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Red Bull Campus Cricket 2022: Alfalah University and Marwari College crowned champions

Tournament concludes under lights in Mohali, with participating teams gaining invaluable big-stage experience

Saurabh Somani
Alfalah University Men. Marwari College Women. Remember these two names, because you might just find yourself hunting for more on them at some point in the future to look up the backstory of the next men's or women's cricket star.
These were the two colleges who won the final of the Red Bull Campus Cricket India tournament, on June 11, in Mohali. While Marwari College Women beat Rizvi College Women by 36 runs in the morning, Alfalah University Men saw off New LJ College Men by 35 runs under lights.
The women's triumph was an incredible story in itself, a team from Ranchi winning the final, having overcome the "big" teams from established centres like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. In the final, Marwari College Women made 125 for 5 in their 20 overs, thanks mainly to Player of the Final Anamika Kumari (60 off 54), with her opening partner Priyanka Sawaiyan (37 off 44) playing a fine support role with 37 off 44 and then going on to claim 3 for 9 with her offspin. Rizvi College Women's chase hardly took off and they eventually ended up on 89 for 6. Marwari College's hunger for victory and what this stage meant to them was illustrated by captain Shanti Kumari, who hared across the turf and put in a dive to save a boundary, even when the result was a mere formality with the chasing team too far behind.
In fact, the women from Ranchi were terrific in the field throughout, and smart with their tactics too. They set a six-three field and bowled wide outside off, choking the runs expertly.
The experience gained here would only help women's cricket, current India vice-captain Smriti Mandhana and former India player Snehal Pradhan felt.
"It was an amazing experience for the girls," Mandhana said. "It's something that will help them in their careers and make them feel 'I want to do this. I want to go out there and do it for India as well'. These girls are going to go back and tell others about their experiences here, and the other girls will be like 'Oh, I also want to experience this.'
"Brands like Red Bull help a lot because they want to grow with the athlete. They want to provide the infrastructure, or whatever we ask for, for us to go out there and perform… Everyone has ideas, to start this and that, but they've actually started a women's team. They thought about it and started."
Pradhan, who has established herself as a commentator after retiring from the game in 2013, said Red Bull's arrangements for the finals were impeccable, offering players facilities that are usually available only at higher levels.
"You think that to play at stadiums like [the PCA Stadium in] Mohali, you have to play for India or maybe you'll have to play for your state - to play at this kind of venue and get this kind of an experience, where people are taking care of you so well..." Pradhan said. "The hotels, teams have been flown out... Only players who play for their country or state get this kind of experience.
"More matches, better exposure in matches, they become better cricketers. And they are getting an experience of what cricket has to offer if they can maximise their talent in the future. Anu [Anamika Kumari] was telling me how she's only getting a couple of games a season for her state. She's getting this platform now where she can put up a score. Great to see that even below state cricket we have a structure for girls where they can express themselves.
"There's plenty of talent, not just in the big centres, but also in smaller towns like Ranchi."
The men had plenty of notable performances too.
Dheeru Singh led the charge for Alfalah University Men, smashing 67 off 43 balls from No. 4 to drive his side to a commanding 162 for 8. Dheeru put on 44 runs for the fourth wicket with Aniket Singh during a tricky period, after early wickets had left the side 47 for 3 inside six overs. The stand came at only a run a ball, but the two batters negotiated the phase where the floodlights were switched on, and steered their team to calmer waters. Dheeru hit five sixes and as many fours during his innings. His range-hitting in particular, was impressive, with the boundaries being cleared with ease.
Alfalaha University Men then restricted New LJ College Men to 127 for 9, a good bowling performance backed up by excellent fielding. Faizan Alam took 3 for 26 in his four overs, while Boby Yadav, adjudged the Player of the Series, took 3 for 25.
Rajasthan Royals allrounder Riyan Parag was all praise for the stage the tournament and these finals in particular provided the young players with.
"As a kid I always dreamed of playing under lights," Parag said. "So I think having a stage like this to showcase your abilities is going to be very big for them. I hope they have lots of fun and learn a lot from this… A platform like this, with sponsors, under lights, with a white ball - it's a dream for any young cricketer."
For many cricketers who took part in the Red Bull Campus Cricket tournament, the dream has only begun. They now have a wealth of priceless experience to draw on as they work towards realising those dreams on an even bigger stage.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo