A Game that Unites: Athletes grasp life lessons through the game of cricket

Junior Trilokeshwar Jaikumar bats against the Dallas Cheetah’s at the Minor League Cricket (MLC) Junior Championship in Atlanta.

Aimee Liu | The Chronicle 

Mason cricket players are realizing that the meaning of their sport extends far beyond the playing field.

Cricket is a popular team sport around the world, comparable to what most Americans know as baseball. It is a bat-and-ball game, in which 11 players on each of two opposing teams take turns batting and fielding. The oval field contains a central rectangular strip, called a pitch, as opposed to a square of bases on diamond-shaped baseball fields. One wicket, a set of three wooden stumps that can be hit to stop a run, sits on either end of the pitch.

When gameplay starts, a bowler on the fielding team, equivalent to a pitcher in baseball, stands on one end of the pitching area and throws the ball to the other team’s batsman, the equivalent of a batter in baseball, on the other end of the pitch. After hitting the ball, the batsman attempts to score as many runs as possible by running to opposite ends of the pitch before the fielders can get them out, usually by hitting the wickets. The team that scores the most runs after all their batsmen have run wins the game.

During the summer cricket season at the Midwest Cricket Academy (MCA), players practice daily for three to five hours and participate in matches on the weekends. Although the sport’s summer schedule requires players to spend most of their break on the field, sophomore cricket player Sachet Pati said that his training extends beyond the scheduled practices set by his team.

“Sometimes I just sit in my house throwing a ball as hard as I can, and trying to catch it, because the most random things help you out,” Pati said.

In addition to the matches they participate in within the MCA, several players have also had the opportunity to play in a variety of tournaments within the tri-state region. Sophomore cricketer Neel Godbole said that he, along with some of his other high school teammates, have had the opportunity to play in the Midwest Cricket Tournament among adult competitors.

“At our age, not many people can play at that high of a stage, facing people who are much older,” Godbole said. “We have to train much harder for these tournaments because the adults are at a higher skill level than we are.”

As it remains an honor for many MCA athletes to participate in local adult tournaments, their sport’s unique cultural background allows for their travels to extend far beyond the tri-state into areas around the United States as well as international destinations such as India, England, and Wales.

Junior Trilokeshwar Jaikumar, who has been playing cricket since he was four, has played for many different teams over the years, but after a coach at MCA noticed his leadership qualities, he became the captain of his current team. After getting to travel all over the world for cricket, Jaikumar said that through his travels he has noticed the unity that cricket brings to people from a variety of different cultures.

“[Cricket] is a way for everyone to connect,” Jaikumar said. “It’s sort of a common ground, despite your race, religion, or income–everyone is equal in the game.”

The sense of unity was something that sophomore Hermabh Chakravarthy has also experienced through cricket. Watching the Indian Premier League in seventh grade, Chakavarthy’s interest in cricket was sparked and he felt compelled to join local kids playing the sport in the park. He said that through his involvement with cricket, he has been able to form a better connection with his extended family in India.

“When I used to go to India, I didn’t have much in common with [the people there],” Chakravarthy said. “But cricket is a big thing in India and now that I’m in it, it’s helped me connect to a lot of people, like my grandparents, cousins, and even people in our local community.”

While the connection that cricket provides is something many players enjoy, Jaikumar has also learned the importance of resilience through his time on the cricket field. He said that although there can be tough moments during a game, the sport always offers the opportunity to recover.

“[Cricket] is a lot like life,” Jaikumar said. “Sometimes you go down, sometimes you go up – it’s like riding the lows so that you can eventually succeed.”

Godbole also feels a sense of increased mental understanding through cricket. The “constant encouragement” and the reassurance that improvement is always attainable, according to Godbole, is the best part of his sport. He said cricket has taught him many life lessons and has given him a healthy tool that helps him cope with stress.

 “Cricket has taught me that it should never be just you in life,” Godbole said. When you have a team next to you, and friends to stick up for you, even when you’re not in the best spot, it impacts you physically and mentally.”

Through cricket, Pati has also learned many skills like discipline, maturity, and patience. These individual accomplishments, however, have not been the most important takeaways from Pati’s sport. Pati said that joining cricket introduced him to a whole new group of people that he eventually got close to, and that that sense of community he discovered has helped him uncover a purpose.

“Playing as a team helps someone like me who used to be individual and competitive,” Pati said. “I’m still competitive, but now I have a bunch of teammates that rally with me, so it makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than just myself.”

The team mentality was an aspect of cricket that Charkravarthy also enjoyed. Finding a sense of community in the sport, in addition to a great hobby, Chakravarthy said that cricket has taught him many personal lessons and has made him not only a better player, but a better person.

“Cricket is like a microcosm of life,” Chakravarthy said. “It teaches you how to work with people, and that everything can not be about yourself.”

Photo contributed by Tileshwar Jaikumar