A community in cricket

5 Nov 2018

By Jill Marianne Arul

The NTU cricket team, after winning their last game in the Singapore Cricket Association Division One Corporation League.

When Vishal Raj moved to Singapore this year to pursue a degree at NTU, he was worried about finding good friends. But the 18-year-old Indian national’s passion for cricket found him a family in the NTU cricket team.

Having played the sport for eight years in the United Arab Emirates, where he lived for the last 14 years, the first-year School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCSE) student was keen to continue playing the sport in Singapore.

“Cricket is my passion. It is a part of my life and I knew I had plans to play cricket wherever I went,” said Vishal, who brought his cricket equipment to Singapore.

After he joined the NTU team, Vishal’s teammates, who hail from countries like India and Sri Lanka, helped him with his school work, and gave him advice ranging from what courses to take to good places to eat at. In just two weeks, Vishal formed a close bond with them, which helped him adapt to life in Singapore more easily.

“We became a family, and that made me feel very comfortable here,” said Vishal. “It is always a delight to be hanging around them.”

He sees his teammates at least thrice a week — twice for trainings and once for their weekend games. Apart from training, the team also bonds over regular team activities, like suppers, barbeques and their annual two-day training camp.

Thirteen of the team’s 18 members are international students, making the cricket team a club with the highest proportion of international students in NTU. Almost 80 per cent of the team has prior competitive experience in the sport.

A batting brotherhood

Captain Rahul Singh, 28, (R) and Sarvesh Tusnial, 19, analysing the game from the sidelines.

Like Vishal, many members consider the team their pillar of support as they adjust to living in a foreign country.

Captain Rahul Kumar Singh, 28, who came to Singapore four years ago, said: “I had never been out of India and I felt lonely at the start, but I found the cricket team in NTU and I think that has really given me a family.”

While the final-year PhD student from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering gets along well with other graduate students in his school, he still finds it easier to connect with those who share his passion for cricket.

“With every new team you join, it takes time to get used to everyone, but I had very good teammates who were very welcoming and supportive,” said Rahul, who is one of the four PhD students in the team.

“We’re a really close team. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on.”

Giving back

Vice-captain Vidur Sharma, 21, said the cricket community is an inclusive one.

“Players from all nationalities are always welcome,” said the final-year SCSE student. “There’s always banter... That’s something we cherish and enjoy on and off the field,” he added.

Vidur decided to join the team despite only having played cricket recreationally.

“I joined for the love of cricket. Everyone on the team plays because they love cricket,” he said.

At first, it was tough for him to switch from playing recreationally to competitively, but his seniors always encouraged him after each training session, and would discuss how everyone had performed and ways to improve.

Now, he hopes to do the same for new members.

“I took on this leadership role (of vice-captain) because I had a sense of responsibility to the team,” he said. “I thought I should give back. I was mentored by someone and want to do the same for the new members who join.”

The team’s chemistry was reflected on the field as they competed to defend their title as the Singapore Cricket Association Institution – Corporation League Division One champions.

Their last match of the season was held on 28 Oct, where the team won against Oracle Cricket Club and are currently placed second as they gun for the top spot to defend their championship title.

Powering through the first half of 2 hours 30 minutes before the match was rained out, NTU cricket played well, scoring 219 runs.

Top batsman of the league, Chirath Gunasinghe, 22, scored 88 of those runs and stayed in the game for 23 of the 30 overs.

“It was our last game, and we wanted to give our captain a good send-off, so we gave it our all,” said Chirath, a second-year School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering student.

Deepak Sarika, 24, warming up as he waits for his turn to bat.