This weekend the USF Cricket Club will travel down to Fort Lauderdale to compete in the 2016 American College Cricket (ACC) South East Regional Championship. The club hopes to defend its title after winning the 2015 Regional Championship before being crowned 2016 National Champions.
“We have all new guys coming this time,” said Kaushik Anand Natarajan, a senior management information sciences (MIS) major and president of the Cricket Club. “So we want them to play most of these matches so they get used to the conditions, the level of cricket that’s being played…it’s very competitive.”
The team will play a grueling Twenty20 [120 bowls each] match on Saturday with the hope of advancing to the final for yet another match on Sunday. Other universities competing include FSU, UF, FIT, Auburn, Everest, Mercer, and Georgia Southern University.
“Winning is obviously important,” Natarajan said. “But we want everyone to get that realistic see of how American college cricket works.”
The team already has a taste of what to expect at regionals, after convincingly beating FIT 121-56 runs in a regional qualifier.
Gaurav Singh batted for 26 runs not out and bowled for two wickets [outs] for 10 runs in 3 overs [18 bowls]. Shashidhar Reddy with the ball had 2 wickets for 12 runs in 3 overs.
“This regionals, as I said, our main focus will be to have most of these guys getting accustomed to the standard of cricket,” Natarajan said. “But nationals is where we actually look to give our best.”
If the club wins both its matches this weekend, they move on to the 2017 ACC National Championship to be held in March, again in Fort Lauderdale. The club has now won nationals twice; winning in both 2014 and 2016.
“It was a great feat,” Natarajan said. “Last year there were really tough teams.”
The team held off Rutgers and Drexel University, some of the top college cricket clubs in the nation, to win the 2016 National Championship.
“That was a great opportunity for us because the standard of cricket was seen,” Natarajan said. “Everybody had to be on their toes so it was really satisfying to be on the winning side.”
Freshmen, such as MIS major and club treasurer Praydeep Sharma, hope to help the team become a winning side once more.
“It’s an honor,” Sharma said. “I’m playing ACC for the first time.”
Sharma has experience playing back in his home country of India but playing for USF is a whole different ball game.
“I’ve played many tournaments back in my country,” Sharma said. “But it’s a different feeling representing the college—I’m looking forward to it.”
So far this semester, the Cricket Club has hosted two events; the Student Premier League Tournament and SIA Tournament. The tournaments feature players and teams not only from USF but also the greater Tampa Bay area.
“It’s about bringing the USF cricket students with the Tampa Bay cricket community,” Natarajan said. “We try to bring most players here so that they get introduced to each other and they can play in other leagues in Tampa.”
The club frequently holds practice matches to give its large body of 83 members a chance to get out on the cricket field. The matches also give Natarajan an opportunity to select the best players for their tournament team.
“Most of these guys get a chance to play a lot of these practice matches,” Natarajan said. “Whoever performs gets their way in.”
The Cricket Club is always welcoming to new members looking to get involved in a sport that continues to grow in the U.S.
“I was really into cricket from a very early age,” Natarajan said.
“Cricket is a gentleman’s game, a lot of sportsmanship involved and sports is given a lot of importance here and that’s why I feel cricket should be an important sport here too.”
For more USF Cricket Club and USF Sport Clubs information, visit our website.
By Huw Morgan-Baveystock, USF Sport Clubs Marketing Assistant