The Gator Cricket Club will compete as one of more than 24 college teams today in the American College Cricket national championship.
The competition, held at the Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium in Lauderhill through Sunday, follows a UF loss to University of South Florida at the 2013 SEC championship.
“The USF game was very tough and very close; it went to last ball,” said Sarang Kulkarni, a 22-year-old UF material sciences and engineering master’s student.
The club came into the final 2013 Southeastern Conference title game with back-to-back SEC championships, but a majority of the team members graduated during the time in between, said team captain Aditya Kasinadhuni, 26.
“They did not play like a new team (against USF),” he said. “No matter what is ahead of us at nationals, we will face it together.”
Lloyd Jodah, founder and president of American College Cricket, said cricket is gaining a following in the U.S.
“This is our sixth national championship, and this year the game will be broadcast on ESPN3,” Jodah said. “We’re proud to be taking this significant step for cricket in this country.”
Kasinadhuni, a UF third-year biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate, said he started playing cricket as a young boy in Hyderabad, India. He came to the U.S. in 2009 and joined the Gator Cricket Club in 2011, stepping up as captain this semester.
“In India, cricket is more of a religion than it is a sport,” he said.
Kulkarni, who serves as the treasurer, said the club’s fundraising efforts have played a large role in the team dynamic, which includes a mix of undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. students.
To raise money, team members worked concessions for home football games and held a tennis ball cricket tournament with financial support from local business India Bazaar.
Kulkarni said part of the $2,000 raised will go toward a new portable cricket pitch for the team to practice on.
The practice field has uneven grass that causes the ball to bounce inconsistently, making it harder for the batters to predict its path.
“We just want to get a more real experience that is consistent with what we will face at competitions,” Kulkarni said. “We’ll be able to refine the little things, and that could be game-changing.”
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 3/12/2014 under the headline "UF club cricket team competes in national championship"]