Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Goin' Clubbing: Cricket Teaches Unity

A quick look at the roster for the cricket club team at Virginia Tech wouldn’t reveal a lot of diversity to an American. None of the players have Anglo names, although some are Americans.

But once you look at the nationalities of the players, you realize why this is the most diverse club sport at Virginia Tech. There are Sri Lankans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and players from the West Indies. The culture and politics of each country is very different.

“In Pakistan and India, cricket is a religion just like football is in America,” senior Ejaz Khan said. “People can die for the love of this game in both countries. In America, not many universities include a cricket club as one of its recreational sports. As a Hokie, we all are very lucky that we are given chance to play our favorite sports and to represent our university at highest level no cost to us.”

Khan is a biological systems engineering major from Spotsylvania, Va., and was born in Pakistan. He is one of several Pakistanis on the team.

There are also several players from India on the team, including Annirudh Roy. He is an alumnus of Virginia Tech playing on the team. His love of cricket brought him to Blacksburg.

“I was excited about the club even before I had arrived at Tech,” Roy said. “I had done my research about the club before I joined the school, and it was a major reason I chose to go to Tech.”

Khan and Roy are both Hokies first when it comes to cricket. While history divides the Pakistanis and Indians, cricket brings them together. At Virginia Tech, a cricket team is teaching the rest of us about togetherness and understanding.

“Peace is the Key to Success”

The diversity of the cricket team brings a lot of positives, Khan said. According to him, each nationality is known for having a specific cricket skill. He said Pakistanis are good fast-bowlers, Sri Lankans are good spin-bowlers, Bangladeshis are good fielders and Indians are known for being skilled batsmen. Together, they make Virginia Tech a solid cricket squad.

The supposed drawbacks, arguments and disagreements based on cultural and political differences, are non-existent on the team.

“Players that come from India and Pakistan to the United States are broad-minded people and know that living together in peace is the key to success,” Khan said. “Fighting is not the solution for anything. When players from both the countries play on a cricket field they represent one university, VT, and not their respective country.”

Zaki Malik, a PhD candidate from Lahore, Pakistan, said he embraces the different cultures represented on the club. Without the cricket club, he may not have been exposed to the cultures.

“Diversity is essential and provides wonderful learning opportunities,” he said. “First-hand experience regarding a culture and its people is better than reading or hearing about it, as you can learn a lot more. Good people are everywhere, in any culture, even in your political enemies. You can make good friends with people you may never think of meeting otherwise.”

No Airing of Grievances

Pakistan and India have had political and religious differences since the two became separate countries in 1947. Pakistan is predominantly Muslim and India is predominantly Hindu. Tensions have lessened in the last couple years, but the scars remain.

But none of those scars come to light when talking to members of the Hokie cricket club team.

Muhammed Mansoor, an electrical engineering major from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, said any argument between club members is confined to issues facing the club and those are resolved amicably.

Other differences have their place and time to come out and be resolved.

“Off-field rivalry through political or cultural differences are never brought up to create any tension,” Malik said. “For that we have the PSA (Pakistani Student Alliance) and ISA (Indian Student Association) that organize an inter-country cricket match annually. All tensions (if any) are released there.”

Tensions eased, the players return to the field united in their orange and maroon uniforms. Khan said the club has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to player behavior.

“You have to be a little bit careful not to cross the line and not to hurt each other’s feelings,” he said.

Said Roy: “Once you start playing for a team and a cause, which in this case happens to be VT, the animosity goes away. We play as a unit for VT.”

Teaching the Rest of Us

So how is the team able to stay united and keep their differences from causing strife and disagreement? Easy. They’re Hokies.

“I think it’s the Hokie spirit and the honor of being Hokies that keeps us together,” Mansoor said.

That togetherness among people of such contrasting beliefs and cultures can teach others. It’s already taught the players of the Virginia Tech cricket team. While they are teaching us about togetherness, they are also teaching each other.

“It has helped remove preconceived notions from my mind about other countries,” Roy said.

Our preconceived notions that the players on the Hokie cricket team aren’t very diverse have been removed as well. Not only is the team the most diverse at the university, it is also thriving.

The club would not be able to grow and develop if in-fighting were allowed to exist. Therefore, the players will continue to practice understanding and use a sport not many Americans understand to teach us about diversity.

“India and Pakistan have had major political issues in the past, but the fact that the students don't even think about it on a cricket field speaks volumes about this sport,” Roy said. “The VT community needs to ensure that this sport is given more priority because it is a great ambassador of the power of unity.”

More Resources
Virginia Tech Cricket Club

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