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Friday, August 19, 2022

Cricketers take up their bats for weekend tournament

<p>Ricky Nayar, a 20-year-old civil and environmental engineering senior, practices his batting skills. His team won the Gator Cricket Club tournament this weekend.</p>

Ricky Nayar, a 20-year-old civil and environmental engineering senior, practices his batting skills. His team won the Gator Cricket Club tournament this weekend.

Prateek Gahoi took his place in front of the wicket, eyed the fielders circling the pitch and took a good, long look in the eyes of the bowler before raising his bat to swing.

 

 From Friday to Sunday, the Gator Cricket Club held its third-annual tournament on campus at the practice soccer fields behind Southwest Recreation Center. Led by club president Vijay Pappu, a former professional cricket player, and faculty representative Richard Hill, the tournament featured members from the campus cricket club as well as players from Gainesville and surrounding areas.

Cricket is like baseball with no foul zones, only two bases and two batsmen acting partly as offensive players and partly as goalies.

Begun by the English in the 1500s, cricket has since developed a greater international following, especially in countries such as India and Pakistan.

The cricket tournament in Gainesville is held in the summer, fall and spring semesters, Pappu said. Last fall, only eight teams participated, but 10 participated this fall.

By the start of the first round of matches at 6 p.m. Friday, the players numbered just shy of 100.

"Some of those teams have Americans playing on them who are playing for the first time," Pappu said. "It's definitely growing."

Kicking off the start of the tournament was Pappu's team, Gators 11, and a new group of recruits called the Orange Gators. Matches featuring the Hurricanes, the Blue Gators, the Khiladis and the White Gators were held simultaneously.

Many of the participants were either members or affiliates of the Gator Cricket Club, and some shared a common homeland.

"It's mostly the Asian countries, like India or Pakistan, that love it like this," Pappu said. "This year, though, we were able to attract some West Indians and some Australians."

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Members of the Gator Cricket Club hail from all over, from India and Pakistan to the Caribbean, England and South Africa.

Hill, the club's faculty representative, added that the club's representatives also shared in that pattern of diversity.

"They called me about a year ago to (the position)," said Hill, a native of the United Kingdom. "Before that, they had an Australian doing it, so we all take turns."

As the matches continued throughout the weekend, more and more family members and friends of the Gator Cricket Club arrived.

A young father pointed out a distant player to his son, who began asking questions about the game.

A relative of another player called out "Great one, boy!" along with the rest of the team as the batsman knocked the ball outside the field boundaries.

And at the end of the tournament, when the winning Gators 11 players accepted their trophy, it was less about the victory for them and more about why, as Gators 11 player Gahoi put it, they get together to play cricket at all.

"We bond together. We have a team feeling, same as we had in India," Gahoi said. "It's a great feeling being able to play cricket here. It reminds me of home, and it's great to be able to have that here at UF."

Ricky Nayar, a 20-year-old civil and environmental engineering senior, practices his batting skills. His team won the Gator Cricket Club tournament this weekend.

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