Even though cricket is the second most popular sport in the world with a following of about three billion fans, it may still be a mystery to much of North America. But, to most of the South Asians, it is a passion and in cases like mine, an obsession! I have stayed up more nights to watch live cricket matches being played across the globe than I have to study for my exams. I have stood in mile long queues to get into the stadium at 6am in the morning to watch this game. It once took me all night to travel back to school for my final exam in the morning after watching the World Cup Final in another city. I have played this game all my life, since the time I was about the same size as a cricket bat, in scorching summer afternoons and in cold breezy winter nights. And I have four screws and a metal plate internally fixated in my left arm, thanks to the game I simply love playing, watching and talking about.
I was obviously thrilled last week to find out that Smith was invited over to Darden to play an inter-MBA cricket tournament. It had been some time since I picked up the bat. The idea of playing competitive cricket is enough to keep me excited for weeks. We reached Darden last Saturday to participate in the tournament which had four other teams, three from Darden and one from Kenan-Flagler. The matches were played on artificial fields which are not ideally suited for cricket but are as close as it can get here in US. We won the first two matches comfortably to book our place in the final. We even got enough free time before the final match to make a trip to Thomas Jefferson Monticello, which is a truly picturesque site to visit.
We came back to play the final against a strong outfit from Kenan-Flagler under lights. Both teams played well to justify their positions in the final. Kenan-Flagler batted first and posted a challenging total of 103 runs in 15 overs. Smith team started the chase well with Jayraj and Akhil (both 1st year FT MBAs) playing handy innings. We lost a few quick wickets in the middle overs before Aravinder (2nd year FT MBA) and I put up a solid partnership. Now cricket is a strange sport with vast number of variables involved and multiple games within a game. I have played many other sports (field hockey, soccer, volleyball, squash and tennis) and all require physical fitness, stamina, athleticism, sharp reflexes, mental strength and well planned strategy. But what makes cricket unique from other sports are the brief pauses in the game; there is space to think and evaluate options after every ball – few bizarre moments that allow you to catch your breath but lose your mind, the ones that make you do silly things when everything is going well according to the plan. You are observing subtle changes in the field and wondering where the next ball would be bowled.
Every ball has a background story! With 12 runs to get off the last two overs, the bowling team was taking forever to decide who to bowl the crucial overs. The pressure of final was mounting up and the feeling of “so near, yet so far” was creeping in, sending shivers down my spine. The whole contest had been reduced to those two overs and the match could still have gone either way. I took a moment to say a prayer, calmed my nerves and settled into my stance. I struck two sixes off the next three deliveries to get Smith past the target and after that, it was pandemonium!! It was left to our exhilarated captain Raj (2nd year FT MBA) to raise the trophy that he deservedly led his team to.
Moreover, the day was not just about cricket, it was also about networking, establishing rapport and fostering camaraderie with fellow MBAs from Darden and Kenan-Flagler. We shared stories about our MBA lives and talked about our insights and experiences we have had so far in pursuit of our goals. At the end of the day, we returned back to College Park with a trophy, new friendships and lasting memories.
Jeez I love this game!!