June 20, 2019 | 74° F

Cricket club works to win tournament

Falling short of reaching the semifinal round of the National Cricket Tournament last year did not stop the Rutgers Cricket Club's determination to win the next.

With a stronger unit this year, team members expect to place first in the 32-team tournament next week in Florida, team captain Nisarg Chokshi said.

"We're really expecting to go to the finals and take the trophy," said Chokshi, a School of Engineering sophomore. "We've worked much harder, and we're more serious this year."

The 32 teams are split up into four groups of eight and the top team in each group qualifies to the semifinals, said Chokshi, an all-rounder on the team.

Throughout the year, the team does not play many games but individuals do play in private leagues in the fall, Chokshi said.

The club practices in indoor cricket nets because of a lack of a cricket ground nearby and the cold weather, said Hardik Jogani, club president.

"We haven't played too many matches, but we have a good bond within our team," said Jogani, a School of Engineering junior.

Jogani, a batsman on the team, said he expects the team to perform better, especially in fielding.

"In last year's tournament, our fielding was bad and even lost a match because of it, but we've improved it," he said, "Our ground fielding still needs to improve but our catching is good."

The team that took last year's tournament was York University in Toronto, which Jogani said is a good team all around in their batting, bowling and fielding.

"I'm expecting them to be in the final again — and us, of course," he said.

York is ranked fourth nationally and is one of the stronger teams in the northeast, Jogani said. Other favorites in the competition include University of North Carolina, Auburn University and University of Southern California.

Mital Patel, a Rutgers-Newark first-year student, said although he is a new addition to the team, he brings experience as a player on the United States Under-19 national team.

Patel, who played in the grounds in Florida in the international tournament a few months ago where Under-19 team won, said he likes the pace attack the team plays, especially for the AstroTurf tracks.

"The other pitches are slow, but we have adequate spin bowling for that as well," he said.

Patel, an all-rounder, said he has concentrated on his bowling mostly.

"At the Under-19 tournament, I took a good amount of wickets, but I took every chance I got to bat," he said.

Patel said the team could perform really well, especially if key players do well.

"Nisarg Chokshi, our captain, is a strong player and if he clicks then we are going to do well," he said. "If I get to bat in the 20-overs that would be good too."

Jogani said he hopes the club team will transform cricket into an official University sports team within the next 10 years and mentioned the historical cricket matches that took place in the United States.

"The first international cricket match took place between the United States and Canada," he said. "President Abraham Lincoln at the time went to watch it."

Jogani said cricket could be revived in the next 15 or 20 years because of the newer Twenty20 match format, a shorter format that takes only three hours to play instead of the one-day or five-day games.

"People are starting cricket little leagues," he said. "I think that is important to get more people involved at the grassroots level."

Tabish Talib

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