routines and of course, what each one feels this league will do for the future of cricket in Canada and around the world. Keep reading for more…

Vancouver Knights logo

Saad Bin Zafar

Pakistan-born Canadian all-rounder Saad Bin Zafar was one of the key names in the Vancouver Knights squad from the inaugural season last year. Man of the Match in the 2018 GT20 Canada final, he picked up 2/26 with the ball and then smashed 79(48)* with the bat to take his franchise to victory. Clearly he’s someone the team will have much more expectations on as he was one of few players to be retained for the 2019 GT20 Canada. Recently, he picked 11 wickets in 6 games for Canada at the ICC World Cricket League Division 2.

Saad bin Zafar - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops
Image credits:

Talking to Read Scoops about the Global T20 Canada league and how 2019 will be better than last season, Zafar said, “It is one of the best things that has happened for Canadian cricketers. The league provides an opportunity to local cricketers to rub shoulders against some of the world’s top cricketers, which will help to improve and polish local talent. The 2019 season is going to be bigger and better because this time the tournament is happening in Brampton which holds a large South Asian community. The close proximity will attract larger crowds. Also, the league has started promoting and advertising the tournament well in advance as compared to last time, which will also help to pull more crowds.”

Talking about added pressures of expectations on him personally as well as on the team, he added, “I feel grateful to Vancouver Knights for showing trust in me and picking me again for the 2019 season. The pressure is always there to perform and to meet the expectations of others and as well as your personal expectations. It’s a part and parcel of the game and something we are accustomed to. Yes, the pressure is there but I have been putting efforts and hard work in my training to perform well once again. We have a good team this year too, and I am confident that we can defend our title.”

One player you are looking forward to playing alongside? Shoaib Malik.

One player in the league whose wicket you would love to take? Yuvraj Singh.

Rayyan Pathan

Born and brought up in Canada, Rayyankhan Pathan has been rising through the ranks right from the Canada U19’s to making his international debut in 2013. Otherwise known for his bowling, Pathan was a part of the GT20 2018 tournament where he played 2 games for Montreal Tigers and surprisingly, didn’t bowl a single over, scoring 20 and 11 in his two innings with the bat. Having now made the shift to Vancouver Knights, Pathan will be looking to display his skills as an all-rounder this year, and hopefully get more games as well!

Rayyan Pathan - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops

“It has always been my dream to play professional cricket, so I can’t put into words how it feels to be part of the Global T20. Especially being born and raised in Toronto and playing in its first professional league in Canada, it gives me great pride and honour knowing that I’m one of the few representing Canadian cricket on the big stage. It will have a big impact on Canadian cricket because kids now in the grassroots system can work hard towards one day playing in this league as well. It will also garner attention from people who wouldn’t usually watch cricket and who can potentially bring in sponsorship which we wouldn’t have without Global T20.”

Talking about his preparations for the 2019 season, Pathan said, “To be honest, nothing changes for me. I will prepare the same way as I did before and hopefully be able to contribute for us to win it again. I put in a lot of hard-work and dedication into my craft so I know I will be ready for any challenge. We have some great players on the team returning from last year, so I will just be looking to gel with them, play some good cricket on the field and build a brotherhood off it. I don’t want to think about any expectations, I want to set small goals and achieve them and if we do that as a team, we will achieve the ultimate goal… the championship!”

“A lot of preparations are being done. I’ve been training 4 days a week, with our local games on the weekends. So, it’s been a lot of cricket for me personally. I just want to make sure that when I get the chance to play that I take that opportunity and never look back. Naturally I’m a very confident person and I always say if you prepare the right way, the results will go in your favour. Playing a couple of games last year really helped my confidence even more because I know that I belong here, I belong with the international stars and I can’t wait to show what more I can do.”

Guys you’re looking forward to playing with? “Andre Russell and Chris Gayle. I try to style my game after Dre Russ. I watch a lot of his batting/bowling videos on YouTube and try to see where I am; maybe use something he does with myself. The Universe Boss because he’s just an absolute legend, one of the best players to ever play the game! Who wouldn’t wanna share a dressing room with him!”

One bowler you would want to hit for six? “Sunil Narine! He’s been one of the best T20 bowlers in the world for so many years, and so many have struggled against him. I feel if I can do it to him, I can do it to anybody. Nothing will stop me!”

Matthew Nandu

Being a part of the GT20 Canada 2019 is a matter of pride for most players but for teen prodigy Matthew Nandu, that pride is amplified as he’s the youngest by miles to be selected to the tournament, barely 16 years of age at the moment. Memories of a 16-year old Sachin Tendulkar swishing his blade around in 1989 will pop into your mind when this young lad takes the field in Brampton this year. Get ready to be surprised!

Matthew Nandu - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops

Commenting on the opportunity to play in this league among such big international stars, Nandu said, “It feels great. I am looking forward to being alongside some of the greats to play the game. To be honest, I’m not nervous but just very excited. Consistent performances were the key to my selection and I will try to make use of this opportunity. Chris Gayle and Andre Russell are the main players who I am looking forward to playing with because they are veteran players who have been in this game for so long and by being with them, I can ask questions and learn a lot.”

Ultimate goal as a cricketer? My goal is to play for Guyana and West Indies at the international level.

One bowler you would love to smack for six? Trent Boult!

Harsh Thaker

This off-break bowler made his List A debut for Canada in the 2018–19 Regional Super50 tournament in October 2018 and was also selected to play for Canada in the 2016 U-19 World Cup. He’s not always a regular part of the Canada senior team but whenever he’s played, he has made his part, including a 52* against West Indies B team last year. Here’s another local player who is ready to leave his mark on this tournament!

Harsh Thaker - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops

“I am delighted to be a part of such a big scale tournament which is taking place in Canada. Quality players like Yuvraj Singh, Kane Williamson, Faf du Plessis and Chris Gayle are coming to Canada and the Canadian players can learn a lot from them. It’s also a motivation for young players in Canada to play the sport and dream big.”

Hayden Walsh Jr.

No, he’s not Canadian, but he’s a US cricketer. While USA is a superpower when it comes to almost everything else in life, their cricket has always taken the backseat. Originally Antiguan, Walsh has played for Leeward Islands in the Windies domestic circuit and he has a history of cricketers in his family as well. The leg-break bowler didn’t get too many scalps but he crafted a fine fifty against Namibia earlier this year in the Div 2 League. Another exciting prospect…

Hayden Walsh Jr - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops
Image credits: ESPNcricinfo

He spoke about the competition, saying, “I think this league gives players in the America’s like myself an opportunity to improve our game to a higher level by learning from the top pros who are a part of the various teams. I also think it’s a step forward in professionalizing the game in this part of the world where cricket is not a major sport. I’ve played in the CPL too but GT20 is different because in other leagues most of the professionals are from ICC full member countries, but there are quite a few Associate Players involved here, which is great exposure for these players where there is limited amount of exposure to the cricket world at the associate level.”

Talking about his personal preparations before the season begins, he said, “I try to keep a very high level of fitness all the time which is the main key to my performance. So for the past couple months I’ve been doing personal work leading up to this tournament for example spot bowling, hitting balls on the machine and following my Strength and Conditioning program from the USA Cricket trainer.”

Michael Rippon

Michael Rippon - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops

Tobias Visee

Tobias Visee - Vancouver Knights, Read Scoops

On behalf of the cricket-loving team here at Read Scoops, I’d like to thank the cricketers mentioned above for taking the time out to have these exclusive chats with us in the build up to the 2019 Global T20 Canada. There’s going to be some thrilling cricket on display and we wish the Vancouver Knights the best of luck in defending their championship!

– Dwayne Fernandes, Read Scoops

(Twitter – @dwayneeeboy, Instagram – @dwayneeeboy)

Vancouver Knights Squad

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About Dwayne Fernandes 1076 Articles
Indian. 23. Management Graduate. Huge cricket fan. Twitter and Instagram - @dwayneeeboy