The man often regarded as the greatest Canadian cricketer of all time has called it a day. Ashish Bagai announced his retirement Saturday. The product of a Toronto District cricket Association and Toronto Cricket Academy rose through the ranks of Canada's youth system playing both u15 and u19 before joining the Canadian team at the young age of 17.
He displayed his prowess as a glove man for Canada at the 2003 cricket World Cup where he drew praise from many corners. Following a short hiatus to attend university Bagai returned this time as one of Canada's top players leading towards the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
With the team struggling in 2009, Bagai returned to captain Canada at the 2009 Cricket World Cup Qualifier. Often regarded as the best side Canada has ever put together, he led his charges to a second place finish and a spot in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. With a World Cup in his ancestral home on the horizon, Bagain left his career in Europe to rejoin Canada, this time as its first ever centrally contracted player. His return lasted until the end of 2011 Cricket World Cup where he went to pursue an education in the United States.
After some short stints working in television and completing his MBA, in May of 2013, Bagai returned for a 7 month period culminating with Canada's unsuccessful attempt to gain a berth in the 2014 World Twenty20.
Bagai had mixed emotions on the retirement, in a statement saying
"It's been 15 years since I first played for Canada and I think it's time for me to finally move on. It has been an absolute privilege and honour to represent Canada for such a long time and a responsibility I took very seriously.
First, I would like to thank my family for their continuous support and encouragement over the past 15 years. My parents, Vijay and Rita, my brother Akshay and my wife Monika have always believed in me and helped me through tough times. I would also like to thank my friends for being beside me throughout my time playing cricket. I would like to say a special thank you to Mr. Brian Hale who was the reason why started playing cricket in Canada and who shaped my entire game at a young age at the Toronto Cricket Academy. Finally, everyone who was a part of Cricket Canada since 1998 including the board, coaches and all the players that I have had the pleasure of playing with.
I feel gutted to be leaving the game when Canadian Cricket is going through a tough time but I believe that the young players that have been around for a while now will start stepping up in the coming years. There are some really talented young cricketers in Canada that need some proper guidance to be able to compete at the international level. The future of the game in Canada is really in their hands. The opportunity of making something for themselves is definitely there but it is up to them to show to the world how bad they want it. I will be following them with great interest.""
Cricket Canada's president Ravin Moorthy, who signed Bagai to his central contract in 2009 was grateful for Ashish's contribution to the game.
"There is no doubt that Ashish is a very special player. To consistently play at the high level he did without the benefit of a first-class cricketing structure around him is nothing short of amazing. He was one of the greatest players to play the Associate game and his presence will be missed not only by Canadian cricket but by many around the world. He consistently drove us to expect more on and off the field and set a fine example for those around him as to what it means to be a Canadian cricketer.
We wish Ashish and Monika the best as they start their new lives together and are looking forward to continuing to work with Ashish off the field to grow and move Canadian cricket forward. "
Bagai leaves as Canada's highest run getter in ODI's with 1964 runs at 37.76. He was part of Canada's squad that defeated Bangladesh in Durban at the 2003 Cricket World Cup