A group of students was passionate about their favorite sport; they got together and built a club around it. But unfortunately, the club died down. A few years later, another group, equally passionate about the sport, revived the club and took it far enough to organize a great tournament: this year, the MIT Cricket Club hosted the first ever cricket tournament at MIT from Aug. 29th to Sept. 14th.
Although the MIT cricket club was established in 1996, it had dwindled to a small group of players practicing together on weekends. It experienced a revival this summer and the team members again decided to organize themselves into an official club. After participating in a tournament in Boston where the teams had to play on an uneven grassy track, the club members realized they had great resources at their disposal in the form of a flat track of the Jack Barry Astroturf Field and flood lights for night matches.
The lead organizers were MIT graduate students Vivek Jaiswal G, Vivek Raghunathan G and Ankur Sinha G; they were assisted by 12-15 volunteers. The participation from MIT was much better than expected. From having only about 15 players, sufficient just for one team, the participation increased to about 60 when the organizers decided to open the tournament to everyone here. After several announcements and informal try-outs, three teams (MIT Green, Blue, and Red), with nearly twenty players each, were created. To keep all teams at par, the organizers divided their best players among the various teams. Local teams from several universities and cricket clubs also came to participate in the tournament; these were the Burlington Cricket Club (BCC), the Cambridge Cricket Club (CCC), the Waltham XI (WXI), the UMass Mavericks (UMM) and the Rising Stars.
The matches were first divided into two groups of four teams each. The teams in each group first played against each other in a round robin format with each match being played with twelve overs a side. The four teams in each group were ranked on the basis of the number of matches they had won and a draw of quarter finals was made. Following the quarterfinals, all matches were played with fifteen overs a side, except in cases of rain interruption. CCC faced Waltham XI, and UMM faced BCC in the semi-finals on Saturday evening. While UMM beat BCC handily, hitting their target of 51 runs in just 6.4 overs, CCC defeated WXI by a margin of just six runs with the match stretching out to the deciding ball. The finals were played on Sunday evening between CCC and WXI and gave the tournament the exciting finish it deserved. CCC repeated their semi-final victory margin, beating UMM by six runs.
According to Jaiswal, the main problem the organizers faced was finding funds for the tournament. The organizers had to present their budget and proposals to many sponsors before finally receiving the money they needed to host the tournament. Various groups at MIT assisted in the sponsorship of the tournament, namely the Student Activities Office; Sangam, the Indian Students Association; the Graduate Student Council; and the International Students Office. In addition, the tournament was supported by the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) in the form of subsidized rates for the astroturf.
Sinha explained that the standard cricket ball, made of leather, could not be used on this surface as it bounced too high and could injure players. The organizers experimented with many different kinds of balls and finally settled on hard tennis balls with tape. This type of ball bounces less than the hard leather ball, but more than a softer tennis ball. The tape reduces friction and makes the ball slide over the surface so that it comes onto the bat well. As with everything else, MIT students brought innovation into cricket as well.
From the group stage on, the matches have been full of excitement, with several last-ball finishes. A group stage match between the UMass Mavericks and Waltham XI had a nail-biting last over finish and in another match between the Cambridge Cricket Club and Rising Stars, CCC managed to defend as low a total as 70 runs in fifteen overs.
Ashok Patel from Waltham XI was also extremely impressed by the team organization and location. Waltham XI, whose players are mostly business owners in and around Boston, assisted in funding the tournament. He said, “These guys have done a great job in organizing this. Some of us have been driving more than two hours everyday to come and play in the tournament; that’s how great it’s been.”
The club, now mostly graduate students, wants to expand and reach more people from the MIT community. They plan to post updates and schedules on their newly created Web site and take further steps in getting more people involved. Cricket is more than a sport in the South Asian countries, it’s a culture in itself. The MIT Cricket Club is making all efforts to bring their culture to MIT and get people enthusiastic about it.