By Anamika Ragu (23A01A) and Venkatesan Ranjana (23A01D)
“Ready, bro?” “Ready.”RI’s cricket players to each other before boarding the bus to the final
Spirits were high in the Cricket team’s bus on the morning of their NSG final, with music from a ‘hype playlist’ blaring from one of the athletes’ speakers.
Nerves skyrocketed as the team approached their destination—RI had not won against Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in six years. “[We’re planning to play] a safe game,” said their teacher-in-charge, Ms Christine Chin, “To just stay low and last as long as possible.”
As the bus reached the Cricket Club, Captain Sanjeev (23S06T) delivered his rousing pep-talk. It ended with a slightly traitorous football reference: “When Argentina started out in the World Cup they lost their first game… but they went on to win the final!”
Indeed, the team had seen a few lows earlier in the season, but were determined to head into the final with renewed energy.
The First Innings
ACS(I) won the toss and chose to bat first, sending RI spread out across the field. RI got off to a steady start, bowling out one of the opponent’s opening batsmen as early as the second over. The team’s good luck began to run out, however, as the new batting partnership found its footing and began accumulating runs with doubles and boundaries.
“There were a couple of dropped catches in the first few overs, and I let the pressure get to me,” admitted Anshul (24S06N) after the game. “I showed a bit of frustration on the pitch, which I shouldn’t have. That was when I was the least confident.”
Still, the support from the sidelines was unfailing, with reserve team members and the players’ parents calling out shouts of encouragement (“Well-fielded, boys, well-fielded!”). RI’s match support members alternated between Let’s Go, Raffles and Raffles Dynamite between overs, even getting into a mini cheer-off with the ACS(I) supporters.
At the mid-innings timeout, the spirits in the boys’ huddle were significantly lower than just an hour prior. Rather than admonishing them, their coach pushed them to “forget the past” and regain the energy they started with:
“T20 cricket is a four-over game, boys. Get a good four overs and you can turn over the game.”Coach Anish
Their captain Sanjeev then took a moment to say his piece as well, addressing possible issues with teamwork—
“I don’t want to see anybody showing their anger out in the field.”Captain Sanjeev
Reminding the team that they should be putting pressure on their opponents, not their own teammates, he restated, “Stay calm and focused. Every time there’s a break, it’s a chance to shift the momentum to our side.”
As the match ramped up once more, one could visibly observe the fielders getting themselves in the zone. This drive was momentarily shaken when ACS(I), revitalised from the timeout, scored a four straight off the bat.
However, RI’s conscious effort to communicate on the field and direct their full focus to the game showed its rewards. With two wickets in the eleventh over, one bowled and one caught, they cleanly cut off ACS(I)’s building momentum.
Out came the showstopper of the first innings, Shawn (24S06K), achieving a hat-trick with three consecutive wickets, a rare feat in the sport.
“My confidence skyrocketed when I got my first wicket, since I was able to get the wicket off of a crucial batsman who was playing really well.”Shawn, reflecting on his performance
Riding the high, RI bowled out ACS(I)’s batting lineup in the 18th over with two overs to spare. ACS(I)’s final score was 116 runs, which set RI the target of 117 runs to achieve in the second innings.
The Second Innings
After their outstanding recovery in the first innings, the opening batsmen (Anshul and Shawn) took to the field with the goal of finishing the game in similar spirits.
“When I hit a four off the first ball, I thought it really set the tone for how my innings went.”Anshul
They didn’t anticipate their batsmen being knocked out in quick succession, starting with Shawn in the very first over, who was dismissed far earlier than expected. Wickets followed after that in the 5th, 10th, 11th, and 14th overs. The score kept climbing gradually, but there was an air of wariness throughout the innings.
A particularly hard-hitting wicket was when Anshul, who unquestionably anchored the innings, was bowled out after a spectacular performance of 67 runs off 42 balls, with a highly respectable strike rate of 159.52. He walked off the field exhausted from his efforts and the heat, to tremendous cheers assuring him that he had done his job well.
Still, the team persevered. With unrelenting encouragement from the sidelines, the innings’ potentially most impressive partnership with Garv (24S06K) and Advaith (24S03F) rejuvenated the team and supporters who had begun to give up hope.
“It was the scariest moment ever—usually, in cricket, whenever we come to the end of the second innings, anything can happen. The whole game can turn on its head… It was really a nerve-wracking moment.”Shawn
When asked what it was like to have to balance between improving the score but not taking costly risks, Garv said, “We were told to maintain our strike rate, stay calm, look for singles or doubles here and there, and we pretty much executed that… and the boundaries came naturally, we didn’t have to put in much extra effort.”
“We just stuck to the basics, tried to look for singles, looked at the gaps… and really, it was a hot day, so we just had to concentrate on the ball and nothing else,” added Advaith.
‘Sticking to the basics’ is exactly the phrase to describe the two batsmen’s strategy in those few nerve-wracking overs, as they kept their focus and rotated strike to score singles wherever possible. Those on the sidelines were simultaneously hopeful and nervous as the score kept climbing, but at the potential cost of either batsman being run out.
Thankfully, neither of them got too carried away. Their communication remained stellar, making swift judgments as to when to attempt a run, for which the sidelines showed their appreciation with shouts of “Good call, boys! Just like that!”
“For us, our goal was to get the team to a score from which we could win easily, and I would say we did that, but in the end… we got overexcited because we thought the game was in our hands,” said Garv.
Advaith was caught out in the first ball of the 19th over, ending the partnership that had carried the team from 84 to 107 runs.
“At the point where he got out… it felt like a bullet struck me in the chest.”Garv
“Because we were batting so well […] and suddenly, that momentum was broken. To rebuild that, with the batsman who’s just come in…” He shook his head. “It’s an immense amount of pressure.”
That pressure fell to him and the team’s last batsman, Adarsh (23S06J), who went onfield to meet Garv, the two having to score 10 runs off 11 balls to win the game. Success seemed so close that the spectators and players alike could almost feel it within their grasp.
But victory was pulled out of their hands just as swiftly. One call, made under pressure, caused Garv to be run out in the 19th over.
RI had been bowled out, losing the game by 10 runs.
As the ACS(I) supporters flooded the field in exuberant celebrations, RI’s side was caught between offering encouragement and comfort to the athletes, and the shock of a loss that hit them out of nowhere.
Nothing spoke louder than the quiet applause and acknowledgement offered by the rest of the team as their final batsmen walked off the field, subdued.
“We’re quite proud of our last few batsmen, they really took it to the end, which is what we needed, and what we expected.”Anshul
Standing in front of a circle of heads hung low, the team’s coach reviewed the game—acknowledging every bowler who played their part in the first innings (Rohit, Tanay, Jeevan, Anshul, Shawn, Yuvan) and praising the batsmen who showed their “outstanding resolve”.
Indeed, this year’s team were fierce contenders who put up a great fight. The team that played this match was made up of a considerable number of Y5s—it makes one wonder what more a team that carries a final as fierce as this one with them into next year might be capable of achieving.
Captain Sanjeev said, “I think the team performed really well. I told them before the game that this is a game where some people really need to step up, and they did.”
“Especially with the way we made a comeback from the first half of the game… I’m really proud of them. ACS(I) was at… 80, at the 10th over mark? And we managed to restrict them, so they were only able to score around 30 runs after that… I think that says a lot about how the team is as a bowling unit.”
“It shows the mentality of the team,” he said, nodding to himself, “It’s what we struggled with, in the first half of the season, to come back when we were under pressure.”
Truly, the game reflected the nature of cricket as a sport of patience, anticipation, and perhaps chance. “Today was not the day, and it didn’t happen,” Sanjeev said simply.
“I think that’s how cricket is, you have your highs and lows. […] I made so many memories, I always say the team is more like a family because there’s that sense of brotherhood among us,” he recounted, smiling.
“Sometimes, there’s more to gain than that champion [title]. I’m very happy to have earned this. I’m quite happy about it.”
01 — Anshul Jogesh Doshi (24S06N)
02 — Shawn Shibu Thomas (24S06K)
03 — Jeevan Santhanam (23S03I)
04 — Yuvan Easwara Moorthy (23S06E)
05 — Ananda Selvan Sanjeev Mohan (23S06T)
06 — Rohit Gownahalli Suresh (23S02B)
07 — Abdullah Bhadelia (24S06C)
08 — Sadak Advaith (24S03F)
09 — Tanay Krishna Ramachandruni (24A01D)
10 — Batra Garv (24S06K)
11 — Commandur Srinivasan Adarsh (23S06J)
Rohit Gownahalli Suresh (23S02B)
Tanay Krishna Ramachandruni (24A01D)
Jeevan Santhanam (23S03I)
Anshul Jogesh Doshi (24S06N)
Shawn Shibu Thomas (24S06K)
Yuvan Easwara Moorthy (23S06E)
Credits to Raffles Photographic Society for all images.