Team plans to upgrade playing field, cultivate interest in sport among American students
The cricket club was crowned as national champions at the national collegiate cricket championship held in Miami, on March 11-15.
After being formed earlier in the year, the cricket club has had a surprisingly strong start to its career. Over spring break, the team competed in a field of 32 other colleges from the United States and Canada and beat Drexel University in the final match to take home the title.
Sharath Raam, team founder and information technology and management graduate student, said the team members couldn’t believe it when they won.
“I don’t think any team on their debut has won a championship before,” he said. “This is the first team formed three months back that won the championship. Nobody expected UT Dallas to win it.”
The team first formed after Raam heard about the tournament from an alumnus who also played cricket. He wanted the school to participate, but a squad had to first be formed by a current student. Raam stepped in to recruit players to create a team.
Raam had only two weeks to get the team together before its first tournament in Houston. Due to the short notice, American College Cricket and Recreational Sports allowed them to play even though the school didn’t officially recognize the team.
Once he had the permission to play, Raam started to look at players from UTD who played in local cricket leagues like the North Texas Cricket Association and the Dallas Cricket League to fill out the roster. Team member Praharsh Anisetty, an information technology and management graduate student, said many Indian students play the game because it’s so popular in their home country.
“Cricket’s pretty popular back in India,” he said. “Growing up we’ve always been playing cricket. Cricket is one of the major sports back there. Coming here it feels very good to see that there is an American College Cricket League.”
Both players said that cricket is huge in India, with viewership of major games, like when the national team plays Pakistan, get even more viewers than the Super Bowl.
Still, despite the large number of Indian students, the team was only able to get 12 players to join the club – åonly one more than the number of players on the field. This meant the players often had to play several matches, which can last up to four hours, with little time to rest.
“It was really bad,” Raam said. “The one player who was rested was injured. We had small injuries and stuff like that, but we still had to go on with eleven (players). We couldn’t let anyone sit.”
They first faced this challenge in the regional tournament in Houston, which featured four games in two days, where they only played with eleven players. Raam said he attributed their success to the familiarity they had with each other.
“We’ve been in touch with cricket ever since we came here,” he said. “We’ve been playing. We’ve been in touch. So we’ve been in great form.”
After winning the regional tournament, the club qualified to make it into the national championship. They played their way through teams ranging from Penn State to Georgia Tech.
After clearing their way through these challengers, they faced off against the Drexel Dragons. Even though Drexel had a larger, more experienced team, the Comets were able to get through them to win a national title in its first year as a team.
Now that the team has won the national tournament, Raam hopes to expand the team and get it to be an official club. He also wants to build a pitch so the team can hosts other schools.
“People are interested in playing us: The University of Texas at Arlington, Texas A&M, Texas Tech,” he said. “They want to play us, but we need a field set up here. The multipurpose field has a cement pitch there, but there needs to be a mat on it. You cannot play it on a cement pitch.”
He said there will be a request for a mat once the club becomes official.
Now that the team has experienced this success, Raam said the next step is to spread the word about the sport to those who may not know much about it.
“I would not only like for people who already play cricket to come forward and prove your potential and join the UTD cricket team and go for the tournaments and play other universities, but we also want people who want to learn cricket,” he said. “We have really experienced and first-class cricketers here. So they are ready to start off coaching sessions and training camps for people who don’t know what cricket is and would like to learn cricket from the basics.”