The University of Illinois Springfield Cricket Club will compete against 24 other college and university teams from around the country in the National College Cricket Association (NCCA) nationals March 16-19 in Houston, Texas, at the Prairie View Cricket Complex.
In October, the UIS Cricket Club finished second out of five teams in the NCCA Midwest Regional competition in Chicago. The win guaranteed the club a spot in the national competition.
The UIS team, which has 14 players, will compete against teams from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Drexel and UCLA. Each team in the tournament will compete against three teams in games lasting more than three hours. The top teams will advance to the final match.
"I’m really excited to go there,” said Harsh Panchal, a UIS graduate student from India who plays on the team. "We have been waiting for a long time.”
Cricket, a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players, is growing in popularity in both the United States and worldwide and could soon become an Olympic sport.
"A lot of people who have an appreciation for baseball also like cricket,” said Parag Sachdeva, a UIS graduate student from India and team member. "People who have not grown up with the sport have learned how exciting it can be.”
The game is played on a large oval-shaped field with a rectangular 22-yard-long pitch in the center. One team bats while the other team fields and bowls. The batting team tries to score runs by hitting the ball and running back and forth between two sets of wickets at either end of the pitch. The fielding team tries to prevent runs and get the batting team "out” by various means, such as catching the ball off a bat before it hits the ground or running a batter out by hitting the wickets with the ball.
The UIS Cricket Club started in 2015. The team was dormant for several years until Sachdeva and Panchal got it going again in 2021. Both played cricket in India but didn’t speak the same language when they first met. Still, the sport brought them together.
"Cricket, beyond just the sport, is like a community. It’s something beyond anything else,” Sachdeva said.
The team practices using parts of the UIS pitch, located between the Prairie Stars baseball field and the women’s soccer practice field. Club members also recently started to practice at the Tribe Baseball and Softball Academy indoor facility in Springfield.
"We’re excited to play in the nationals and plan to be ready,” Sachdeva said.