Published May 9, 2013
As a freshman living in the Governors Complex, Aman Bhatia would look on enviously as a group of older students played cricket in the residence hall’s parking lot. Resentful at being excluded because these players thought he was young and, therefore, not good enough, Bhatia created his own team and came back a week later to challenge them.
That story illustrates Bhatia’s competitive zeal, a characteristic of his vice captaincy that propelled UB’s Cricket Club to the quarterfinals of the 2013 American College Cricket National Championship in Florida, beating teams from Penn State, Texas A&M and Harvard along the way.
Bhatia is also treasurer of the club, one of seven teams that made inaugural appearances at the championship. Twenty-seven colleges were drawn into four groups at the week-long tournament, held March 13-17. UB made the playoffs in style by winning all its group matches.
“In the quarterfinal, we lost by just five runs against University of Texas at Arlington,” says Bhatia, now a junior computer science major. “Everyone was cheering for us because we played exceptionally well, and now we look to go back again.”
The club qualified for nationals by reaching the semifinals of the Midwest regionals at Ohio State University last October. Deciding to compete in the national championship in Fort Lauderdale was easy, but coming up with the funds necessary to do so was a challenge, Bhatia says.
In January, club president Anirudh Kumpawat organized a bake sale on campus, vice president Parth Parikh launched a “Go Fund Me” online crowd funding effort, and other team members solicited donations from friends, family and community businesses.
Bhatia also appealed to UB’s Student Association (SA) for financial assistance, emphasizing the prestige that the club would bring to the university by competing in a televised national championship. SA responded with a $1,000 sponsorship.
By the middle of February, the club had raised close to $3,000, more than half the estimated $5,000 it would cost for a squad of 12 players to travel and compete in the week-long tournament. Team members decided that they would make up the difference themselves.
However, two weeks before the team was scheduled to depart for Florida on March 11, SA staff contacted Bhatia to inform him that the $1,000 sponsorship was being revoked because five graduate students are on the squad.
Since SA is funded by the mandatory student activity fee paid by undergraduate students every semester, SA explained that it would not be fair for the money to benefit graduate students, too, Bhatia says.
“We thought about what we should do because we cannot just dump our graduate players who have been practicing with us,” he says. “We were all excited about going to Florida.”
In the end, the squad of 10 Indians and two Pakistanis agreed to share the additional cost equally, a noteworthy display of unity and teamwork toward a common goal considering the fraught geo-political relationships between those two countries.
Cricket matches between India and Pakistan are “like a war,” Bhatia explains. “But when we are on the field, we go on as a team and respect each other. At the end of the day, cricket is a team sport; if one of us does badly, all of us suffer.”
The club’s other highlight this year included organizing the UB Cricket Club’s Spring Championship in April. Thirteen teams participated, including three nonUB-affiliated teams from the Greater Niagara region and two from Rochester.
Bhatia, who will be the club’s president next year, has ambitions to make it a bi-annual competition to raise cricket’s profile at UB.
Reflecting back on his first encounter with cricket at UB—in the Governors’ parking lot—Bhatia is pleased that his seniors eventually recognized him as a serious and capable cricketer. As president-elect of the Cricket Club, he is looking forward to greater things next year, starting with the Ohio State qualifiers in September.
For a club that started with 15 members in 2011, the future looks bright.