Lakshmi Nair

After six hours of play in Sunday’s grueling heat, the Yale club cricket team bested Harvard to snag the 2017 Ivy League Championship and snap the Crimson’s three-year title streak.

Qualification for the tournament, which always occurs in the third week of September, was based on match results from both last spring and the beginning of the fall. On Sunday, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale all gathered in Wrentham, Massachusetts, on one of the premier cricket pitches in the Northeast to battle it out for the championship. The Elis entered the contest eager to prove themselves after coming in fourth place in 2015 and then falling to Harvard in a tie-breaker last year.

“I think the team has put in a lot of effort and time,” captain Mrinal Kumar ’18 said. “It’s pretty hard trying to play a lot of cricket in the U.S. because we’re short on resources and participants, but the team did an amazing job. We practice six hours a week and often have matches every weekend. The small margin we lost by last year was overcome by hard work.”

First up, the Bulldogs faced off against the Big Green. The two teams each took their turn at bat looking to claim the first win of the day. At the end of the nearly three-hour match, the Bulldogs won by 11 runs — 128/6 to 117/7.

With one win under their belt, the Elis headed straight into their second match of the day, needing to vanquish the Crimson to hoist the title. Having a double header is essentially unheard of due to the extended length of each match, and the Bulldogs knew they had their work cut out for them against the defending champions.

“We almost never play back-to-back games because it’s grueling,” Kumar said. “It also felt like 95 [degrees], and playing in that was a testament to our fitness.”

Yale batted first as Harvard bowled, and the Elis scored 99 runs. As the batters took their place in the field, the fate of the game lay in the hands of the bowlers. When the Crimson stepped up to bat, the Bulldogs kept Harvard’s batsmen at bay, allowing just 83 runs.

Vice Captain Manik Kuchroo MED ’20 acknowledged the growth of the team’s players in both talent and experience as an essential aspect to the program’s success. Additionally, he credited Kumar’s attention to detail and deep understanding of the game’s tactics in helping the team to improve in recent years and to defeat Harvard in Sunday’s game.

“Mrinal has done an exceptional job understanding the strengths and weakness of each player on the team and adjusting his tactics to suit his squad,” Kuchroo said. “[By] probably around the 12th or 13th over [on Sunday], it became clear that Harvard would not win since their batsmen were not able to hit our bowling and were struggling to even score 1s and 2s.”

Yale’s Akshay Deshmukh GRD ’19 earned the coveted player of the match award against Harvard. Although Kuchroo told the News that most of Yale’s wins are team efforts, he applauded his teammate and pointed out that players as talented as Deshmukh have the ability to win games for the side single-handedly.

Because Yale beat both Dartmouth and Harvard the first time around, there was no need for tie-breakers or repeat matches. By late Sunday evening, the Elis had dethroned the three-time champions and claimed the 2017 title.

“I was thrilled to be named the player of the match for the final game of Sunday’s Ivy League Championship,” Deshmukh said. “It always feels good to score runs in important games, and it was especially exciting to be on the winning side against Harvard. I’d like to acknowledge the superb batting, bowling and fielding performances of the whole team in both games under Mrinal’s excellent leadership.”

The team has little time to celebrate as they prepare to host Boston University and Dartmouth the next two weekends. Beyond that, the team hopes to appear at the National Championship next March in Florida.

Jane Miller | jane.s.miller@yale.edu