FORT GREENE — Long Island University’s new astro turf field is already home to the school’s soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse teams.
This year, a new team is bowling onto the field — LIU's first ever cricket team.
“Cricket is like God in India,” said Dr. Rutesh Dave, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at LIU.
“We are so glad to have a team here in Brooklyn.”
Dave added that is was the passion of his students for the game that made the new team possible.
Sandeep K. Devarshetty, 24, grew up playing cricket in India. He moved to New York to study pharmaceutical sciences at LIU's Brooklyn campus and was disappointed to find that the school had no cricket team.
So last year, he started one. He found overwhelming interest by other students to play.
“We would have about 35 people coming out to play,” he said. “And it was fun, but we wanted to compete.”
Also, space was limited and sometimes the club was forced to practice in neighboring Fort Greene Park.
Devarshetty knocked on the Director of Student Activities’ door to see if there was anything he could do.
Patrick J. Campbell was immediately moved by what he called the “fire in Devarshetty’s eyes" to play cricket.
“He kept knocking on my door,” Campbell said. “How could I say no to such enthusiasm?”
Campbell asked the student body for funding for the new team and secured money for equipment, water, shirts and use of the field two days a week, four hours a day — although the field availibility is temporary and soon the team will be looking for a new place to practice.
With more than enough players for an 11 member team, the next step was to enter a league. Devarshetty called the American College Cricket League, which lists Harvard, Princeton and Boston University among its members. As of Sunday, the soon-to-be LIU Blackbirds are the newest team to join.
“Now we will be playing against our school’s major rivals such as St. John’s University and Rutgers,” he said. “Eventually, we will play against teams from all over the country.
On a Monday afternoon in the heat of summer at least 20 students — all originally from India, Devarshetty said — prepared for a three-hour practice.
They warmed up by batting and catching the small, hard red cricket ball with bare hands, then ran a few sprints before suiting up in leg pads, thigh guards and gloves.
The cricketers focused carefully as each ball was bowled and yelled “ball-y” or “catch” after a ball was hit.
Devarshetty jogged to the edge of the field for some water and a quick break.
“There is no doubt,” he said. “We will be the team to beat.”