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Two students playing cricket.

Batsman Harsha Talkhad takes a cut during a practice at Bierman Field while Rohit Kapoor looks on.

Passion for cricket breaks down cultural barriers

By Bob San

Published on June 26, 2004

Shivananda (Shiva) Garimella is a University doctoral student from India, and Nadir Budhwani is a doctoral candidate from Pakistan. Their home countries have a long history of conflict, but the two are now teammates and best friends, all because of their passion for cricket.

Garimella is president and Budhwani vice president of the U's Cricket Club (UCC). UCC was originally founded in 1999, but went dormant when the founding students graduated. Earlier this year, a group of students held a party to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup Cricket Tournament and about 600 students showed up.

"There was lots of energy in that room," says Garimella. "That's when we decided to start the club again."

The club has about 40 members, mostly from India (25) and Pakistan (11), with one each from Singapore, Canada, and Australia. Garimella admits he had some initial trepidation about how the Indian and Pakistani students would get along. "When we first met, I was wondering how we were going to react to each other," he says. "But it all vanished in a period of time. We play cricket for passion and, as a part of a cricket team, we are supposed to respect each other. Once we started respecting each other, the cultural barriers vanished."

Garimella and Budhwani have a passion for the game and play it seriously. But deep down, they realize that cricket helps bring people together, no matter their culture, language, or politics.

Cricket is similar to baseball in that both sports are played with bats and balls, both have batters and pitchers (bowlers in cricket), and teams take turns at bat. But that's where the similarities end. In cricket, each team fields 11 players, who wear smart white uniforms, helmets, and shin guards. They use their bare hands, rather than gloves, to catch the hard, cork-filled red leather ball. The object for the batting side is to score the optimal number of "runs" (points) before the bowling side has dismissed them. The object for the bowling side is to dismiss the batsmen as economically as possible. A regulation cricket match of 40 to 50 overs (innings) can last a whole day. (For a more complete explantion, see the ABC of Cricket. UCC is a member club of the Minnesota Cricket Association (MCA), the parent body of all organized cricket played in Minnesota. UCC plays both the competitive regulation sport and a toned-down "softball version," shorter in duration, to teach new fans about the world's second-most popular game behind soccer. The club aims to make cricket a recreational activity on campus, with innovative measures like the softball version to make it entertaining and popular with students, while preserving the integrity of "the gentlemen's game." Practice is Tuesdays and Thursdays at the University's Bierman Field from 6 to 8 p.m. UCC plays matches on weekends at the National Sports Center in Blaine and in some out-of-town tournaments, and the season runs from early May to late September. The club is operating with a thin budget and is looking for sponsors. Student memberships are $50 ($100 alumnus and $150 non-students). UCC will break new ground this fall semester with an intramural cricket league and an official one-credit cricket course (PE 1071) created and taught by Budhwani. The intramural league will be an unofficial extension of the course for students who want to continue the sport against others. The competitive students can try out for the cricket club team when they are ready. Cricket is an important part of life for students such as Garimella and Budhwani, who play the game seriously. But deep down, they realize that cricket helps bring people together, no matter their culture, language, or politics. "I now hang out with teammates that without the cricket team, we would likely not have gotten to know each other, or even met," Garimella says. "They are some of my best buddies, and two are Pakistanis." For more information, visit the University Cricket Club Web site.

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