ASU Cricket: From low-profile club to championship team

The ASU Cricket Club won a championship in its first-ever intercollegiate competition

Computer engineering graduate student Syed Imam always loved playing cricket in his home country of Pakistan, so when he got to ASU, he was determined to form the ASU Cricket Club.

Cricket has a sizable presence in Arizona as the Arizona Cricket Association has 30-plus teams. Since there are many international students at ASU, Imam decided he would form a cricket club at ASU in 2016.

“I saw that many of the kids that were already here (at ASU) were playing in that association,” Imam said. “And I figured, 'Why not form a team as a university?'”

Cricket is played all over the world. The International Cricket Council has recognized more than 125 countries that play cricket across the globe including India, England and Australia.

Cricket has slowly started to grow in the United States, which has been a member of the ICC since 1965. As a result, Imam said it was not hard to recruit and form a team.

“We used social media, like any other club would,” Imam said. “We used Facebook and OrgSync, the main central hub for clubs at ASU, and then we just posted our ads that we were going to start a club and to come to the meetings.”

The Indian Student Association and Pakistan Student Association were clubs already established at ASU, and Imam knew some of those students would be interested in playing competitive cricket.

Not too long after putting these marketing efforts into place, Imam said more than 14 people showed up to their initial meeting.

One Cohesive Unit 

ASU currently is the only university in Arizona that has formed a cricket club, and this presented both advantages and disadvantages. 

“We don’t really have any in-state competition,” Imam said. “So, we really didn’t realize what we had until our first intercollegiate tournament.”

To get competitive experience, the team had to simulate matches at practice against one another, which could not prepare them to play established teams from other universities.

However, Imam said this helped the team with communication and learning about each other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

Each individual, many of whom came from different places and walks of life, bonded together and became a team after hours of intense practices.

“We had a couple of practices where we came together and we knew we were getting this,” vice captain and senior computational mathematical sciences and business management major Mit Rohit said.

So, Imam and his team entered the West Coast Championship in Los Angeles, California, which is one of six regional tournaments hosted by American College Cricket. 

The Real Deal

ASU was one of four teams at the mid-November event. The Sun Devils’ competition featured the University of California San Diego, Claremont College, and defending champion USC.  

Imam and his team did not want to put any pressure on themselves since they were a new team. 

“We were going into it with low expectations,” Imam said. “It was more of 'let’s go there and meet people and learn from other teams.'”

But, after defeating Claremont in its first-ever intercollegiate match, ASU’s presence at the championship quickly became more than just a learning experience. 

“After our first game we won, and we were like ‘We are still in this,'’’ Imam said. 

The team’s confidence in their strategy and in each other only grew, and the momentum of the initial triumph carried over into the second match, resulting in a victory against UCSD.

All of a sudden, a team that was barely more than a year old was preparing to face a gauntlet in the Trojans for the David Sentance Trophy.

ASU stood tough with USC the entire match and came out victorious to lift the trophy.

“Everyone now knows about Arizona State,” Imam said. “We made our mark.”


Striving for Greatness

Cricket may not be considered a high-profile sport at ASU, but Imam and Rohit hope that their championship and growing membership will garner more respect and support from the University.

Sports clubs that are formed at ASU are given more funding than regular clubs. Imam is hoping to change the cricket team's status from a club into a sports club this year.

“Now that we actually have a title, a trophy and pictures to go along with it, we are actually going to go to the SDS Executive Board and show that we are more than a club -- we are championship team,” Imam said.

With more funding, Imam hopes that the team can travel to Florida in March to compete in the 2018 College Cricket World Cup.

Above all else, the members of the team come together to share their passion and love for cricket.

“Before, I did not know any of the people," freshman business major and club member Sankirth Vallabhaneni said. "But now, I am pretty close with many of them, and we get to enjoy the game together.”


 Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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