Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Bowled Over:


A flattened bat. An old tennis ball.

A pair of trash cans.

It’s a Sunday afternoon on Harbin Patio, and these are the only things that a group of 12 students need for a pick-up game of cricket. The sun is shining, although the late March air still warrants blue jeans instead of shorts. The extra coverage comes in handy when diving for a ball on the hard concrete.

Don Jayamaha (COL ’14) is up to bat. Standing in front of the trashcan marker, the Sri Lankan native grips the wooden bat expertly. Passersby walk along Harbin Patio; some look confused at the foreign game. Others duck for cover.

“Break it! Break the window!” Joseph Vithayathil (COL ’12) yells excitedly, jumping up to catch the ball. The tennis ball directly hits a Harbin window, earning Jayamaha six runs. Fortunately, it’s not a “proper” leather cricket ball so it bounces off, leaving the window unscathed — and Jayamaha with a good score.


The idea of forming a group to play pick-up cricket began with Jayamaha and Stuart Taylor, a University of East Anglia student studying at Georgetown this year. Earlier in the semester, the two friends were chatting about the upcoming cricket World Cup and decided to gather a small group of friends to play a casual pick-up game once the weather got warmer.

“We weren’t even thinking of starting a group at first,” Jayamaha says. “We started off with three or four guys playing, and then others just joined along.” The original group grew as friends and random students alike passed by and asked to join the game.

“The first week we didn’t expect much, but by the end we had 12 people,” Taylor says.

Alexandros Souris (COL ’14), a native of South Africa, was one of those strangers passing by. On his way to Yates Field House, the lifelong cricket player recognized the signature flat bat and asked to join them. “A bunch of guys come together with a bat and ball and just have a bunch of fun,” Souris says of their group’s first game.

Others had not played before, but were drawn to the exotic game.

“They were playing outside of Harbin Patio. It was Friday afternoon, and I thought ‘I have nothing better to do, I’ll hang out with these guys and see what it’s all about,'” Jordan Braunfeld (COL ’14) says.

Unlike Souris, Braunfeld had no real knowledge of the sport — except from watching a Bollywood movie once in high school, he says. “I’m from Texas and there’s not a really large crowd who play cricket down there,” he jokes.

The motley crew of cricket veterans and American amateurs play a simple, backyard version of the notoriously long game. Jayamaha explains that there are different types of games, ranging from the five-day long “test matches,” to shorter, more flexible games.

“We don’t ever play 50 overs, even at home we don’t play 50 over games. We play a 5 over game that lasts 15 minutes to half an hour,” Jayamaha says. Now, here’s for some cricket terminology: An “over” consists of six balls being “bowled.” Bowling is similar to pitching in baseball — except the bowler cannot bend his arm. Also, a ball should bounce before it hits the batsman, meaning the incoming bowl could arrive high in the air or low to the ground.

“We aren’t really strict teaching them how to bowl. People who’ve played baseball find it unbelievably difficult to bowl without bending their arm,” Jayamaha says. Taylor says the technique is not something that’s easy to pick up and that in the beginning most players bat, while the experienced ones bowl.

“People think of cricket as having a lot of rules, but we try to keep it simple” Stuart says. In addition to the lax, backyard-style rules, the simplicity of the equipment makes things easy and accessible for those learning. Jayamaha says the group has improvised greatly, using a tennis ball instead of a proper leather one, which eliminates the need for helmets and pads when playing. The group has only one bat, and both batting teams share and pass it back and forth. They use Harbin Patio’s garbage cans as “wickets,” the bases that the batter runs to and from.

And then of course there’s the square, concrete “field”: Harbin Patio. Not exactly an ideal playing spot.

“It’s different. Cricket is normally played on a circular field, you can hit it to the side or behind you,” Souris says. “[The patio] is limited because you can only play forward shots.”

But they’ve incorporated the surroundings to create their own unique brand of cricket. Jayamaha says that instead of the typical rope boundary, the group uses the building itself as the batting line. If a batter’s ball hits    Harbin Hall “on the full,” meaning it doesn’t bounce, the batter earns six runs. If the ball bounces first and then hits the building, four runs.

“The patio setup helps me as a baseball player. I’m used to hitting forward,” Braunfeld says. This improvised fielding eases the transition for Americans adjusting from the baseball mindset. “Even though I don’t really know the ins and outs of cricket, it’s very similar to baseball just in the sense you have a ball thrown at you and you run” Braunfeld says. “I’m already trained to swing at something that’s flying at me.”

Bowling, however, is another thing. “In my mind it’s ingrained [that] you flick your wrist,” Braunfeld, a lifelong baseball player says. “In cricket, you can’t flick your wrist, you have it over your head. It’s too awkward a motion for me.” In the meantime, this baseball veteran sticks to batting and catching on the patio.

Jayamaha and Stuart say that the teaching element of their Hilltop group is the most rewarding. “Everyone’s really patient about it,” Stuart says. “If you love the sport, you’re going to want other people to enjoy it.” Jayamaha says that newcomers join each week, pick up the game and have been improving.

“American baseball players? They’re not bad actually. Got to be careful of them,” University of New South Wales second-year  student Simon O’Connor jokes. This friendly rivalry is to be expected when bringing together a team as diverse as this one. Founded by a Sri Lankan and Briton, the group consists of Indians, Australians and Scots. There’s also a player from South Africa and one from Lebanon — by way of Saudi Arabia.

“It’s a great way to meet other people, who share similar interests,” Souris says. “Back home I play against other South Africans. Here I play against people from India, Australia, England and Sri Lanka. … It’s like on TV when you see your team play against people from all over the world.”

The game’s history is tied to the colonialism of the British Empire, yet today it weaves a common thread uniting these nations. “We all met as international students the first week. Most of the gang, the Commonwealth people, hang together,” says Michael Walsh, a third year at King’s College London. O’Connor, his Australian “Commonwealth mate,” agrees that they share a similar humor.

“As soon as you start playing there’s a bit of banter that starts picking up. That’s my favorite part. Start taking the piss out of people,” he says. Walsh explains O’Connor’s slang, “You know, like ‘mugging people off.'” Translating into American English, Walsh further clarifies the Briticism: “making fun of people in a fun way.”

This Commonwealth identity is unique to cricket, and the British culture remains a part of the sport to this day. “It used to be the most popular sport in England, now it’s the most popular sport in India,” the half-English, half-Indian Walsh says. “It developed and spread to the rest of the empire, the other nations we exported it to really kept it and picked up on it.”

“And are now better than you,” O’Connor jabs.

But whether hailing from Scotland or Sri Lanka, getting a chance to play cricket while here on the Hilltop offers players a taste of home. “Saturday morning when you wake up the first thing you think is ‘Let’s get the cricket kit out.’ It’s something we all miss,” Taylor says. Vithayathil echoes this homesickness, saying when he first moved to the U.S. from India, he suffered “withdrawal from cricket.”

But the Hilltop’s cricket scene is on the rise, especially given the popularity of the cricket World Cup. “There’s more people following cricket here than I thought. I’m surprised how many people here keep track,” Jayamaha says. The Sri Lankan fan has watched every one of their games online — no easy feat since most games start at 5 a.m. EST. But he admits he can go to class in the morning and come back to find the game still being played, since they usually last until the early afternoon.

“As crazy as it may sound, yes, we stay up late or wake up as early as 5 a.m. to watch the game. Usually I have a couple of friends with whom I watch,” Jibin Koshy (SFS-Q ’12) says. “If you are from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh it’s more like a religion.” The India-Pakistan semifinal played on Wednesday was particularly memorable for Koshy and other Indian fans.

“India-Pakistan games are usually the most anticipated games back home. [Wednesday’s] game was no different,” Vithayathil says. “Winning against Pakistan is in my opinion a bigger feat than winning the World Cup itself.”

With their Wednesday win against their Pakistani rivals, India now is in the finals against Sri Lanka this Saturday. India has not won a World Cup since 1983, although the team has been to the finals three times since then.

“Sri Lanka has a great team this time and have played really well to reach the finals. It would be a Herculean win for the Indian Tigers if they beat the Sri Lankan Lions,” Koshy says. “Every Indian is bleeding blue and at this point they will make sure they make the Lankans bleed blue as well.”


Regardless of the outcome of the World Cup, Hilltop cricket players are also bleeding blue — Hoya blue, not Indian Tiger blue, that is. The Harbin cricketers hope that they can formalize the group into more than just a pick-up team, perhaps into a club sport.

Here, they can look to the School of Foreign Service in Qatar as inspiration. The “Wild Hoyas” are one of the better club teams in Education City, playing against Texas A&M, American University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“It’s one of the best teams over there. We’ve reached the finals a couple of times,” says Koshy, who plays for the Wild Hoyas.

“Since we didn’t have a lot of South Asians on the Georgetown Qatar campus unlike [at] other universities in Education City, it was very hard for us to create a team and get going,” says Koshy, who is Indian and a native of Qatar. “So the ‘Wild Hoyas’ is a fairly diverse group where we have people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Palestine, Sudan, Lebanon and America.”

Looking at the success of his home team, Koshy says it would be great to create a real team on the Hilltop. Finding support may be a challenge, but Koshy believes that like his Wild Hoyas, the Harbin Patio players have a passion for the sport. “If there is one thing in common between the team there and the group here, it is that both groups started from scratch.”

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