There’s a bat, a ball, innings, pitchers, runners, and umpires. But this is no baseball game — it’s cricket.
And, while about 15 million watched the World Series last year, the Cricket World Cup attracts nearly a billion spectators.
When Harris Khan left Pakistan and came to Virginia Tech five years ago to pursue his dreams of becoming an accountant, he knew it’d be a challenge —new traditions, unfamiliar culture, and — maybe most of all — the lack of cricket.
“In Pakistan, we played outside of our classrooms during lunch breaks and stayed at school for an extra hour just to enjoy cricket one last time before we all went home,” said Khan, a Pamplin College of Business graduate student who serves as president of the Virginia Tech Cricket Club. “That is how I spent my childhood. The passion of playing cricket runs in our veins, so even though our lives are busy now, we still make sure that we get enough cricket time.”
This week, the sport Khan loves so much is getting some extra attention at Virginia Tech.
From 5-7 p.m. Friday in War Memorial Gym, Virginia Tech Recreational Sports will host the Hokie World Games, an annual event that focuses exclusively on cricket this year. Traditional Indian food will be provided as team members man stations to teach bowling, batting, and fielding to interested participants.
“Playing cricket back home was so easy and accessible,” Khan said. “We would usually go to empty grounds and play on dirt patches for hours. Those big shots were played—the ones that broke neighbors’ windows, and their complaints to our parents about the incidents were some of the most memorable moments.”
“When I’m around the team, I always think to myself, ‘What if I was in their shoes? In a new country, surrounded by a culture I wasn’t used to?’ And I think that, if I was in a new country but had access to the game of basketball, I would feel a lot more comfortable.” said DJ Preston, assistant director for club sports. “It’s really special to be able to provide a club sport that gives these students a taste of home and that teaches our community about this sport that is loved by many international students.”
A formal game of cricket can last from just a few hours to several days. Two teams of eleven players compete for the most runs. Though the game does resemble the basic concepts of baseball, the rules and game play are very different. A bowler throws the ball to the batsman, who hits the ball, and he and another player run to the opposite end of the “pitch” to score a run.
As much as he is trying to hit the ball, the batter is protecting the “wicket,” which is a set of three “stumps” and two “bails” behind the batter. A batter is at bat until he is out, which, similar to baseball, can happen if a fielder catches a hit ball. In that case, the fielding team gets a run.
The Virginia Tech Cricket Club team, established in 1996, competes during late spring and summer and travels to Florida over spring break for the 2015 American College Cricket National Tournament. It boasts 24 dedicated players and a strong alumni base.
While 360-degree crickets fields are hard to find in Blacksburg, one of the university's south recreational fields off Tech Center Drive is built for the sport. Enthusiasts also make do by playing tapeball, which Khan describes as the “street version” of cricket, on the tennis courts near Cassell Coliseum and in War Memorial Gym.
Friday night's Hokie World Games is happening during cricket's biggest international event. Jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, 14 teams will play 49 matches in the 2015 World Cup which started Feb. 14 and ends March 29.
For a match between India and Pakistan, the cricket team rented a room in War Memorial from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to accommodate the time zone difference. More than 140 students gathered to watch the eight-hour match and eat traditional Indian food.
The Virginia Tech team is mostly made up of students from India, Pakistan, South Africa, the Caribbean, and other countries, but members say that they hope to see some baseball fans give their sport a try. Events such as Hokie World Games will give those curious the opportunity to see that a sport such as cricket can expand diversity and bridge cultural gaps between domestic and international students.
“Our staff feels that sport, like food, music, or dance, is a great way to learn and experience different cultures,” said Ali Cross, associate director of Recreational Sports. “Our hope for Hokie World Games is to connect Hokies through sport and culture by featuring cricket this year.”
Joining the club team requires no prior skill or knowledge of the sport, and more information, along with contact information, can be found on the team’s website.
Written by Holly Paulette.