Avinash’s Cricket Journey: an Interview
Today, we will be doing our first cricket interview at Broken Cricket Dreams! We have with us here Avinash, who is fulfilling his own broken cricket dream in the United States.
Avinash grew up playing cricket in his hometown of Hyderabad at various levels up till the undergraduate level, where he pursued a degree in aeronautical engineering. He then moved to the United States of America for his master’s degree. Even though he is far away from his home in India, he is one of many who have continued their passion for cricket in the U.S. He has since represented Iowa State University and the DSM Vikings Cricket Club and competed in tournaments such as the American College Cricket League, Heartland Cricket League, and Iowa Premier League.
Let us get to know the person and his journey of playing cricket.
The Who – Avinash
- Batting Style: Right Hand Batsman
- Batting Position: Top-Order
- Bowling Style: Right Arm Medium-Fast
- Fielding Position: Point, Long-Off/Long-On
- Major Teams: Iowa State University (ISU) Cyclones, DSM Vikings Cricket Club, Young Guns
- Nickname(s): Avi
- Favorite Sportsperson: Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli (Cricket), David Montgomery (NFL), Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney (soccer), Michael Schumacher (F1), Sania Mirza (Tennis)
- Favorite Shot: “Straight Drive and Leg-Glance. I can play the leg-glance with my eyes closed.”
- Favorite fielding play: “Love to pick the ball one-handed and throw.”
- Spring T20 2021 HCL Runners-Up: ISU Cyclones
- T30 Heartland Cricket Club (HCL) Champions: ISU Cyclones (2015-2017)
- Challenger’s Cup T20 Champions: ISU (2018)
- T20 Heartland Cricket Club (HCL) Champions: DSM Vikings (2019)
- T30 Heartland Cricket Club (HCL) Runner-Up: DSM Vikings (2018)
Avinash is enjoying a purple patch in the 2021 season as an all-rounder. He is currently third in the player of the tournament ranking in the ongoing T30 tournament. He is also shouldering the responsibility of a captain this season around.
- HCL T30 2021: 5 Matches, 145 runs, 2-50s, best of 72, 36.25 average, 136.79 strike rate, 2 wickets, 6.55 economy
- HCL T20 2021: 9 Matches, 12 wickets (highest of tournament), 14.42 average, 7.92 economy, 179 runs (8th highest), 22.38 average, 123.45 strike rate)
- HCL T20 2019: 7 Matches, 160 runs, 4 Not Outs, 53.33 average, 111.11 strike rate
- HCL Challenger Trophy: 3 Matches, 68 runs, 2 Not outs, 68.00 average, 130.77 strike rate
The How – First Memory
Q1. What was your first memory of playing cricket?
“My cousin was a Division A player in the Hyderabad domestic circuit. Whenever we visited his house, there were cricket kits, bats, and pads all around their house. As a kid, I liked to wear the cricket kit and shadow playing cricket shots.
I have watched several of his matches, and it inspired me to pick up the sport.”
Q2. What were your favorite memories of watching cricket in your childhood?
“I just remember waking up at 5 AM for any cricket game in my childhood. There were several memorable games, but the 2003 India vs Pakistan game was one of the best.
Also, the 2007 T20 World Cup had it all—Yuvraj six sixes, Sreesanth‘s bowled to Matthew Hayden from around the wicket, and of course, the final.”
Q3. Have you ever watched a cricket match live?
“I was present when Tendulkar hit 175* at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium but unfortunately had to leave before the ending. Other than that, I have watched a couple of test matches there against New Zealand and Australia along with a few IPL games.
My favorite IPL memories was witnessing the pace of Brett Lee at the Somerset vs KKR 2011 CLT20 game and watching Rahul Dravid in the RR vs SRH game.”
The When – Early Days
Q4. When did you start playing cricket?
“I first started playing cricket for around 2nd or 3rd grade, but the real practice I had when I played everyday with two of my friends on the terrace of my house. It helped to develop my ground shots and playing in the V.
It was fun, there was a lot of banter, and whoever would win would be treated to pani-puris to top it off.“
Q5. When did you start believing your ability could meet your passion?
“From 10th grade. It was the first time I was playing in a leather ball match and went to open in a 15-over game. I stayed there till the end and got out as the 9th batsman in the 12th over. After that, the next couple of years, I played a lot of cricket, especially tennis-ball cricket.
In my bachelor’s years, I would play with people who would come from across the city every Sunday 7 AM-noon. There were so many people, we had to create 12-13 member teams.
My parents used to say that I had a hard time waking up for my classes, but to play cricket, I would wake up anytime—even at 6 AM on a Sunday morning.”
Q6. How was the college cricket scene at your university?
“In the last couple of years of my bachelor’s, the matches were really competitive and fun. From February-April, it was basically a cricket fest out there.“
“Our aerospace department had a very good team, and the highlight was winning the Intra-College championships in my 3rd and 4th year.“
Q7. Do you have any stories from playing during your college days?
“Actually, the final match of the 3rd year championship was very interesting. There was sledging throughout the match but after we won, the situation got out of control. The opposition team broke our winning huddle with a full-on fight.
Next year, we were prepared and brought officials to the game, but this time, the other team had learned the lesson and walked off quietly after losing.”
Q8. Best performance?
“The 3rd-4th year, I had some really good matches. In the 4th year final, I came to bat early and stayed till the end. When the final ball was bowled, I ran three and was completely exhausted.
I did not realize this but my teammates started cheering from the pavilion that I had just made 50. My career in India ended with an unbeaten 50, so that was nice.”
The What – College Cricket in America
Before we get into Avinash’s own cricket journey in the U.S., let us learn some things about the cricket structure in America in his words.
Q9. At what levels have you played cricket in the U.S.?
“I played at the university level at Iowa State University between 2014-18, and for the last two years, I have played with the DSM Vikings Club.
The Iowa State team was one of the most diverse teams I have ever played in. There were people from India, England, Bangladesh, South Africa, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.“
Q10. How many different types of tournaments are at the college and club level?
“Tape-Tennis (Indoor), Tennis-ball cricket (Outside), Leather-Ball cricket: T20, T30, T40. My favorite is T30. Gives me time to settle down and score.”
Q11. What are some tournaments you have participated in college cricket?
“Iowa State Premier League (ISPL), Midwest League and the American College Cricket League in Florida with ISU and Heartland Cricket League with Vikings club.”
American College Cricket League is a national tournament with about 32-36 teams that compete in Florida. I competed in this league for a couple of years, and we even got to play at the Ft. Lauderdale stadium, where West Indies have played some international games.
The ISPL was also pretty interesting. There were 8 teams made of 5 ISU students, 1 professors XI, and 2 guest teams. For the 5 student teams, team selection was based on virtual bidding.“
The Now – The Journey in America
Q12. First Match in the U.S.?
“First official match in U.S. was Iowa State in a leather ball game – ISU Cyclones vs Cedar Rapids Kings at Seminole Valley Park. Scored 14 runs and ran-out my teammate.”
Q13. Best Moments?
“With Iowa State, I was a part of a team that won 3 back-to-back championships 2015-2017. In that team, I had to bat lower down the order since everyone was just so good. After 2017, I moved to the middle order, and the last two years, I have been playing 1 Down with the Vikings.
A fun moment was in 2015, when I was fielding in the slips, and we did ‘proper dignified sledging’ to the opposing captain, who was batting then. A few balls later, he did a ‘well left’ and got clean bowled.
Personally, the 2018 T20 Challenger’s cup and the 2019 T20 season was my best. Given my gameplay, I am not someone who is expected to hit six sixes, but in one match I hit a fast bowler 6,6,2,4,1 that season.”
Q14. Lowest Moments?
“Lowest moments are always when I get out, especially when I am playing well.
But exactly a year ago today, September 7, 2019, I suffered a finger injury in the final of the tournament and could not bat for the team.
Earlier in the season, our team won the T20 league. We won all the games convincingly and hardly anyone below 2-down had a chance to bat. In the T30 tournament, I was one of the more experienced batsman in the team, being the 3rd most capped in leather ball cricket.
Finger injury ruled me out of the rest of the game, and our team fell short of 30 runs.“
Q15. Any other activities you were involved with cricket?
“I was involved as the Secretary in our Cricket Committee at Iowa State and got the experience to publicize cricket through various events like ClubFest at Iowa State University.”
The Wow – Reflection
Q16. Reflection on Cricket in the U.S.?
“The quality of cricket here is way better than expected where cricket is still an evolving sport, especially universities. Every city you will find at least 100 such people like me who want to play professional cricket.
Also, there is a lot of diversity in the cricketers here. Apart from the subcontinent, I have played with people from England, South Africa, the Caribbean islands and Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan to name a few.”
Q17. How has cricket helped you?
“Cricket has helped me both professionally and personally. My circle has increased because of it, and there are several networking opportunities.
As I mentioned earlier, cricket has helped me culturally, meeting people with various backgrounds. I have also got to travel to several places like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Michigan, Omaha, and at the Central Boulevard Park (Ft. Lauderdale).”
Q18. What have you learned from cricket?
“I have learned to stay calm. When you are calm, you have a lot of ideas. When you become aggressive, you run out ideas.”
“You get lots of suggestion coming around when you are on the field. You have to choose what to pick. It is easier to comment than to execute.”
Q19. Cricketing heroes and what you have learned from them?
“Ganguly – captaincy/leadership, Dravid – concentration/patience, Tendulkar – champion – there is nobody like him”
The Zow – Broken Cricket Dream?
Q20. What is your broken cricket dream?
“I was never coached. If I would have been coached, it would have taken things to another level. If I were in India, I would also have continued.”
Q21. Broken Cricket Dream as a fan?
“As an Indian cricket fan, 2003, 2007, and 2019 World Cups along with the 2017 Champions Trophy. The 2003 Final was so one-sided after such a great run.”
Q22. Any final thoughts on your dream lived?
“I could not imagine what I have done had I not played cricket all these years. My master’s would be something else, a completely different experience.”
Q23. How long will you continue to play cricket?
“As long as possible. Several 44-45 year olds play in the leagues here, so still have at least 15-16 years.”
Q24. Any advice for budding cricketers in the U.S.?
“If you want to pursue full-time, stay in warmer states so can play year-long. There are indoor facilities in some of the bigger cities like Chicago, but playing year-long outdoors is always better.”
Q25. Final question—Favorite IPL Team for 2020?
“SRH and RCB.”
Well, let us thank Avinash for doing this interview and sharing his journey with us. Please share, subscribe, and comment below on your own cricket dreams and experiences.
Also, to learn more about cricket in the U.S., check out the sources linked below! We will leave you with some more pictures of Avinash’s cricket journey.
Sources: USA Cricket, CricClubs, American College Cricket League
Image Courtesy: American College Cricket