By Steve Petrick
To Torontonians who have spent too much time watching baseball, it would have appeared there was one ball and two strikes on Atif Asghar when a lunging shortstop snagged his line drive, robbing him of a base hit.
But since Asghar was playing cricket, it was the fourth of no more than six pitches and he was trying to hit the ball between 11 fielders. If the ball hadn’t been caught he would have been off running, not to first base, but to the wicket straight in front of him, securing his team a run.
Sitting on the grass in Ryerson’s quad, near the roughly 40 cricket players, Asghar says he’s not a die-hard cricket enthusiast and doesn’t mind hearing the sport compared to baseball.
“It’s really the equivalent,” the third-year industrial engineering student says. “Hardcores would say there’s no comparison, but average players would say it’s basically the same sport.”
In fact, Asghar welcomes newcomers to join games the Pakistani Students Association is hosting each Friday in the quad this spring. Last week’s turnout doubled the number of the previous week’s inaugural game.
“Last week we had lots of people out here who never played,” he says. “It’s an open field.”
Most players on Friday were of South Asian descent—not a surprise considering countries in the area have an infatuation with cricket similar to Canadians’ affection for hockey.
Most were playing outdoors for the first time in years.
Ryerson had an indoor intramural cricket club last year, but the games in the lower Kerr gym were cancelled numbers dwindled.
This year, however, interest for an outdoor club grew. When Asghar sent questionnaires to student associations this semester asking them what activities they’d like to see on campus, an overwhelming number asked for cricket games. Plans were launched immediately and organizers are waiting to see if RyeSAC will grant them official club status.
When students such as Sharmil Khan, a first-year mechanical engineering student who emigrated from the United Arab Emirates in August, got an e-mail earlier this month saying he’d have a chance to play, he was ecstatic.
“This is my favourite sport,” says Khan, whose family is originally from India. “In my homeland everybody plays.”
Cricket was invented in England and passed on to the countries it colonized, such as India and Pakistan, several centuries ago. Since then, those countries have become intense rivals in well-publicized international tournaments.
Some of those rivalries are being carried out in the quad. Khan says groups of Indian, South African and Pakistani students have formed, each badly wanting to outperform each other.
“Some people here really want to win,” Khan says. “But some are playing just for fun.”
You can tell by the roar of the crowd. After each pitch or play in the field most students would erupt in cheers for throw good-humoured insults at their friends.
This camaraderie, says Fawad Baig, a computer science student and PSA member, is what makes the club unique.
“Half the guys here are Pakistani and half are Indian. You know the history between those two countries. But everyone gets along here.”
For more information on the club email: firstname.lastname@example.org.