USF Cricket Team Wins its First National Competition

The members of USF’s Cricket club are the new national champions. Photo | USF Cricket.

By Laura Kneski

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (March 25, 2014) -- This year marked the fourth time that the USF University Cricket Club made it to national finals, but this year’s difference left the players speechless - they won the championship.

The American College Cricket national championship game was the first time that an American cricket tournament was broadcast live on an ESPN network, which added to the excitement.

“We were desperate to put up a show and win for the supporters who were cheering for us on TV, in the stadium and, most importantly, for USF,” said Vishwaksena Reddy Vuppunutula, an international USF graduate student who plays the all-rounder position on the team.

Vuppunutula has been on the team for six months. Growing up in the large Indian city of Hyderabad in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, he initially learned how to play cricket when he was 10-years-old from his cousin, and he continued to strengthen his skills as a professional player in his city.

A USF cricket player in action. Photo | USF Cricket.

Vuppunutula came to USF last fall to pursue a master’s in engineering management, but he picked USF because of its strong cricket reputation. He believes that cricket is growing within the United States, noting the coverage on ESPN3 as a sign of increasing popularity.

Vuppunutula said the USF team was committed 100 percent to winning this tournament, held March 16 in Ft. Lauderdale, and credits their high spirits for helping them perform so well under pressure.

“We felt that we earned a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we had to make the most out of it,” he said.

Begun at USF by alumni Satish Hanumanthu in 2009, the UCC team was one of the first five college cricket teams to be a part of the American College Cricket organization, according to its website. Twenty-five universities competed in the tournament this year. The teams are placed into groups, and from there are randomly selected a team to play for each league game.

The USF Cricket Club President Himavanth Reddy Ganta, also from Hyderabad, has been playing cricket since the age of six. He is currently an international student at USF looking to earn his master’s in electrical engineering. He said many students he knows have looked toward USF as their school of choice because of the cricket club. Currently there are 87 students in the club, 15 of which participate in tournaments based upon their skills and availability.

Ganta acknowledged the skill of the teams that they competed against, recalling a thought he had during the quarter-finals of the championship.

“I feel like I am watching international standard [cricket] when I am watching them play,” he said, referring to Ryerson University from Canada. “And we beat them.”

Next, the Bulls had to play Rutgers in the semi-finals, a match which they won.

At their fourth final in six years, it was time to face Auburn, whom they had defeated in the Southeast Regional Championship. The Bulls had thought this one through too.

“We know the mistakes of what we did last time, and it was the same team as last time,” Ganta said. The team practices once a week for almost four hours, where they focus on team bonding and avoiding those past mistakes.

A USF Cricket batsman. Photo | USF Cricket.

Even with those high spirits and practiced moves, though, Vuppunutula and Ganta both felt speechless after the win.

“Cricket is a funny game,” USF bowler Rohit Dube said. “You cannot say anything until the last ball is bowled or last runs are scored. Fear and hope are the feelings that surround you.”

Ganta said he greatly appreciates many people who helped USF’s cricket club build toward a national championship, including past presidents of the club and club founder Hanumanthu, who acted as mentor to the team.

The full national championship game can be watched here. To get updates on the University Cricket Club, visit its Facebook page.

Laura Kneski is an intern for USF Communications and Marketing.