A sports pitch will hold a mirage of surprises – final sirens, almost goals, close calls, echoed countdowns, underdog wins and big little misses. A crowd of strangers, gathered together for the love of the game. It’s a simple sentiment shared by Cricket Victoria and their recent sporting program - a student version of the Australian Big Bash League.

Over four weeks, students trained in teams with Cricket Australia accredited coaches to develop their skills and go on to participate in the University/TAFE Cup Cricket Competition. We spoke to students from Kangan Institute at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground about their experiences of the sporting capital of Australia.

An old friend makes new ground

Kunal Nayyas (India), Diploma of Accounting, Kangan Institute

What attracted you to the program?

I had played cricket quite extensively back home, so when I saw the program I signed up immediately. It’s something I would love to do professionally one day so I thought it would be great opportunity to really give it a shot and practise my skills.

What are you hoping to learn by the end of the program?

Having played at a state level back home for two years, I wanted some confidence and practise to hone my skills again by learning from some of the best people in the industry. If I could, I would love to play professionally for Australia.

What’s surprised you or has been the most rewarding aspect of this experience?

Everyone is so friendly. The staff are so well experienced and really take the time to explain everything. On the field, all the students are really friendly too. It’s great to play a game with people who are equally as enthusiastic about the sport.

A new starter

Kekky Domingue (Mauritius), Diploma of Commercial Cookery, Kangan Institute

Before you began, what did you know about cricket?

Nothing! I had heard about it, but that was it. The first time I saw a game was on TV when I had first moved to Victoria and was pretty intrigued right away.

Why were you interested in joining the program?

I like to try new and different things so when I saw the promotion for The Academy I thought it was the perfect opportunity. I really didn’t know anything about cricket other than it was a popular sport so it’s been really interesting to learn more about the game.

What’s something that’s surprised you?

The whole sport is really interesting, we don’t have anything like this back home so it was so foreign to me. The program has been a great experience and one filled with a lot of firsts. I’ve come out of it learning so much – new coach, new friends and new sport.

What are you hoping to achieve after the program?

After the four week training session, some students will be chosen to form a team to compete against other universities. I really hope I’m selected because I’ve loved playing and experiencing the sport.

Learn from the master

Aaron Wharton, Cricket Victoria Community Engagement Coordinator

What’s been your role throughout the program?

I’ve been responsible for coordinating the program from the beginning, working with the key leaders at Kangan Institute to create an opportunity for all the students no matter where they’re from, disability or not, to come and play cricket, have a good time and make friends.

What has been the driving force behind the program?

Absolutely. What inspired the program was the idea that cricket is a game for everyone. It’s a sport where everyone can have a bit of fun but it’s also a social environment where people feel safe and where they can make friends. If everyone can go away with a smile, learn a new skill, have fun and make a friend than I’m happy. That’s the main outcome for everyone

Has anything surprised you as the program has progressed?

I came in during the third training session and I thought the students had all known each other for a long time. It was quite surprising to see the comradery between them all. The friendship they had made in only two weeks is extraordinary.

Why do you think Victoria has such a prominent sporting culture?

Because of its history. Because of the multicultural diversity of its people. Everyone who lives and moves here bring different skills, sports and passion. People feel comfortable to share their experiences in Victoria like going to iconic places like the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) to experience a game with friends and family. That’s the best thing about Victoria – we’re a state of sharers.

What does the future of The Academy look like?

We really want to expand the program. At the moment, we’re working with eight universities and TAFE’s across Melbourne. The idea is that we’ll create some teams from those groups by the end of the training program. We have a university TAFE Cup in September and that also leads into the University Games weeks and the cricket season starting in October where these teams can compete. Additionally we want to go out to the regional areas like Bendigo. At the moment it’s primarily metropolitan based so we want to grow the program to reach as many people as we can.

About Cricket Victoria

Cricket Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation governed by a Board of Directors who report to the Board of Cricket Australia. The Cricket Victoria High Performance Academy is an elite training program committed to accelerating skill development through the identification of short and long term development needs of all athletes. The Academy encourages students to learn and participate cricket, and was created as part of Cricket Victoria’s Harmony in Cricket approach of celebrating cricket as a game for all.

For more information, visit the Academy page on the Cricket Victoria website.

About Kangan Institute

As one of Australia's largest and most trusted government TAFE providers, Kangan Institute is a division of Bendigo Kangan Institute with campuses located in Broadmeadows, Docklands, Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Richmond.