Yusef Syed ’05 loves many things about his trips to Pakistan, but one of the things he loves most about his intercontinental journey is cricket.
After playing cricket for a club team in Pakistan last summer, Syed was inspired to reinvigorate the men’s club cricket team at Yale. The team died out last year after its leading organizer graduated.
Syed and Praneeth Wanigasekera ’04 are working to restart a club team at Yale this year. Though they got a late start this fall, they are hoping that the team will be fairly well-established by the spring.
“Part of the plan is in the spring we’ll get an early start so we can get more games in,” Wanigasekera said.
Now the two are working to pull together a large enough group to field a team and are trying to find a practice space. Syed is beginning to fill out the paperwork required to be recognized as a club team, though neither have yet spoken with Tom Migdalski, the director of the club sports program at Yale.
Syed, who was involved with the cricket team when it existed a few years ago, has been contacting other schools against whom the Yale cricket team could play. The team has already played one game this season against Dartmouth College.
“We ended up losing, but that’s just due to lack of practice,” Syed said. Syed is a contributing photographer for the Yale Daily News.
Wanigasekera agrees that practice would help the team, whose raw talents need to be cultivated.
“Even in the game last week against Dartmouth, we were playing pretty well,” Wanigasekera said. “If we had had more people, maybe we could have even won.”
Yale only fielded eight players, compared to the 11 that traditional cricket requires. But Wanigasekera noted that with the way the sport is played at colleges in the United States now, eight is often enough to play and even to win games.
Cricket itself is a sport that requires not only dedication and practice, but also a lot of equipment and a specific playing field.
Cricket is played much like baseball, and it calls for bats, balls, gloves, protective gear and uniforms. Tradition dictates that players wear all white, but teams have been breaking out of that mold recently.
Cricket also needs to be played on a specific type of field, one that is difficult to find. The fields need to be completely level and hard for cricket to be played, which poses a problem for the team.
“The main issue for the cricket club is trying to find field space for them and that is difficult to do with the difficult demand for our fields out there,” Migdalski said. “There’s a huge demand on the fields and to take one out of commission and to roll it down so it’s hard and flat is difficult for just one club.”
Migdalski noted that the club sports office would be happy to help the team in any way possible, and the team will most likely have an easier time receiving club status because they previously had it.
“There’s nothing standing in their way of becoming a club,” Migdalski said. “It’s just seeing if their needs could be met.”
Syed and Wanigasekera have attracted quite a few prospects to the team. Syed estimates that there are between 20 and 25 men who are interested in playing. Syed said there are four or five underclassmen, five or six graduate students and the rest are upperclassmen. The men have practiced three or four times, using equipment provided by Syed and Wanigasekera.
Though cricket is an extremely popular sport in other parts of the world — particularly in the former British of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — it has not yet caught on in the United States.
Wanigasekera said while it is played in the United States, most players are expatriates of countries where the sports is popular. He noted that Syed, the only American-born player on the team, is the exception.
Syed, Wanigasekera and the other players are excited about the team, and Syed feels that, with some practice and the necessary facilities, the team could flourish. Syed has contacted other schools with club cricket programs, and hopes to compete against Rutgers, Brown, Wesleyan and others.
“There are a bunch of teams with pretty developed programs,” Syed said. “A lot of times they’re run by grad students so this is one of the few that’s sort of led by a core of undergrads.”
Both Syed and Wanigasekera said they would have no problem allowing women to play on the team, but cricket is usually played by single-sex teams. And though some female undergraduates have showed an interest in playing, they have not avidly pursued a spot on the team.
“Generally I’ve yet to see any girls that have the practice or the skill [to play cricket] but not that they’re not out there,” Syed said.
The team is hoping to practice over the winter so by the time spring rolls around, they will be prepared to face other teams and do well.
Migdalski said that the team would receive a larger amount of funding during their second year with club status. It is the policy of the club sports office to place new club teams on a probationary status for a year before giving them full club funding.
Wanigasekera said that Syed will most likely lead the team into next season. After Syed graduates, Wanigasekera hopes that the younger members of the team will take over the reins of the operation.
“Cricket is a sport that requires a lot of attention,” Syed said. “It’s equipment-intensive as well so it takes one or two people who are going to lead it. Hopefully one of the freshmen or sophomores will pick up on it.”
For now, the two plan on enjoying the sport and making the most of the team.
“I’m crazy about cricket,” Wanigasekera said. “Most of us who play here are.”