A student walking by the south side of campus on any given day may be a witness to what nowadays is a common sight across school fields in the United States: two teams of players facing against each other, one batting and attempting to score runs, while the other is fielding and trying to get as many outs as needed to move on to the next inning. Anywhere else, the obvious answer would be baseball. Here at the W, however, the sport is cricket.
Both sports are what is usually known as bat-and-ball games, activities where both teams switch roles between attacking and defending, hitting or catching the ball. Unlike goal-oriented games such as football or basketball, these sorts of games are not about time or possession, but about scoring more than the opponent before the innings run out.
The green space behind Kincannon Hall, a mostly-vacant space created last year by the university, has seen a lot of cricket action this semester thanks to the big new batch of international students – more than 30 – who arrived this fall. Most of them hail from Nepal, where cricket is the second most popular sport behind soccer.
One of them is Sugam Bhattarai, a freshman majoring in mathematics and one of the organizers of this initiative. Cricket is his favorite sport, one that he has been playing and watching since age 4, just like his father and his older brother. Continuing the tradition in the United States seemed like a no-brainer.
“Other guys were playing soccer, but I wanted to play cricket,” said Bhattarai. “One of my friends brought the idea to Sirena Cantrell, director of Housing and Residence Life, to buy us some cricket kits, and she did, so we immediately started playing.”
According to him, matches usually take place at least once or twice a week, mostly on Thursdays. But they don’t have a set schedule, as they set matches for whenever they feel like playing.
“If we are free, we will probably play,” said Bhattarai.
Unlike baseball matches, full cricket games can be quite lengthy. Depending on the rules, a regular match can be played over a number of hours or days, with some games lasting up to five days with an average play time of between three and eight hours and several breaks in between. This effectively makes cricket one of the sports with the longest playing times in the world.
Yet, the Nepali students are running it at their own paces, and locals are taking notice. While the games are still exclusively played by the bulk of new international students, there are plans in the works to spread the sport around campus. William Simmons, the International Student Services coordinator at the W, said that the Department of Campus Recreation has taken an active role in making this happen by exploring the possibilities of incorporating the sport to the roster and providing a class for MUW students to learn the sport, one in which the international students would assist in the teaching.
“I think the entire initiative is wonderful because it gives foreign students the perfect opportunity to engage with domestic students and show them a different culture,” said Simmons. “It also allows domestic students to learn a sport they are not familiar with and to create stronger bonds and values with their peers.”
The concept of cricket is not entirely unfamiliar in the United States, however. The sport is played at the amateur, club, intercollegiate and international competition level with more than 30,000 people who play or watch cricket matches annually. In fact, cricket is generally regarded by historians to be the first organized team sport and the first major team sport ever played in the United States, along with lacrosse.
For Bhattarai and the rest of the international students, it all comes down to having fun. They also get together regularly to play soccer at the Columbus Soccer Grounds, as well as the occasional basketball match. As for local sports, Bhattarai hasn’t tried any, but football is catching his attention.
“I really like it a lot,” he said. “It is very different, but that also makes it more fun.”