By Alex Palombo
(Photo and Video by Alex Palombo)
ITHACA, N.Y. - For Cornell students Kritarth Jain and Manan Suri, cricket is much more than just an extracurricular; it's a way of life.
"It's equivalent to a religion back home," Jain said. "Because cricket is so close to our hearts, it's so nice to play it here."
Both Jain and Suri are members of the Cornell Cricket Club, a sport founded at the college 10 years ago. According to the team's website, the club was founded by students to make the little-known cricket more popular at the college - not easy for a sport most commonly found in the former British Empire. For the club's advisor, professor Mukul Majumdar, the club has a secondary purpose: to introduce students of all different cultures.
"I thought it was important for students from all different cultures to play together," Majumdar said.
Jain and Suri are among the 395 students from India attending Cornell University, according to Director of International Students and Scholars Brendan O'Brien. He said that in addition to helping foreign students iwth immigration and financial issues, he also helps students to settle into life in another country. He said that the cricket club, and those like it, really help students meet others and feel more at home.
"I think those connections are really important," O'Brien said. "It makes this college a vibrant, lively place."
Jain and Suri said they heard about the club through their friends. Since both of them had been playing the game since their childhoods in India - Suri in New Delhi, Jain in Punjab - they decided to join. Today, both are officers of the club, with Jain serving as the team's president and Suri serving as the vice president. Their team is mainly comprised of students from India and Pakistan, with many from the West Indies and some from Britain, Australia, and South Africa. Although the team has no official practice field, they use other school buildings and the quad near Uris Library to play. They also play in more unorthodox places.
"We were playing in the engineering coprs one day," Suri said. "And people were asking us how to play, what we were doing, all of that."
Suri said that the team hoped to get other Ivy League schools interested in starting an Ivy League Tournament, with schools like Princeton, UPenn and Duke in the South League and Cornell, Dartmouth and Brown in the North League. But for North League schools, the weather gets cold quickly and makes it difficult to practice. Students also have to pay for their own equipment and receive little funding from the school due to its club sport status.
Jain agreed, adding that many of the schools in the North League weren't ready to play yet.
"Playing the North League was tough because most of the other schools don't have cricket teams," Jain said. "So the North League kind of stalled."
Beyond the deferred championship, Majumdar said that cricket is not only great exercise, but also a cultural touchstone.
"Some students get homesick, especially with everything going on in India and Pakistan," Majumdar said. "They can find home through cricket."
Both Suri and Jain said that cricket was a great break from taking MCATs and doing electrical and computer engineering work. But both also said the sport provided them a sense of home they couldn't get from another sport.
"When you're on the pitch, you just feel good," Jain said. "I wouldn't feel that way playing baseball, because it's not our thing."