Mercer cricket kicks off inaugural season with high hopes

ANNA+VATAGINA%2FTHE+CLUSTER%0AMacon%2C+Georgia%2C+09%2F16%2F15%3A%0ACo-captain+Samuel+Brunk+is+up+to+bat+in+a+game+of+cricket+with+Richie+Edmondson+catching.

ANNA VATAGINA/THE CLUSTER Macon, Georgia, 09/16/15: Co-captain Samuel Brunk is up to bat in a game of cricket with Richie Edmondson catching.

Nicholas Wooten, Managing Editor

The crack of cricket bat against ball and the occasional Hindi word between teammates fills the cool summer breeze in Tattnall Square Park.

The batsmen, the bowler and the fieldsmen play like they were in the streets of Kolkata or Eden Gardens, far from Macon’s magnolias and cicadas.

The Mercer club cricket team was hard at work preparing for their first game against Georgia Tech and the season ahead.

“The love of the sport brought us here,” said Sameer Anand, the team’s coach and co-captain.

Anand stands off to the side of the field watching. His father played the sport semi-professionally in India.  He’s played club cricket in Atlanta since the ninth grade. Co-captain and team director, Yash Patel, spent some time playing in Toronto.

This is the team’s first season as a club sport. Anand and Patel laid the team’s foundation early last spring.

The two had bonded over the sport, and they wanted to bring it to Mercer. Anand, a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, began recruiting brothers who were familiar with the sport or willing to learn it. Anand and Patel also used Mercer Malsala, a south Asian and Middle Eastern culture club, to target potential players.

If the cricketers saw someone walking through the park who they thought had some athletic ability, the group would recruit the passersby.

Thirty men showed up for tryouts at the beginning of the fall. Fifteen were selected, and the team has a strong international flare. All of the Indians on the team are first generation Americans. Ritchie Edmondson, a former soccer player and Mercer graduate from Jamaica, also plays on the team.

“Most of them speak Hindi to each other. So, I know like two phrases,” said Samuel Brunk, a member of Alpha Tau Omega and co-captain of the team.

Once the team was fielded, Anand and company prepared for the season ahead. The group received $3,000 of provisional funding for its first year of play, and the team already had a practice field at Tattnall thanks to the Friends of Tattnall Square Park, a group of park volunteers, who Anand says have gone “above and beyond” in their support.

But the money wears thin as costs pile up. Anand and Patel have gone to great lengths to ensure the team has the proper materials.

“Yash and myself donated $750 dollars of equipment each,” Anand said. “We couldn’t order jerseys and hats because they cost too much, so I found the cheapest wholesaler I could. I ironed on—in my apartment—17 Mercer logos. We’ve had to collect team dues, too.”

But Anand runs a tight ship. He doesn’t want the makeshift label attached to the team.

“Ali, don’t ever throw the bat. Twenty-five push-ups, now,” Anand says to a teammate across the field. “Chest to the ground!”

The team played Georgia Tech, one of the premier college club teams, Saturday, Sept. 19. The Bears lost 153-117.

“It was an awesome match, they were great sports, and I’m really proud of our guys. Yesterday we proved that we had the talent, we had the dedication, and most of all, we could be competitive with anybody,” Anand said.

The Bears have their eyes set on March and the American College Cricket tournament. The league includes 32 teams from institutions such as Harvard, Yale, U Penn and Georgia Tech. The tournament will be shown on the TV Asia network. The club received approval to join the league.

The team will have to raise funds to cover the expenses, but, just as before, the cricketers aren’t afraid of a challenge.

“It is a dream come true for us,” Anand said. “It’s our biggest opportunity to show Mercer that we are not only committed, but we’re potentially the most competitive sport on campus.”