Penn State University cricket team drove more than four hours sunday to play the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) in New York, and like their well-known Nittany Lions football team the day before, could they go back with a victory?
It was a glorious Autumn day, and the trees ringing Baisly Pond Park field were like jewelry aglow in their colorful hues. Canadian geese politely stayed outside the bounday line, whilst the sun was a welcome intrusion after the week's rain.
Commissioner of the NYC PSAL Cricket League for High Schools, Bassett Thompson, came to watch some of the students who had graduated from the PSAL League now playing for the first time for a college team. BMCC, a college in the City of New York (CUNY) system was fielding a cricket team for the first time - surprising considering the large percentage of its 240,000 students come from a cricket background.
In the previous three weeks Arslan Mohammed, an accounting major at BMCC, had made a lot of calls, put up flyers in his school, and formed a Facebook group to get the players together for the BMCC team. Arslan said "I played for DeWitt Clinton in the High School League so when I heard what American College Cricket was doing I told Lloyd I wanted to play. He promised me if I got a team together he would get another college to play us." The team had no gear but was motivated to borrow bats, pads, etc, and it was that sunday morning that protective cups were purchased.
Traffic delayed the Nitany Lions team but the game got underway as soon as they arrived. Sridhar Ranganathun of Penn State won the toss and batted first. Arslan Mohammed and Tasbir Hussain opened the bowling for BMCC and except for wides bowled well. Ranganathan leaned back and cracked a four square then walked into one and hit it straight overhead for six, and looked real good before he went for 17.
The Penn State and BMCC teams pose for a picture
Number 3 batsman, Rahul Sarnobat had played for the Karnataka U-19 team in India but was rusty from having no cricket for a year. Nevertheless the tall Sarnobat exquisitely on-drove, square drove and hooked for boundaries, and went down the wicket for a six in his 42 runs (3 fours, 2 sixes). Another trip down the wicket and he didn't quite get hold of the ball and was caught at long on off Afshan Tahir. Rajesh Gopalan smashed two sixes whilst Venkat Ravi played a beauiful cut and the Penn State Team looked like they were headed for about 160 before Ravi went to Muznib.
Andre "Rusty" Kirton was the re-introduced into the attack. Kirton played for the USA in the U-19 World Cup in 2006. Like many young players he was getting lost in the shuffle after his Under 19 career was over so he jumped at the opportunity to play college cricket, as he put it: "Now that I'm involved Montgomery won't be keeping the Chanderpaul Trophy ". Kirton's left-arm spin was difficult to handle and he quickly took 3 wickets for 10 runs, which together with a couple of run outs ended Penn State's innings at 129.
BMCC batted and Rahul Sarnobat generated pace, got hit for two fours and clean bowled the two openers - all that action in his first over ! Akhil Kumar took two more wickets whilst Rifat Hussain 22 (2 fours, 1 six) showed defiance. Wahaj Anwar hit 21 (1 four,1 six) before getting run out by a brilliant running one-handed pickup and throw by Sarnobat at mid-on. Waqar contributed 11 before being runout to leave BMCC 107 all out as the twilight sky turned an incandescent orange.
PSAL Commissioner Thompson congratulated the Penn State guys and added " It's great to see cricketers graduate from playing for their High Schools (in NYC) to playing for their colleges ! Hopefully BMCC or another NY college can go on to win the American College Cricket Championship next year !"
Ranganathan, as President of Penn State Cricket Club said: "I would like to extend our invitation to colleges to play at our new ground. We have excellent facilities (astro turf, flood lights etc.). We also have several players who have achieved a lot in Indian domestic leagues, including two who could not make it today - Vikram Kumar who was the wicket keeper for Tamil Nadu in Ranji Trophy and Mahesh Krishnamurthy who was the runner-up in the ESPN Fastest Bowler Challenge for Chennai. "
Rahul Sarnobat was declared the Man of the Match, following which photos were taken and the Penn State team started on their four hour journey back to school.
Next College game is Saturday, Oct 31st - 12 Noon at Baisley Pond Park when American College Champions Montgomery College returns to New York. For more info call Lloyd Jodah 718 751 6117
Match Report and Photo: Courtesy Lloyd Jodah