A surreal sense of awe and accomplishment," is how Gavin Niblock described his experiences donning a Team Canada jersey and playing in the Under-19 Cricket World Cup, recently held in the Caribbean.
Niblock, a Bloomfield Hills High School senior and Canadian citizen, came to Michigan with his parents two and a half years ago when his father, a consul and senior trade commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada, took an assignment in Detroit.
"Growing up, I used to watch the World Cup on TV, and now, to actually be in a similar World Cup, is unbelievable. Representing a country is something I've never done before, and it made me very happy to be there after a lot of hard work and dedication," said Niblock.
His path to the Canadian squad started last summer when he made the British Columbia provincial team. In the fall, he was invited to join the Team Canada training group, and one of 15 selected to play for his native country in the World Cup.
Cricket is one of the most-watched sports in the world, second only to soccer. However, its popularity hasn't caught on in the United States.
The game is played on an oval field with a bowler (like a baseball pitcher, and the position Niblock plays), who alternates throwing the ball to two batsman who are on the field at the same time. A wicketkeeper (similar to a baseball catcher) and nine defensive players are also on the field. There are 10 ways a batsman can get out, but the most common is when a hit ball is caught, or the bails get knocked off the stumps.
Niblock was introduced to the sport at the age of five while living in New Delhi. Because of his father's position with the Canadian government, the family has lived in Canada, India, Hungary, Romania, and now Bloomfield Hills.
"In India, you see cricket all around you. Every street corner, every patch of grass, there are always kids playing," said his dad, Bradwin Niblock.
In 2011, the Men's Cricket World Cup took place in India, and Niblock took his son to see the Canadian team compete. "I think he was kind of hooked at that point," he added.
It wasn't until the family moved to Budapest five years later that Niblock formally learned to play at a local cricket club and participated in tournaments throughout Europe.
Andrew Leckonby coached him in Budapest and described Niblock as an intensely committed and enthusiastic player and a 'superbly brilliant wicketkeeper' (although he's now a bowler).
"I expected him to potentially become their (Canada's) prime wicketkeeper/batsman, so the fact that it is his fast bowling that has come through is further testament to his commitment to personal skill development."
In the months leading up to the World Cup, Niblock traveled to Toronto every weekend for the squad's practice sessions.
Now, Niblock is back to playing at the Farmington Cricket Club, and still beaming over the experience of participating in this elite competition.
Canada was one of 16 teams to make it to the Under-19 Cricket World Cup. Despite losing all four of their matches and forfeiting the last two following a COVID outbreak, Niblock feels good.
"We went into it confident. We knew our skills, and we were confident in our game plan. We were there to show what we've trained for, what we learned, and what we could do," said Niblock. "Personally, I wanted to make people proud. I wanted to make myself proud, to prove to myself why I was there after putting in years and years of training, and playing so many games and matches, and I believe that's what I did."
Story: Jennifer Lovy
Photo: Laurie Tennent