After 47 years of distinguished service to
Toronto, Ontario and Canadian cricket
Barbados born Austin Ward has taken
his leave from any further active involvement
in the sport which has been his first love
since childhood. Now in his 81st year, Ward’s
involvement with Canadian cricket began in
1974, mere months after he had immigrated to
Canada from his Barbados birth land.
It was in fact the former captain of their
Coleridge Parry school team in Barbados,
Rixford Marshall, who had himself immigrated
to Canada a few years earlier who initiated
Ward’s initial involvement. Having heard of
Ward’s arrival and knowing of his prowess as
a batsman from their days playing together in
Barbados, he almost immediately encouraged
and convinced to become a fellow member of
the Grace Church Cricket Club.
Ward’s own involvement with cricket began
during his teenaged years. As a skinny fourteen
year old he became one of the youngest
players to ever represent the Coleridge Parry
Secondary School. His first outings as a middle
order batsman were far from encouraging, he
recorded scores of successive ducks: 0, 0 and
0 in his first three innings. Indeed, had it not
been for Captain’s insistence that he be given
another chance he would have been summarily
discarded and dropped by the Games Master
who was the team’s Chief and only Selector.
Ward then rewarded his captain’s confidence
with successive undefeated scores of 18, 27 and
47. By the time his first season of representative
cricket had ended he had firmly established a
reputation for himself as a batsman who was
very difficult to get out. Ward eventually finished
his studies at Coleridge Parry in 1958 as the captain
of the school’s team which was then playing
matches as a full fledged member of the Barbados
Cricket Association, the island’s governing body for
the sport.
Having left school Ward became a member of
the Leewards Cricket Club which was located on
the northern part of the island sugar plantation. He
was encouraged to do by members of his family
and as direct result of his nationally famous father’s
ownership of the Fairfield & Mount Gay Company
Limited, producers and distributors of the world
renowned rum of the same name.
After he had moved to Canada in 1974 and joined
their ranks shortly after, Austin Ward played Toronto
District cricket for a few years as a regular member
of the Grace Church Cricket Club’s First XI. He
eventually left Grace Church to join Dovercourt
where he remained as a valued playing member
for several years.
When his playing days were eventually over and
after he’d also served in many administrative
capacities at Dovercourt, Austin subsequently became a member of the Victoria Park Cricket
Club in the early nineties. During his administrative
involvement with Victoria Park and blessed as
it was with the presence of national players
Ingleton Liburd, Tony Gardener and Surendra
Seeraj within its roster “VP” as the club was fondly
known quickly became a regular very strong
contender for annual honors in the T&D Premier
League.
Austin Ward’s outstanding involvement as a
Canadian cricket administrator which would
endure until his 2019 retirement, started somewhat
humbly in 1974 as the Treasurer of the T&D Board.
When Ward assumed those responsibilities the
T&D’s total recorded revenues was $1000. His very
first action as Treasurer was to present to the T&D
AGM that year a Financial Report which included
a balanced Balance Sheet of the League’s
finances and which was acknowledged by Eddie
Bracht at the meeting as the first instance of that
having been done for many years.
During his tenure as T&D Treasurer Ward, whose first
job back in Barbados had been as a Bookkeeper
and who over the years had completed Business
Management Studies at Ryerson College,
implemented several initiatives that were geared
towards vastly improving the League’s finances.
Among these was a Junior Development Bond
which required the League’s member clubs to
make annual refundable deposits to a Saving
Bond Account that Ward had established. The
deposits made to the Bond were subsequently
used to act as a security against losses incurred
from clubs leaving the League. He also introduced
a Junior Development Fund to finance initiatives in
relation to the League’s Junior Cricket Programs.
He also established a Capital Fund for the League.
The combined effect of these three initiatives was
a significant improvement in the League’s overall
finances.
From its relatively humble beginnings as the
T&D Treasurer, Austin Ward’s Canadian cricket
administrative involvement expanded to such
an outstanding degree that by its completion
forty plus years later it had encompassed almost
every role available. These included stints as
the League’s President, T&D’s Representative
to the Ontario Cricket Association (OCA) and
also Ontario’s Representative on the Canadian
Cricket Association’s Executive Board.
Of all those that he fulfilled one of the most historic,
if not wholly satisfying, would have been that as
a one of the National Selectors who selected the
Canadian team which participated in the 1979
England hosted World Cup. The 1979 tournament
was only the second in the global quadrennial
competition’s now 46 year history and Canada’s
very first appearance as a competing nation.
Of all the many various roles he has fulfilled in
his outstanding Canadian cricket administrative
career, Austin Ward is arguably best known for his
stewardship of this country’s cricket pitches. As
the Owner of Dixie Sports, which he had formed
during the early eighties to fill the then existing
need for a wider supply of available cricket gear,
he eventually became the major countrywide
supplier of matting wickets. He was also the
imitator behind the country-wide subsequent
use of eight-foot wide mattings, as well as those
that had 8’ x 8’ canvas supported ends as major
improvements to the six-foot wide varieties that
had previously been used.
In 2001, when as a result of Canada’s hosting of that
year’s ICC World Cup Qualification tournament
turf wickets were eventually introduced at King
City, as well as at Ross Lord and Sunnybrook
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Parks, Austin Ward was involved in the process as one of the managers responsible for the pitch installations. Following that initial involvement, Ward subsequently became the Manager and Curator at the Maple Leaf owned pitches at King City having taken over those responsibilities from Hank Wilson, Chris Chappell and Ron Aldridge who had all fulfilled such duties for several years. It was in that very same role that Ward would in 2019, some nineteen years later, eventually call time on his illustrious involvement.
2019 was also the year Ward effectively closed down the operations of Dixie Sports which he had founded in 1975 and which since then had become one of the leading suppliers of cricket gear throughout Canada. Dixie Sports was actually formed as a result of Ward himself not having any gear when he was first invited to play for Grace Church soon after his Canadian arrival. At that time there was only one supplier of gear in the entire country, the stock of which was limited to Stuart Surridge bats, balls, pads and gloves.
Quickly realizing the opportunity at hand, Ward wrote to Gray Nichols requesting that they supply him with some bats for sale to local cricketers. Advised by Gray Nichols that they could only deal with an established company and not an individual, he instantly developed a letter head bearing the name Dixie (Electric) the company he was working for as a Controller at that time.
Ward’s first order of twelve Gray Nichols bats was quickly exhausted by attending cricketers when they were displayed during a match at the Toronto Cricket Club. The expressed interest of those present resulted in Ward’s order being increased to thirty-two bats the following year and to eight-seven after just three years. Dixie Sports annual inventory of gears grew to such extent that by 1987, some twelve years later, the associated management requirements had become sufficient as to allow Ward to finally quit “day” job as Dixie Electric’s longstanding Financial Controller to become a full time sporting goods company owner.
Austin Ward’s outstanding contributions over the past forty-seven years could not have been accomplished by himself or without the assistance and support of others. Of the many who have contributed to his success, former CCA President the late Jack Kyle, fellow administrator Eddie Bracht and the father and son Wilson family caretakers of the King City Maple Leaf cricket ground, as well as Calvin Clarke the CCA’s longstanding Secretary are foremost among those for whose support and assistance he is most grateful.
Having served with such outstanding distinction as he has for as long as he has done within the past forty-seven years, Austin Ward now fully deserves to enjoy his retirement from any further active involvement with Canadian cricket. As space constrained as it has been, the foregoing acknowledgment of his outstanding involvement should also serve as a mere precursor to his being bestowed with much greater and far more official honors in recognition of his longstanding service.