Tufts Club Cricket kicks off 1st season as club sport

The Tufts Cricket Club is pictured on Oct. 6, 2019. Courtesy Tufts Cricket Club

Most people in the U.S. typically associate the term cricket to an insect. But, cricket — the sport — is the second most watched sport in the world and is popular across countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England, where it is deeply rooted in the culture. While cricket remains unfamiliar to many in the U.S., at Tufts, the Cricket Club has formed over the past few years, seeking to spread love for the sport.

The club was founded in 2017 by co-founders junior Uzair Sattar and junior Sidharth Anand. In the fall of 2019, it was recognized by the TCU Senate, and in the spring of 2019, the club held its first general interest meeting.

Last semester, the team met weekly for practices and executive board meetings to prepare for local matches. Although the club only recently received TCU recognition, the club decided to transition to a club sport this year. The spring 2020 semester marks the first semester that the Tufts Cricket team joins the group of club sports on campus, which are overseen by the athletics department.

Currently, the team consists of around 20 regular players, and has a core group that makes up the executive board. President Anand, sophomore captain Charlie Short, sophomore team statistician Kiran Misner and sophomore team treasurer Akash Mishra are among some of the members of the executive board who work closely together to plan practices, organize tournaments and keep track of the team’s overall progress. In addition, a few first-year students are shadowing existing executive board members.

After becoming a recognized club sport, the team has shifted its goals for this semester and the following club season. 

“The biggest goal in being a club sport was to add a bit more legitimacy to the executive board positions as a whole,” Mishra said. “We wanted to become a more serious playing group. Last semester, even as a TCU club, we went to the Northeast Regional Championship with [the] American College Cricket Organization, one of the few organizations in the U.S. that governs college cricket.”

Now, the cricket team is able to schedule practice times and space more efficiently — something it has struggled with in the past. The team often practices in Carzo Cage in the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, but the team hopes to practice on Bello Field or on Ounjian Field in the coming weeks.

“The process of becoming a club sport was relatively painless,” Mishra said. “Because our sport requires open practice spaces we typically do have trouble finding practice spaces. It is definitely a struggle to work with club sports to book that space for tryouts and practice spaces before we are [in] season … That is probably the biggest struggle we are facing right now.”

The team’s first scheduled practice this semester was cancelled due to lack of field availability. However, when the team cannot schedule practices in the cage or if weather restricts practices outside, it looks to play box cricket at the International House on 13 Sawyer Ave. Box cricket, an abridged version of the game, allows cricket to be played in smaller, indoor spaces. Last semester, the Tufts Cricket Club set up a small box cricket tournament, where teams of four competed. Additionally, the team has been playing box cricket early this semester to maintain members’ excitement for the game while they wait for official practices to kick off when club season starts. 

Aside from box cricket tournaments, the team constantly communicates with other cricket teams from surrounding Boston area schools — including Boston University, Harvard University and Northeastern University — to schedule local matches throughout the season. Although the team hopes to travel to larger tournaments in the future, for now the focus is on local matches, according to Mishra.

“The decision [we] made as an executive board this semester is to focus on the transition into club sports and continue playing in local matches,” Mishra said. “We will keep playing matches with Boston area colleges and set a goal of going to a national tournament either next fall or spring.” 

First-year Saumya Mehta explained that the team is working on gelling more first, before entering any large tournaments.

“The team is still going through this transitional phase where we are trying to build a team from scratch,” Mehta said. “Before we go to any major tournaments, we have to build a little bit more harmony within the team and get to know each other more.”

The team also traveled to New York during the fall semester to compete in the American College Cricket (ACC) North East Regional Tournament. While the team did not perform as well as it had hoped, the players look back fondly on the experiences the trip provided. 

“About 15 of us went to the ACC championship in New York,” Mehta said. “None of us knew each other particularly well as a group, but we got to know each other really well. Although we lost most of the matches, we were able to bond over making fun of each other over our performances and how bad we were.”

As the team is still growing, it welcomes all different backgrounds and playing experiences. The team has a few graduate students, first-year students and beginners; however, they are still looking to reach out to other groups, especially women.

“We definitely have an active effort to involve women on the team,” Misner said. “Obviously, there is no restriction as to who can join the team, we are open to grad students, Ph.D. students, underclassmen, upperclassmen, whoever wants to play cricket is welcome to join.”

First-year Akash Jyothish shared his positive experience on the team.

“It has been a place to find a good community of people who share an interest that I won’t find in common with the average friend or student at Tufts,” Jyothish said. “It has been really nice to have in some ways a cultural connection to home. Also, as a sport, it is a really fun sport and it is a really great time, whether it is playing for fun or serious drills. It feels good to be doing something I haven’t had the chance to do before.”

Other teammates have similar feelings, as the club has given them an opportunity to meet new people who share the same passion. 

“Tufts Cricket was the first community [where] I actually felt at home from the moment I went to one practice and met everyone from other countries that share a similar interest and passion,” Mehta said. “I love talking about cricket and playing cricket, so it was really fun to find 20 other people who loved doing the same thing. The community is amazing and I got to meet a lot of people that I have friendships with outside of cricket.”

Going into the club season, the team will plan more bonding events, along with their scheduled matches.

“Team bonding is something we are looking to do more this semester,” Misner said. “Most of the team bonding we have done has been informal; the trip to New York was probably our biggest event.”

The team is holding tryouts this Saturday, Feb. 15.