On the eve of International Women’s Day, celebrations for the first women’s university-level cricket tournament were overshadowed by a fight between a male coach and spectators Wednesday.
The Tri-Series tournament, organized by Canadian College Cricket (CCC) and hosted by the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC), featured UTSC, Ryerson and Wilfrid Laurier University. It was the first-ever women’s university-level cricket tournament in Canada.
Though the final between UTSC and Laurier was cut short due to time, UTSC swept through the competition to win the tournament, crushing Ryerson by 23 runs and beating Laurier by 10 wickets. The UTSC batswomen demonstrated their skill with the bat showcasing powerful strokes, a strong bowling attack, and outplaying both of their opponents.The match between Ryerson and Laurier was a neck-and-neck, evenly-matched game, resulting in a draw. However, Laurier received a technical victory and placed second.
Despite Ryerson coming in third, team captain and club founder Hirra Farooqi was proud of her team’s achievement. “Honestly it makes me feel amazing,” she said. “I was in a room full of these amazing women yesterday who have done their best to be where they are right now.”
What should have been a momentous occasion was interrupted by a hotheaded fight between Laurier coach Muhammad Abdul Rehman Naeem and a Ryerson spectator. A heckling flag bearer was waving Ryerson’s sigil with wild abandon. The flagpole hit Naeem in the head, which resulted in a scuffle
The game stopped. A group of men bolted onto the court shoving each other. The players looked on incredulously as their court transformed into a temporary battleground. “We were pretty confused about what was going on,” said Farooqi, who added the incident was dealt with quickly.
Both Naeem and his assailant were ejected by security.
“It is so unfortunate to see well-educated university students get into this mess,” said Canadian College Cricket (CCC) president Hassan Mirza. “We can’t be doing this if you want to promote the sport. There is zero tolerance for this, disciplinary measures will be taken.”
Mizra said the CCC will take feedback from the captains to figure out the best course of action moving forward.
“It’s all about them,” he said, “However they want to pursue the program, it’s up to them.”
At the awards ceremony, a CCC executive said, “I do feel uncomfortable as a man talking about women’s empowerment. But the women who are here today: you’re pioneers.”
The executive also had a message for the men: “When the women are on the court, stay off the court. Don’t steal attention away from the sport for yourselves.”
By Ben Cohen
With files from Harleen Sidhu