College cricket has opened my eyes to a sport I’d resigned to insignificance for far too longLouis Ashworth with permission for Varsity

“Two to win. Guptill’s got to push for two. They’ve got to go. The throw’s got to go to the keeper’s end… He’s got it! England have won the World Cup! By the barest of margins!”. Prior to this year, those words, describing the pinnacle of England’s modern history in one of its oldest games, held little importance to me. Any value they did have was in the bewilderment and excitement Ian Smith managed to convey with such clarity; he is a true master of his craft. The actual events he was describing, so remarkable that the BBC coined it ”Cricket’s Greatest Game“, meant not a “Dickie Bird” to me.

Sure, I’d very briefly tried my hand at cricket. Living opposite a cricket club, I felt an obligation to give it a go around the age of ten. However, the combination of its long play-time, relative inaction and, more pressingly, the fact that my pigeon-toed feet prevented me from being able to run properly in pads led me to withdraw from the crease after just a couple of seasons.

“College cricket epitomises what college sport should be”

That was until last term. I was convinced by two of my closest friends to join them at a session in the nets for our college team. Feeling too underqualified to even lie about whether I was a batter or a bowler (I went for batter on the recollection of being considered a “big hitter” in school rounders), my expectations were very low. I was a King’s College FC man, born and bred. Surely I couldn’t swap over to the dark side of KCCC? This is, after all, a team whose college funding is a significant part of KCFC’s inability to convince the higher authorities that we need a third kit, solely for Cuppers.

Well, I am pleased to report that while my unwavering loyalty for KCFC will never falter, I am now also a proud player for KCCC. And I’m far better off for it. College cricket has opened my eyes to a sport I’d resigned to insignificance for far too long. That first nets session quickly turned into a weekly occurrence. Moving into this term, the indoor nets at Fenners have been replaced with the outdoor facilities at King’s School, just a full toss away from the accommodation that many of us share. I can categorically declare that there is no greater notification to receive than a cheeky mid-afternoon “Nets later?” message on Whatsapp, not even one from Facebook to say the world’s most inactive ‘fess’ page, Kingsfess, has been updated.

“College cricket’s imperfections are what make this sport so enjoyable at a grassroots level”

However, what King’s lacks in competent Facebook admins, it makes up for with this current golden generation of cricketers. Having not won a game of cricket in three years, we have (at the time of writing) won three out of our opening four Cuppers matches and look to have a real chance of progressing to the knockouts. I have solidified my discipline as a batter with a personal best of a 40-run innings, which is unfortunately accompanied by a less impressive five, five and three runs in the other matches. After tripping up in our opening game of the season, I’ve even managed multiple, consecutive innings in which I’ve been able to run with the pads and not look “unique”, as my mum used to remark in the nicest possible way.

College cricket epitomises what college sport should be. Just as college football mirrors all the joys of Sunday League, college cricket has all the hallmarks of a fantastic village cricket setup. In my short college cricket career, I’ve already experienced the struggles of colleges trying to field a team of eleven, the frantic rush of trying to finish a game before the sunlight disappears and the hotch-potch of whites, tracksuits, and even a crisp linen shirt from Zara (as worn by one member of the Tit Hall/Magdalene team) that players wear. And let’s not forget the trials and tribulations of student umpires trying to determine whether a ball was LBW.


Mountain View

Ecstasy and agony for Cambridge in the 2024 Varsity T20 cricket matches

College cricket’s imperfections are what make this sport so enjoyable at a grassroots level. As college sports go, cricket has virtually the lowest level of experience required for entry. There are no Poundland Pep Guardiola’s trying to enforce complex tactics onto a group of hungover amateurs. Nor is it like rugby, where specialist knowledge for being able to partake in crucial parts of the game, such as scrummaging, are necessary. One of those friends who took me to my first session is known as a “specialist fielder”. He sees ball. He runs after ball. He throws ball. And that gives him just as much joy as batting or bowling. Of course, cricket can be so much more than that, but it doesn’t have to be. And with the T20 World Cup happening this summer, there is no better time to give it a go!