Despite its international following, many Americans aren’t very familiar with the British sport cricket. But walk through University Yard, and students might get a lesson.
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, freshmen Alexander Sternberg and Ankit Sheth assemble on their makeshift field at the grassiest spot on the Foggy Bottom campus, using an unnatural winding motion to bowl a hard ball toward a structure known as a wicket that is defended by a batsman. What began as a friendly get-together every weekend soon turned into a movement to make cricket a club sport at GW.
“It started out just playing with our friends, and after talking about it for most of the year, we got it moving recently,” Sternberg said. “While we were playing we met a couple of upperclassmen who were interested as well, so I think we’ll keep getting members.”
Since the majority of GW students have had little or no experience playing cricket, Sternberg said that he and Sheth intend to recruit those interested in the sport by putting up flyers and teaching the newcomers. The freshmen have also created a Facebook group, but so far the most attention has been garnered because of its location in the highly traveled University Yard.
“This guy we met last week followed us from his dorm because he saw us with cricket bats, so I think the more exposure we have, the more people we will draw. And the more people we draw, the more support we’ll get because (the University will) realize that we’re serious,” Sternberg said.
With the end of the academic year nearing, Sternberg and Sheth said they will wait until next year to make a push for cricket as a club sport, which includes getting a budget for the proper equipment. Before then, their goal is to gain as many members as possible to make an impression on the University about the prevalence of cricket on campus.
“We have a lot of aspirations, which include getting registered and getting recognized,” Sternberg said. “We haven’t received much support from the school so far, so right now it’s more of an informal-type club, but we want to change that.”
Most popular in places such as England, South Asia, Australia and the West Indies, cricket is popular with ex-patriots of those countries in the United States. Appealing to GW’s large international population should serve as a way to gain members, Sternberg said.
“(The international students) generally have a greater interest in the sport and have played it before,” he said. “That’s where we kind of fit in, trying to get those people who do know how to play and are interested in playing and trying to get those who want to learn.”
Newcomers to the sport have responded enthusiastically, Sheth said, and everyone that he and Sternberg have taught has returned.
“We’ve had this idea for awhile and recently we were trying to get support from our friends who were willing to try it,” Sheth said. “They’re very into it and gung-ho about getting a club formed since they started playing. Ever since then, we’ve thought that this is something real and that we can make something out of it.”
Sheth added that when he played in high school, his friends who had played baseball picked up cricket quickly. Using a wooden bat, the batsman’s job is to hit the ball or block it from hitting the wicket using a motion that is somewhat similar to the one used in baseball.
“It might be more difficult for people to pick up the motion of the bowler, who bowls the ball toward the wicket, because it’s something that they’re not used to, but having played baseball before really helps for those trying to learn how to bat.”
Sheth pointed out that there is an untapped population of cricket fans at GW that most people are unaware of.
“I was walking around with a cricket shirt on, and I got stopped three times in the span of an hour because of it,” Sheth said.