University Recreation Leads National Cricket Initiative

A sport with origins dating back to the 16th century is making its way to college campuses in the United States, and NC State is leading the effort. Cricket is a hugely popular sport across the globe. However, its reach in the United States is not as attractive as other British origin sports, such as soccer or hockey. Inspired to provide a unique and diverse offering to students, Sports Programs assistant director, Ben Strunk introduced a cricket tournament in the fall 2015 semester.

Taking the Laws of Cricket, modifying them through consultation with the Cricket Club at NC State, Strunk created a one-day version of the sport that was easy to learn and suitable for all skill levels.

The idea initially came from the demand from students to produce unique intramural sports program offerings. “We looked at it as a way to bring in new participants, those who are not are participating in traditional, American, team competitive sports,” Strunk said. With a large international student body currently at NC State, cricket made sense to add.

The buy-in from students currently involved with the cricket club at NC State helped to recruit students to play. Also, a promotional video to explain the rules of the game and how to play was broadcasted on University Recreation social media platforms added interest to register.

The first tournament exceeded expectations, with 13 teams registering for the one-day tournament on Centennial Campus.

As interest piqued at NC State, a national initiative was simultaneously in the works.

In 2016, the National Recreation-Intramural Sports Association (NIRSA) has partnered with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to enhance and increase awareness to the sport, both at the club and intramural sports levels. To help create a standardized set of rules for all intramural sports programs, NIRSA reached out to University Recreation to serve as a pilot campus for cricket as the intramural sports level. Currently, the organizations are reviewing the rules created by NC State and are using them as the standard for all collegiate recreation departments.

Due to the initial popularity of the tournament, Cricket was transformed into a league sport in the fall 2016 semester, with eight teams participating in a 6-week league. The league was also moved from Centennial Campus to Miller Fields to provide adequate lighting.

The impact of this sport is apparent in the participation and retention of students. Of the 126 students playing in the spring 2016 semester, 65 percent of participants have played cricket as their first intramural sport at NC State, and more than one-quarter (27 percent) have joined a cricket team and then have registered to play another intramural sport.

For students, the social bonds of playing intramural sports can ease the transition into college life.

“Without cricket, I would not have gone outside or tried to work out and keep myself fit. It motivates me,” said Veda Gowrishankr, a graduate student studying industrial engineering.

Veda began playing cricket at the age of 5 in India and attributes playing the sport as a major success in his collegiate career.

“I didn’t know if people played cricket when I came to NC state, but I heard from someone that there were guys playing cricket, so I came to play pick-up cricket. It was fun, and now these guys are my roommates now.”