Cricket Canada's leadership challenge falls short
May 25, 2017
Welcome to this complex world of making deals and exchanging favours.
And, by the way, this is a man’s domain.
Those were the formidable obstacles Abigail Rajkumar was up against when she bravely threw her hat into the race to become Cricket Canada’s first female president and just the second woman president of any cricket association for that matter.
International Cricket Council Hall (ICC) of Famer Debbie Hockley broke through the glass ceiling last November when she was elected New Zealand Cricket head.
Going into the elections two weeks ago, Rajkumar knew the odds were not in her favour.
“I was very much aware of that, but I didn’t go into this as a woman seeking to make history,” she said. “This has more to do than me being a woman. I believe that we need change at the top and strong leadership that will help to advance the sport.”
Learning that she may have finished just a vote shy in the secret ballot of making history, however, sends a clear message that the change Rajkumar is seeking to lead might not be far away.
The Scarborough Cricket Association registrar/statistician decided to run for the presidency just weeks before the elections.
“That decision was based on conversations with people in the national and international cricket community whose opinions I trust and value,” she said. “The feedback I got from all of them was positive.”
Rajkumar has already started campaigning for the 2018 elections.
“I am going to build on the support I already have and reach out to others who might not be sure of what I will bring to the table or just didn’t know about me,” the Canada Cricket Umpires Association Level One umpire said. “From the outside looking in, it seems as if the current leadership focus is on the senior men’s team. That’s all and well, but you have to pay attention to developing our junior program. You don’t build a house from the top down. We also have to work to help grow the women’s game. I have other plans to advance the sport which I will divulge later.”
The eldest of four siblings (the others are males), Rajkumar started playing the sport at a young age in Trinidad & Tobago.
She made her own cricket bats and would often play the game on the small streets and beaches in south Trinidad.
After graduating from Siparia Senior Secondary School, Rajkumar attended Madame Maharaj School of Cosmetology & Hair Design in San Fernando which was launched in 1957 by the late Ramdoolarie Maharaj as T & T’s first hairstyling academy.
In 1987, she won an island-wide beauty & cultural pageant and used the prize money to come to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) the following year to pursue cosmetology studies.
Falling in love with Canada and a beau she was smitten by, they started the GTA Warriors windball team in 1995 that competed in the Scarborough league. In addition to being the club’s treasurer, she was the manager, sponsor and scorer during the club’s three-year existence.
After her 18-year marriage dissolved in 2008 and spending time raising their daughter, Rajkumar’s interest in the sport was rekindled.
In 2009, she spent nearly a month in India sightseeing, touring the Madan Lal Cricket Academy and visiting the residence of former India captain Kapil Dev and his family. She managed the victorious national women’s team that captured the ICC Americas tournament in 2012 and, later that year, visited Lord’s which is considered the mecca of cricket.
As a player, coach and administrator, Rajkumar’s passion for the sport is genuine and unyielding.
“For me though, I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing young players growing through the sport,” said the Superstars Sports Club executive whose daughter, Alysha Sarkar, just completed her freshman year at Queen’s University. “But most importantly, I want them to develop themselves and take great pride in how they dress and speak. It’s about making them useful societal citizens.”