Autumn: the season for studying Vault interview guides, for casing with friends, for cramming for MCATs, for prepping the LSAT and, obviously, for playing cricket championships.
Yale hosted the Ivy League Cricket Championship for the first time ever last weekend. Most members of the cricket team, a rather high achieving bunch even as Yale students go, were hounded by those classic autumn stressors. For me, as Captain and President of the team, sacrificing close to twenty hours a week to set up the tournament — twenty hours a week that could have gone towards my potential internship at McKinsey, at Bain, at Goldman! — seemed nothing short of foolish. But there were matches to win. The show must go on.
Cricket has been a central component of my life from a young age. Born and raised in the Tri-State Area, I was bred to be a loyal and unwavering Yankees fan. I was duly disappointed to discover, when vacationing at my grandmother’s house in Kerala, that Indian television spares no time for baseball. I was a second grader in acute sports withdrawal, and the only option available was India’s favorite pastime: cricket.
Cricket, with its slow pace and generous breaks for tea, can be a test of patience. Yet as I watched Team India make its run towards the World Cup, I fell in love with the sport, not only for its quirky characters and frenzied fan base but also for how it brought me closer to relatives who had grown up with it. Conversations with my uncle were soon replete with obscure cricketing jargon. It is of my rather unscientific opinion that no sport boasts a larger vocabulary than cricket. With googlies, yorkers, chinamen and silly midwickets, it has a veritable language of its own. Family dinners turned into informal betting sessions on the results of tomorrow’s match.
Back in America, however, the cricket community is poorly defined. Sometimes, it is just my father and I staying up late cheering on an improbable win. Watching a match often requires the willingness to sacrifice sleep and the patience to sit through an ever-buffering illegal stream that is prone to shutting down without warning. I soon gave up on trying to sell the thrill and romance of the sport to my friends and took their ample scorn in stride.
Acceptance never bred comfort, however. Cricket was merely the starkest example of what made me an outsider, a focal point of my life that was unceremoniously relegated to the status of “baseball with sticks” by my childhood friends. To say I didn’t fit in to American culture would be incorrect and a grave disservice to the people I love here. But to say I fit in would also be simplistic. I was always acutely aware of what separated me from my peers, whether it was what we ate for dinner, the holidays we celebrated and even (whisper it) the differences in our skin colors.
With all this in mind, hosting the Ivy League Championship became an obsession, the biggest slot in my job-oriented calendar. It became a matter of pride: the Yale Cricket Team started less than a decade ago and has been fighting to establish itself ever since I joined as a freshman. Booking grounds, funding equipment and winning matches has been a perpetual struggle. The Championship would be an unprecedented stamp of legitimacy for both Yale Cricket and its homesick expat community.
The team, largely comprised of School of Management students trapped in the time warp that is job recruiting, responded to the challenge with vigor. And we held our own. We made it to the finals of the Championship before tying and losing in a nail-biting Super Over (cricket-speak for “penalty kicks”) to those Cambridge bastards up north. The end of the weekend saw most of us thoroughly behind on our work, and the majority of the team pulled an all-nighter Sunday. The plight of the quasi student-athlete.
Yet when looking back, I have no regrets. Perhaps it was the President of American College Cricket, with whom I chatted with after the match, who summarized it best: “Most of you guys are going to get degrees and good jobs. The question is, what are you going to give in return?”
It doesn’t matter what your “cricket” is: we all have the chance to leave our indelible mark on this place. For me, it’s a legitimate cricket program. When I return after graduation, I will bring with me not the pride of a well-paying job but the satisfaction of having helped pave the way for a future generation of college cricketers. It’s a legacy that this weekend’s team will always share.
Mrinal Kumar is a junior in Silliman College. His column runs on Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .