Thursday, October 12, 2006

A wicket good time

Part 2 in a 3-part series about international students

International student Sudeepth Kumar Nadimpally, right, and Vamshi Baraju, play cricket on the South Lawn with their friends from Pradesh, India.
International student Sudeepth Kumar Nadimpally, right, and Vamshi Baraju, play cricket on the South Lawn with their friends from Pradesh, India.

Graduate international students Vamshi Baraju and Venkata Kishore Chegonde surrounded by Cricket team members, right, Ismail Shaik and Raghav Sambaraju pick teams for a game of Cricket on the South Lawn.
Graduate international students Vamshi Baraju and Venkata Kishore Chegonde surrounded by Cricket team members, right, Ismail Shaik and Raghav Sambaraju pick teams for a game of Cricket on the South Lawn.

American football wasn't something Ismail Shaik was very familiar with when he started at Western as a graduate student.

"I was amazed to watch the football match," he said. "I'm very anxious to see other football matches."

Shaik is from Andhra Pradesh, India - a place where tailgaiting and throwing a pigskin aren't common activities.

The sport that attracted him on campus wasn't football or basketball. It was cricket.

Cricket and badminton are two recreational sports at Western that often go unnoticed, but their popularity around the world is similar to basketball or football in the United States.

These recreational teams at Western are composed of mostly Asian students, with cricket being the most popular with Indian students and the badminton team representing students from at least eight other countries, including some players from the United States.

Many of the athletes are working on their master's degrees and participating in these sports is a way for them to take a break from the books, stay in shape and become involved with the Western community.

Priyanka Patel, a graduate student from Nagpur, India, is president of the badminton team and has played for about five years.

"I wanted to start with something comfortable, something I knew," Patel said. "I noticed many international students weren't using Preston as much, so I thought (badminton) was good for those students."

Western's badminton and cricket teams have only been around for a few semesters. They were started through word-of-mouth among international students who showed interest in bringing their favorite pastimes to Western.

Yugandhar Kandimalla, a graduate student from Bangalore, India, started the badminton team three semesters ago when he saw that the Preston Center had badminton courts and equipment that weren't being used.

"I wanted to do this because it brings down the communication barrier between students of different countries - it acts as a medium between people," he said.

A version of badminton was first introduced in India by British Army officers in the 1860s, according to a BBC article.

The sport continues to be a popular recreational activity there. The game is like a combination of tennis and volleyball and is played indoors with a shuttlecock (birdie) and racquets.

On Sunday afternoons, it's common to see several Indian students scattered across DUC South Lawn playing cricket.

Cricket originated in Britain and gained international popularity when the Imperial Cricket Conference was formed in 1909, according to the International Cricket Council.

Cricket is a team sport similar to baseball in which each team tries to score the most runs to win. It is played on a field, and players use flat, paddle-like bats.

Although many of Western's cricket players have had several years of experience with the game, finding the equipment was the biggest challenge.

Shaik said the equipment the team uses for cricket has to be brought from India.

"I was really surprised to see that after going to Nashville and Lousiville, I didn't find anything," he said.

Some of the students said that Preston should provide some of the equipment.

Despite those obstacles, the students make time to play these sports not only for the social benefits, but the health benefits as well.

Since some of the students are earning their master's degree in public health, Patel said that as a physician, she sees it as her responsibility to promote the health aspects.

While cricket involves running, throwing and pitching, the exercise from badminton often goes unnoticed.

"(Playing badminton) for an hour and a half - twisting, turning, bending your back - is equivalent to doing about 25 minutes of aerobic exercise," Kandimalla said. "You'd be amazed at how many times you have to bend down to pick the shuttle up."

As both sports start to gain popularity on the Hill, the teams welcome all students to join them.

Syam Prasad Mallampalli, a graduate student from Hyderabad, India, kept score at a cricket match on Sunday. He said having these teams could possibly help Western if more international students in other countries knew they were offered.

"If Western advertised that badminton was played here, it would prompt more (international) students to come."

Kandimalla agreed.

"It's all about marketing and advertising. We need to get the word out," he said. "You can never have too many sports."

Reach Jessica Smith at features@wkuherald.com.