Cricket connoisseurs hope to interest Jayhawk country in sport that most of the world has long loved

photo by: Dan Coleman

The Jayhawk Cricket Club is pictured May 21, 2023. Back row, from left, are Yadhunath Tharakeswaran, Mukkaram Khan, Waleed Alvi Awan, Zain Jiwani, Moiz Khan, Fenil Patel, Aneeq Chaudhry and Asif Khan. Front row, from left, are Jaypal Singh, Wahaj Mehdi, Shaf Zubair, Suhail Halai, Rahul Desai and Abhiroop Goel.

Most local sports fans have celebrated a Jalon Daniels touchdown or a Dajuan Harris assist, but how many have seen Suhail Halai hit a six, or even know what that is? The athletes who play for the Jayhawk Cricket Club, one of KU’s newest teams, want this number to grow.

Long overshadowed in the United States by its American cousin, baseball, cricket remains the more popular game on a global scale, especially in areas of the world formerly ruled by the British. Rahul Desai, a KU junior from India who has played since age 5, says his experience is not uncommon.

“Like Brazil is for soccer, cricket is for us. We play from being little kids.” Now, says Desai, “we’re trying our best to grow cricket at KU, to reach as many people as possible.”

Cricket at KU has had several iterations, explains Dilanka Ranaweera, current president of the Jayhawk Cricket Club. The club was formed in 2015 by a small group of cricket-playing students, but interest dwindled after they graduated. A second wave of interest was gaining momentum when COVID hit. The team has regrouped over the past year with a combination of veteran players and new recruits, often seen practicing in the Holcom batting cages and KU’s Central Field on 19th Street. In March, Jayhawk Cricket achieved official recognition as a sport club from KU Recreation Services, the same program under which sports like rugby, ice hockey and lacrosse are played at KU.

“A lot of these guys, they come from countries where cricket is the national pastime,” says Ranaweera, but the Manhattan, Kansas, junior has a broader vision for cricket at KU. “We want to show the general public how to play, the history, educate people about what the sport is.”

photo by: Dan Coleman

Jayhawk Cricket Club member Suhail Halai is pictured bowling on May 21, 2023, against the KC Blues.

photo by: Dan Coleman

Jayhawk Cricket Club member Suhail Halai is pictured bowling on May 21, 2023, against the KC Blues.

A traditional cricket match can last three to five days, and this pace of play has limited popularity in the U.S. But a new format known as “T20” compresses match lengths to around three hours, not unlike the changes instituted by Major League Baseball this season to shorten game times. The quicker version is poised for growth in the United States, which will host the T20 Cricket World Cup in 2024.

While many Americans find the rules of cricket opaque, video tutorials online make it simpler than ever to learn the basics. Each team has 11 players, and, as with baseball, one team bats while the other pitches or “bowls.” Some players specialize in bowling, others excel with the bat, and “all-rounders” are great at both.

The bowling team positions 11 players in the field, one of which is a bowler. The batting team posts two batters on opposite sides of a rectangular runway, each in front of a small structure called a wicket. The bowler, with a running start, hurls the ball toward the wicket, which the batter protects by batting the ball away. Because the field is circular, there are no foul balls. If the bowler manages to knock down the wicket with the ball, or if a hit ball is caught, the batter is out. If fielders can’t catch the ball, batters score by running to the opposite wicket, one run for each time they make it across before the fielders throw the ball back to the wickets. A hit ball that makes it all the way out of bounds is worth four runs if it touches the ground and six if it is hit all the way out through the air (thus “a six” is the cricket equivalent of a home run). An inning ends and teams switch sides when 10 batters are put out, or when a specific number of balls, in sets of six known as “overs,” have been bowled. The team with the most runs at the end of a pre-determined number of innings wins.

For cricket enthusiasts like Ranaweera, these rules are second nature. His parents are huge fans, and he grew up playing the game in gatherings of friends and family around Manhattan. The son of Sri Lankan émigrés, Ranaweera roots for the Sri Lankan national team and recommends that anyone interested in learning cricket “stick to one team and one country, learn what they are doing and follow their history” by researching and watching highlights online. National teams draw each country’s best players, and the geopolitical subtext of cricket can be just as fascinating as a match.

“Cricket became this way of getting back at the British for countries that were in their sphere of influence,” Ranaweera notes, pointing out that matches between powerhouses like India and Pakistan, which draw 500 million viewers, can influence political relations between the countries.

photo by: Dan Coleman

Wicket keeper Asif Khan, right, and Wahaj Mehdi, center, of the Jayhawk Cricket Club, prepare to field a bowled ball after a KC Blues player swings and misses on May 21, 2023.

Fans can follow the Jayhawk Cricket Club on, a website and app that serves as a clearinghouse for cricket players, managers and fans worldwide. Users of the app need to follow the Cricket Premier League of Kansas City to see Jayhawk Cricket’s scores (often updated in real time), schedules, individual player statistics, and the team’s current place in league standings. The team also posts photos and other useful information to Instagram (@kucricclub).

In a recent match on May 21, the Jayhawks took on the Blues, a club from Kansas City, at the Prairie Cricket Ground, just north of the Olathe Public Schools’ College Boulevard Activity Center, near the intersection of K-10 and K-7 highways. KU Cricket had won their previous two matches and were looking to wrest first place in their division from the Blues with a victory.

The Jayhawks won the toss and elected to bowl first. They gave up 118 runs to the Blues before putting out 10 of their batters to end the inning. On their turn to bat, the Jayhawks reached 118 runs with only seven of their own batters out. Because each team only bats once under T20 rules, the game ended as soon as the Jayhawks scored their 119th run (like a walk-off in baseball).

photo by: Dan Coleman

Jayhawk Cricket Club member Asif Ali Khan bats a ball bowled by Abhiroop Goel, as Jaypal Singh (red shirt) looks on, on May 21, 2023.

It was a hopeful day for the club, but a lot of work lies ahead for the KU cricketers. Ranaweera says their status as a KU sport club is probationary for the first year, and they must prove viability with continued participation and successful fundraising. They need sponsors for uniforms and equipment, especially a cricket mat, which can be put down on grass to allow for proper bowling and will expand their options for practice grounds. Interested supporters can reach out via direct message on Instagram, or email at

Another requirement of each KU sport club is community service, and for this Ranaweera has been brainstorming ways to employ the team’s linguistic diversity.

“The players speak so many native tongues. Hindi, Gutravarti, Urdu, Sinhala. They trash talk each other in all these languages, it’s amazing to hear,” said Ranaweera, who envisions a service project in which the club tutors the general public. “These are cool languages I’m sure some people would want to learn.”

Back on the pitch warming up for the KC Blues match, KU cricketer Zain Jiwani was optimistic.

“Everyone knows KU basketball or football. We’re not up there with them yet, but we hope to keep getting more people,” he said.

And if success breeds interest, they might just might do that. The club met the KC Wonders at noon Sunday at the Olathe Cricket Ground and won by four wickets.

photo by: Dan Coleman

Wicket keeper Asif Khan, right, of the Jayhawk Cricket Club, prepares to catch a ball hit by a KC Blues batter, as Wahaj Mehdi, center, looks on, on May 21, 2023.


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