How a team of refugees stumped cricketers and spectators and won the inaugural Infinity T20 Cricket Tournament in Brisbane
Cool Boys skipper Dinesh Chandrasekar walked back to his bowling marker. He was playing in the prestigious Infinity Cricket Tournament, Australia’s premier ‘open’ T20 cricket event. He paused, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. His life must have played out before him. As a child he had escaped war-torn Sri Lanka to India. But far from being a refuge, he found himself constantly on the run. More recently, in search of a brighter future, he survived a treacherous ordeal aboard a boat destined for Australia. The boat almost never made it. But it did. And he was one of the few fortunate individuals to be granted refugee status. Amidst the pain, it was cricket that brought him unbridled joy. Here, as captain of his side, he was moments away from making a dream come true.
The Cool Boys went into the Grand Final of Infinity Cricket’s inaugural Brisbane event undefeated. But with two of their Group Matches washed out and they were considered to be the underdogs in the grand final. They were up against the Haryana Strikers, a balanced team who had within their ranks the tournament’s leading wicket taker and all-rounder. Their batsmen too were in form.
Ahead of the match, Santinder Singh, captain of the Macgregor Scorchers, who had exited the event after a disappointing semi-final loss to the Cool Boys, said, “I think the Haryana Strikers are the stronger team, because if you see, the Cool Boys are a very good bowling team. But batting is their weakness.”
However for the Cool Boys, just making an appearance in the Grand Final had already exceeded their expectations. “We had never ever thought we would make it. I still don’t know whether all this is real,” said an elated Dinesh, ahead of the big game. “We just wanted to make the semis,” chimed in Vijit, the team’s social media guru, who had set up a Facebook page for his team. Dinesh lived with several members of the team and spend anxious moments in the days leading up to the big day. “All we could think about was the Grand Final,” he said.
As twilight broke, the final was drawing to a close. All the players and spectators were on their feet at the Kev Hackney Oval in the Sunshine Coast. This was a ground that had previously hosted state and international matches. The audience watched on in anticipation. Time seemed to stall. Dinesh had the ball in his hand. He was at the top of his bowling run up. Then in a split second, Dinesh was away. It was as though he had heard an imaginary gun going off at an athletic track. This was the final ball of the match. Dinesh ran in full steam and released the ball, which would land outside off-stump. The Haryana Strikers’ batsman managed to get some bat on it and scampered through for a single. But it wasn’t enough. The Cool Boys had won by 13 runs. Dinesh dropped to his knees in disbelief. His team had just won the Grand Final. To them, this victory was more than just a game of cricket. It was an important step in their fight for freedom.
Even as the ball was bowled, the Cool Boys’ players, who had gathered at the boundary edge, rushed onto the field. The players jumped, unable to contain their joy. Several players rushed to grab the stumps. “We want the stumps to be with us as our Grand Final memory,” said a beaming Vijit. As the players walked off the field, their captain Dinesh was lifted on top of their shoulders. It was a moment to savour.
Dinesh had led his team’s batting efforts top scoring with a captain’s knock of 64 runs off 54 balls with six fours and three sixes in the final. His innings had the perfect balance of aggression and patience. He displayed terrific timing and brute power evidenced by his nine boundaries, but also interspersed that with 18 singles regularly rotating the strike. Batting was considered to be the Cool Boys’ weakness, but they rose to the occasion by posting a very competitive score of 154. In a Grand Final setting and with the added pressure, it was a terrific score. The strong Haryana Strikers’ line up succumbed to some terrific bowling by the Cool Boys’ attack and barring Amit Saini’s valiant knock of 58 never had any momentum behind them. From a score of 3/122, in the space of 12 balls, the Haryana Strikers were reduced to 8/131. Five wickets had fallen for nine runs and the game was now firmly in the grasp of the Cool Boys. It was only fitting then that their skipper, who had led his side admirably throughout the tournament, should bowl the final over of the match.
“Many thanks to Infinity Cricket for this opportunity. The boys are feeling great. I have no words to describe the feeling now. Not only my boys but our whole community is very happy. We had so much confidence. I think that’s our winning secret,” said Dinesh at the post match presentation. The Cool Boys players took turns to lift the trophy, their smiles revealing just how much this win meant to them. The team member were congratulated and showered with praise from other players in the tournament. “You showed how passionate and united you are as a team. Good team work boys,” said Santinder Singh.
Dinesh has been able to start a new life here in Australia and hopes to put his struggles behind him. Like him, there are others in the team who share a similar story. In these tough times, it was cricket that gave them a sense of meaning and purpose. The Cool Boys’ passion for the game was infectious and they entered the cricket field united like one family. It was this strength in numbers that paved the way for one of most emotional Grand Final victories at the grassroots level.
Infinity Cricket’s motto is ‘Connecting People through Cricket’. In line with that vision, it was heartening to see a team made up of several refugees and recent migrants to Australia win the Grand Final of their inaugural T20 tournament in Brisbane. The Cool Boys may have realised a dream by winning the Grand Final, but their struggles are not entirely over. As refugees, they still face severe restrictions and their ultimate dream is what each of us take for granted: a life of freedom and one in which they can freely integrate with the rest of society.
Over six weekends in Brisbane, the members of the Cool Boys were able to enter the cricket field with complete freedom and play with a passion not seen before on a cricket field. Here is hoping that they will experience the same joys outside the cricketing field in the not too distant future…
GRAND FINAL SCORES:
Cool Boys 9/154 (Dinesh 64, A. Dass 26, K. Singh 4/21) defeated Haryana Strikers 9/141 (A. Saini 58, P. Saini 26, R. Vijiyanathan 4/18) by 13 runs.
Navneet Ganesh is the founder of Infinity Cricket and is passionate about the sport and its development. He founded Infinity Cricket in 2010 with a vision of ‘Connecting people through Cricket.’ Infinity Cricket organizes Australia’s premier ‘open’ T20 cricket events at the grassroots level and has a presence in two cities: Melbourne & Brisbane. Navneet also has a keen interest in writing about cricket and travelling.