The Knox College Cricket Club has seen some recent success after a tour to University of Chicago and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. They competed in four games from April 6 and 7 and were enrolled in a league called “Illinois Cricket Cup Spring 2019,” which has eight teams total. The team won two out of four games, and will play a remaining three games on April 21. The top four teams will qualify for semi-finals, meaning Knox has to win two out of their three upcoming games.
Junior Muhammad Hammad is hopeful that the team can clinch these two wins.
“I’m hopeful we will be winning at least two of them. We’re going to go for three but if we win two, we’re easily qualifying for the semi-finals. Then we have to win the semi-final and then the final but hopefully we’ll have this cup,” Hammad said.
The team has grown quite a bit, going from four players in Hammad’s freshman year, to now having 20-25 regularly participating. The league Knox is enrolled in keeps regular stats and has rankings. Knox has the top-two batsmen in the whole league, junior Momin Farooq ranking first and Hammad second. Senior Mohaimen Naseer Butt ranks 13th as well for batsmen. Out of the 80 players in the league, Farooq is the first, Hammad is seventh and Butt is eighth.
The team is topping their league right now and are preparing for the games this coming weekend. They hope to win because it would be a huge step for the club. Preparations include watching film, practicing hard, and supporting one another. They believe the losses last weekend were because they had to wake up very early, drive to Champaign, and didn’t have any breaks between their games.
“We’ve watched film on each of the teams and have made up plans against them, we know their strengths and weaknesses. The thing was, we woke up at 7:00 in the morning in Chicago from playing two games and drove three hours to Champaign É but next week we have breaks in between the games so we’ll be okay to eat and take breaks,” Hammad said.
The team attributes their recent success to finally getting funding from the college after being denied many times. They were able to buy equipment and also schedule regular practice times with the college.
“One of the biggest motivations for us was when Anne [Ehrlich] gave us a budget and told us now we have to win. So, we said now yeah we have to win so we get more funds and our club gets better and grows. It would be really good for us if we won three games and if we could win this cup it would be great,” Hammad said.
The team has been growing, but wants even more support. To date, the team has had five home games. They had almost no one show up. Those that did show boosted the morale for the team and they hope to have that support in the future. The team even expressed their willingness to print out rules on how the game works and pass the sheets around at games so the fans could better understand the game.
“Cricket is a really entertaining game. There’s balls flying all around and when people hit sixes, it’s really exciting. People should come and they’ll get entertained for sure. It is something worth watching,” Farooq said.
The team also has several women supporters and they have expressed interest in starting a women’s team.
“We are trying to promote our club and there are a lot of female supporters. Recently one of them told me they are planning on making a women’s cricket team,” Farooq said. “We are totally willing to support them in any way because some of us have experience playing on better teams back home so we can teach the skills required and we are hoping that the club grows as much as it can.”
Originally, the team was apprehensive after losing so many great players last year that they weren’t going to be as good this year. However, they attribute their success to many freshmen coming in and contributing after joining, bringing their experiences in cricket from their home countries.
“After [a few good seniors] left, we were tense about how we were going to make our next team good so we can take this club another step ahead,” Hammad said. “When the freshmen class came in, we got three or four more players. We’re doing better than before and getting better as we keep practicing.”
The team holds weekly practices and whoever performs best and stays the most committed to practices can get chosen for the competition that week. They choose 11 players out of their 20-25 to participate in the game that week. The team says that Penny, who works in the Gizmo, is their largest supporter.
“Penny has always been there for us. If people get hurt, Penny is there with her first aid kit helping us out,” Hammad said. “She’s a really huge support for us and always keeps an eye on us and asks us how many games we’ve won. She asks us how we score and we got a book for her on how cricket works. She is definitely our biggest support.”
The team is asking other teams around the area to play against them, and hope to have another home game soon. The team plans to host the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign soon, among others.
“After we host University of Illinois, we have also been talking to Purdue and Grinnell and we might play one home game or away game with one of those colleges that we’ve been talking to,” Hammad said.
The team will play on April 21 and will look to succeed and make it to semi-finals and hopefully gain some more support around campus.