With Princeton and Cornell neck and neck, the match had come down to Shafin Fattah ’15. Aiming to smash the ball over the fielders’ heads to score the winning runs, he went for it. But he misconnected, and his Tiger teammates held their breath as the ball sailed into the field. Then, in what team captain Vijit Kapoor ’14 called “the most heart-stopping moment this season,” the fielder dropped the ball, giving Princeton the victory by a hair.
It was the Princeton Cricket Club’s fifth match of the season, the day after the team powered through a snowstorm to beat Dartmouth, and it demonstrated just how far the club had come.
Cricket was once a popular sport at Princeton, but interest declined at the end of the 19th century. By the time Zeerak Ahmed ’13 arrived, opportunities to play the sport were limited to pickup games with a tennis ball wound in electrical tape.
But during his sophomore year, Ahmed and several other students registered the group as a club sports team, qualifying for funds for equipment and practice space — and to represent the University.
This spring the team counted 18 regulars, practicing twice a week on Finney-Campbell Fields, and was an official member of the American College Cricket organization. The club won its last four matches of the year for a 4–3 record in its first competitive season. Other Ivy schools fielding cricket teams are Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn, Cornell, and Yale.
Most members of the team played cricket before coming to Princeton, many at home in Southeast Asia or Australia.
Outgoing treasurer Joseph Dexter ’13 is one of five team members from the United States. Growing up in Vermont, he became interested in cricket at the age of 10, but he had few opportunities for formal play. At Princeton, Dexter founded a casual cricket group at Forbes College, then joined the team, which he said welcomed less-experienced members.
For those new to cricket, Kapoor said there are two primary challenges. “Conceptually, the hardest thing for a newcomer to learn in cricket is the patience and composure that is required,” he said. “As a skill, I would say fast bowling [comparable to pitching in baseball] is the hardest, because it puts tremendous stress on your back and shoulders.”
Fattah, the club’s newly elected president, hopes the team will host more matches and attract more members, especially graduate students. The club recruited its first four grad students this year, including Australian Ryan Edwards, a first-year student in civil and environmental engineering, who is the team’s standout batsman.
The team’s matches, which last about three hours, have begun to attract about as many spectators as players. “It’s just the beginning still — but a good beginning,” said Vaidy Murti ’15.