On the list of revered American sports, cricket does not rank highly.
However, USF does have bragging rights when it comes to the sport seeing as how, not only is the men’s team ranked No. 1 in the U.S., but the USF Women’s Cricket Club (WCC) is the first women’s collegiate cricket team in the country.
The WCC is relatively new, and while there has been an unofficial team going as far back as 2012, it wasn’t anything too serious. During that year, they played a few matches in the USF Student Premier League (SPL), a tournament put together by students, and realized that they could be an actual team.
According to Reshma Pinnamaneni, the founding president, the team officially started in 2013, but apart from playing several matches in that year’s SPL, the only thing they really did was work on having a more established and experienced club.
The team was formally launched in April 2014, and was made up of mainly master’s students and alumni. It started with 12 members and, at its highest, recruited 30 people.
There also happened to be a large crossover between both the men’s and women’s cricket teams with the Students of India Association (SIA), as the sport is most popular in the East.
“I was able to get in touch with (the men’s cricket club) and they saw that I was interested in cricket, so they’d invite me over and teach me how to play cricket, give me pointers,” Pinnamaneni, also a member of SIA, said. “They were the ones who originally suggested that we start a team and keep doing it.”
However, by fall 2015, the club was inactive.
“Around that time, I became a senior in college and I had to focus on school and what I was going to do next,” Pinnamaneni said. “I had to give the club over to some of the other e-board members. They tried their best, but I guess they weren’t able to hold on to as many of the people.”
She attributes this to many of the players being master’s students or seniors who graduated. She decided to try and restore the club during her final semester as an undergraduate last fall, but she found that because she wasn’t as involved on campus as before, this proved more difficult that originally starting the club.
“I never really knew the gravity of it, I think, when I took it on in 2013,” Pinnamaneni said.
As an alum, there are now limitations to what she can do to help the club, but she is determined to get it up and running.
“I would definitely be more of a guidance than anything. I’d teach them how to do practices, I’d come up with drills and motivate them,” Pinnamaneni said. “I’ve made more connections since I first started it, so I know more ways for us to get involved with the national scene, and I feel like that’s something that might really motivate people.”
She has kept in contact with some of the previous e-board members who still attend USF and are interested in rejoining it, as well as several “alumni students who live in the area are willing to come in for practices and teach some of the newer students.”
The men’s cricket team has also resolved to aid the club get back on its feet. Sai Santosh Sala, a master’s student majoring in computer science, mentioned that the men’s squad has had unofficial discussions on what their helpful role will be, but a final decision hasn’t been made.
Something that he said could help would be regularly scheduled, routine practices and friendly matches, a sentiment that is echoed by current WCC president Krithika Venugopal.
“That’s something that we didn’t have, mostly because we had a greater turnover than other sports clubs,” Venugopal, a junior majoring in accounting, said. “People would come, they would join, they would play for a little bit, and they would leave, either because they were graduating or they simply lost interest.”
She also said that another major issue was the members not knowing about the sport or not being taught it properly. She said this is where Pinnamaneni’s connections will come in handy.
The former president is hopeful for this resurrection, as she said the timing couldn’t be better.
“The cricket scene in America is completely changing. The cricket scene is completely different than it used to be, and women’s cricket is becoming a lot more popular now, and that’s why I want America to have a really good cricket team,” Pinnamaneni said. “The American women’s cricket team might actually qualify for the World Cup this year, and so I think this is the perfect time to restart everything and get in on it.”