Cricket rivalry brings Illinois students together

Chants, cheers and boos echoed around the Central Illinois Mosque & Islamic Center on Saturday night as students and locals alike crowded in to watch cricket’s biggest international rivalry.

India and Pakistan faced off in an ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match in Adelaide, Australia. Thousands of miles away, Indian and Pakistani fans in Champaign gathered to celebrate their favorite.

Muhammad Asim, a graduate student in Engineering, said the rivalry transcends the sport itself.

“There is a lack of cricket (in America),” Asim said. “It should be an integral part with such a large population of Indian and Pakistani students.”

The watch party was a significant event for local cricket fans because India and Pakistan rarely get to play each other. The rivalry has gotten so intense that the two countries are only allowed to play against one another in international tournaments — that’s what made the event unique. Playing each other for the first time since the 2011 World Cup, India versus Pakistan brought out excitement in fans similar to that of a Brazil-Argentina soccer game or a America-Canada hockey game.

With their first meeting in October 1952, the matches between the countries have always been hotly contested. Overall, India is 6-0 against Pakistan in the World Cup.

The event didn’t bring out exclusively South Asian students. Liam Kenny, a freshman in Engineering, attended the event having never viewed a cricket match before.

“The atmosphere is excited and very passionate,” Kenny said. “It is kind of like baseball, but obviously nothing we have here. If given the opportunity, I would definitely go to a match for a day.”

Galina Eydel, a freshman in DGS, was also foreign to the game. She said she loved the event and if similar events were brought to campus, she would go because watching cricket shows interest in different cultures.

The party took place in the main space of the mosque. From the small children playing in the corner with a bat and ball, to the older folks sitting in the chairs and enjoying the sport, the event had something for of all ages, cultures and levels of knowledge of the sport.

The game itself was another chapter in the history of Indian dominance of Pakistan in World Cup matches. Coming in as reigning World Cup champions, India defeated the Pakistani team by 76 runs.

Drake can be reached at [email protected].