Canadian cricket rising star, Benjamin Calitz, talks about his love for cricket, coaching, and travelling the world.
Liam Parker: How did you get into cricket in your early years?
Benjamin Calitz: My cricketing journey started at a very young age. Cricket is part of growing up in South Africa/Namibia and I had a passion for the game from the first day I picked up a bat. Memories of my childhood always contain playing cricket in the backyard and in the streets. When I was 5, I got a cricket helmet as a Christmas gift. I was so excited about it, that I wore it to Church the next morning.
You’re South African based but have represented the Canadian U19s team. How did that come about?
My dad coached rugby in Canada from 2001-2004. My sister and I were very fortunate to have been born in that time and thus were able to get Canadian passports. I spent 9 years of my life in Namibia where I got great opportunities to play at a pretty high level. In 2018, Canada went to Namibia for an ICC event where I was liaison officer for them. They found out that I had a Canadian passport and invited me to come and play in Canada for a season. From then on everything fell into place and I got selected for the U19s World Cup.
Can you talk about your experience of the U19s Cricket World Cup in 2020?
My experience in the World Cup was amazing. It was my first taste of what it feels like to play professional cricket and compare and compete against the best in the world. My best performance was against South Africa when I got 63 not out and took 2 catches behind the stumps. It was one of the best scores for an associate country against a test-playing nation.
Canada’s better known for its baseball / basketball / ice hockey teams, however cricket was once the most popular sport in the country and is the fastest growing one currently. What’s the standard of the sport like in the country?
The standard of cricket is getting better in Canada. Cricket is a growing sport and it has recently been recognised as a school sport. It is obviously not on the same level as in South Africa yet, but it is improving. Canada has unfortunately no first class system. If Canadian players would like to make a career out of playing cricket, they will have to play abroad.
There is still a long way to go for cricket Canada, but with the right leadership and vision, it has the potential to compete on the the international stage.
Do you think the ICC should encourage the growth of the sport in associate nations, and how?
Do you have an ambition to ultimately play first class cricket as a profession?
Yes for sure. Since I could remember I only had one goal and that was to play at the top level. I believe there is no use to work hard every day and not have the ambition to be the best in the world.
How have you managed to balance sports and education so far in life?
When I was in school, I was away on tour for a month or two, but luckily my teachers were very helpful and I was able to catch up with the work I missed. I have obtained my Gary Kirsten Level 3 Coaching Qualification in 2021 and have also completed a Cricket Australia course on mental toughness. I really enjoy coaching and see it as a way to improve my own cricket ability and also as a career that I want to pursue after playing.
Previous U19s world cups have been the platform for future superstars (Joe Root, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith all represented their countries at past events). Is there anyone to look out for from the 2020 edition (apart from yourself!)?
I can only comment on the players I played agianst and there are a few: Jayden Seales and Nyeem Young from West-India were pretty impressive. I also believe that Oliver Davies and Jake Fraser-McGurk from Australia will make it at the highest level and then Wesley Madhevere from Zimbabwe is a pretty descent cricketer as well.
Finally, any advice for young aspiring cricketers?
Don’t try and be too perfect too early. Developing the ability to see the ball and to hit it cleanly, is way more important to me. [You] should play as much backyard / street cricket because that will develop the love for the game and even your skills. From a technical point of veiw, it is important for a batsman to just focus on the basics and keep it simple. Keeping your head still and being balanced at the crease would be the main priority.