Cricket at MSUa different ball game altogether
- Vikram Venkatesh
17th November 2003


What is Cricket?
They sure do play funny baseball!
Why does he carry the bat when running?

These are a few of the questions that most people raised when they saw cricket being played on the Drill field on the campus of Mississippi State University (MSU). Not anymore.

Seeing the potential for cricket at MSU, cricket enthusiasts went about setting up an official club to coordinate events and form a common body that would govern all cricketing activities at MSU and the Golden Triangle area. The MSU Cricket Club (MSUCC) was conceptualized entirely by students and came into being in October 2002.

Until then, Cricket was in fact played at MSU, but more in an informal way and not without too much at stake. After the club came into being, an official cricket team was formed that played teams from other areas and universities with the MSU name and pride on their hearts.

The club was setup with help from the Student Association, Recreational Sports, and many such organizations that saw a potential in the students and were ready to support the cause. The club is a self-supported organization and so most of the funding comes from sponsors who generously donate for tournaments and such.

The main aim of the MSUCC is to promote the game of cricket at MSU to such an extent that there will be an understanding of this game among the locals at MSU and Starkville. The club believes that the best way to foster friendship is to involve people from diverse backgrounds in a game and that game is cricket. To teach the locals about the game, the MSUCC organizes Cricket Clinics at regular intervals. These clinics not only give the theoretical aspects of cricket, but also give a chance to the participants to gain hands-on experience by playing cricket and learning from the pros.

The MSUCC develops its reputation in the region by taking part in tournaments involving other universities. This is a dual-sided reciprocation effort and so the club plays host to tournaments at MSU as well. The first step in this direction was the home series against an old foe, the University of Alabama, Huntsville. The club organized a 3-match series here at MSU during the weekend of March 8th and 9th. The MSU team won the series comprehensively. This was just a start of the enviable record that the MSU team has.

To garner more talent here at MSU, the club also organized an intramural tournament during the spring break. This tournament was mainly aimed at looking for new talent and to provide the main MSU team with some support in terms of bench strength and reserves. Six teams participated in the event and it sure lived up to its billing of being one of the most challenged series played in a long time at MSU.

With the help of the Student Association, the MSUCC ventured on its first away series. And this series was of a magnitude not seen earlier by the players at MSU. The team selected was to play in a six-team event at the University of South Alabama, Mobile. The team played to its strengths and came away with a laudable performance both with the bat and the ball. An away tour has a huge impact on the club and its players. It gives the much-needed exposure to the team members to play other universities in front of their home crowd and alien playing conditions. This makes the players tough mentally and gets them ready to take part in other leagues all over the US.

On the heels of this tournament, the club set about organizing a home series that was never seen before at MSU. It set about organizing a 3-university tournament here at MSU wherein teams from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and the University of South Alabama, Mobile would participate. Looking at the talent garnering here at MSU, the club decided to field two teams in the tournament, the MSU Maroon team and the MSU White team. In one of the most closely contested tournaments, the MSU Maroon emerged a winner and defeated the other teams comprehensively thereby bagging the MSUCC Coca Cola cup. The MSU White team too had a notable performance and finished third in the standings. Northeast Mississippi Coca Cola sponsored the whole event and it turned out to be a big success.

To make good use of the Labor-day (Aug 30th to Sept 01st) weekend, the club organized a quadrangular tournament. This time the University of Alabama, Birmingham and the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa were invited and again the club decided to field two MSU teams, the MSU Maroon and MSU White. This was the first time that a team from Birmingham was playing at MSU and they will surely remember this experience for the long time. All the matches played in the tournament were so close they could have gone either way. In the end the MSU Maroon team fell short of one good performance and the team from Tuscaloosa took the tournament. The MSU Maroon team finished in second place and the MSU White finished third.

 The club is following some sort of a state-by-state exposure in that over the past year, they have sent teams to and hosted teams from the state of Alabama. Having seen these players for sometime the team from MSU can get used to playing them and get ready for the big leagues in the US. A major step towards this is to make the MSUCC associated with the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA). This is the governing body for all major cricket leagues in the US and so being associated with them would provide the window to play in the national league. This will also pave ground for the much-anticipated league here in Starkville that will give the game in the area a big boost.

Practice is the key to success in any field and the MSUCC is leaving no stone unturned in that aspect. They hold practice sessions almost twice every week and this is an open door sort of a session in that anyone is welcome to join the team in its practice and in turn learn more about cricket. The club has been very regular in holding friendly practice games between the players here at MSU to their skills and to display their talents.

The Clarion ledger, one of the leading news dailies out of Jackson, MS was so impressed with what they saw in the MSUCC, that they ran a full color page highlighting the activities of the club. This was probably the first time that such a reputed newspaper was running an article on cricket and it sure provided the people of Mississippi and around, an understanding of the activities of MSUCC.

The MSUCC had set itself high goals when it started off about a year ago and it achieved more than it could have thought. In the process, the game has gained considerable ground here at MSU and the team is coming to be known as a formidable one. This has been a result of the many tours and tournaments that the club participates in. As we look at the dawn of another year, a new set of goals has been established and with the support of all the well wishers at MSU, the club seems to be on track for another explosive year.

One of the key pointers that the club is successful is the caliber of question that on-lookers ask now. Gone are the days when questions like the ones at the start of the article were asked. Now some of the questions asked are:

What field placing is best for this batsman?
How do get the ball to spin?
How do I get my timing correct?

The clubs activities can be followed on its website at http://www.msstate.edu/org/mcc. The site also lists the current activities of the club and tournament reports.