After all the visa hassles for foreign players, Toronto is all excited about staging its biggest-ever cricketing show on Friday when Pakistan and Sri Lanka join Zimbabwe and hosts Canada to fight it out for the first Al-Barakah T20 Canada Cup.
Cricket fever has gripped sport lovers as they get ready to watch top guns like Shoaib Akhtar, Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi in action for the first time on their soil.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has appointed Mark Benson from England and Karan Bainey from Canada as the two umpires, while former Kiwi captain Jeff Crow will stand in as the match referee.
To keep an eye on players and report wrong-doings, the ICC anti-corruption unit is also in town. ``This unit is being represented by Ron Hope of the UK. He is here with his team members,'' Cricket Canada CEO Atul Ahuja told IANS.
Major television networks from Pakistan and Sri Lanka are present to telecast the matches for viewers back home.
``The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and Pakistan's Geo and ARY will telecast the action live. And we also have a large production team from India here for the tournament,'' said Ahuja.
For the big-time event, the Maple Leaf cricket facility - the only one in Canada as per ICC standards - has been given a complete makeover.
With seating arrangements for 10,000 people, the facility now looks like any world-class stadium. ``With a brand-new stadium which has a giant electronic scoreboard, a huge video screen and a fabulous dressing room and world-class media facilities, we are making cricketing history in Canada,'' said Ahuja.
He said Canada was proud to host to the biggest T20 event after the last year's Twenty20 World Cup.
With the UAE-based organizers spending millions of dollars on the slam-bang event, Ahuja said cricket offered a big opportunity to promote Canada as a tourist destination.
Because of the Sri Lankan team, police has also taken extra security steps to avert any threat from extremist elements among Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto.