The Detroit Royals’ start to the 2017 season was not great — we needed more energy. We had great players, but still, something was missing; we needed a spark. That’s when our most memorable game came: the Royals were down 8 wickets, with merely 50 runs on the board and finally managed to score over 120 runs with a final two-wicket partnership. We went on to win the game, a much-needed win that seemed to rejuvenate our season. Part of the partnership — and the one who bowled in the win — was our teammate, the ever smiling Dhairya. He was a handsome young man with a magnetic personality and tons of dreams, someone who loved family and cricket, a great team player.
To most of the world, cricket is just a game, an aloof gentlemen’s game. But for those of us born in India or South Asia, it is passion, life itself, inextricably patriotic. In America, the Indian and South Asian diaspora has kept the game alive — that’s how the Detroit Royals were born. A few of us messaged each other on social media, and a team was formed, one born of a shared passion and respect for the game.
We started practicing a couple of times each week, eventually playing in local tournaments. Practice and social meetings after practice helped everyone bond together as friends and as a team. We all started meeting outside of cricket for social outings and activities with family. Sharing jokes, posts and meeting after the cricket season was over became very common for most of us. When the season ended, we gathered to celebrate a few times before Dhairya and his younger brother went to meet their parents in Mumbai.
Our slogan — how we’d like to think we’re different from other teams — is the spirit of the game. It’s almost sacred to us. Winning or losing is part of the game, but maintaining the highest level of spirit was our priority. If you missed your chance or didn’t perform well on our team, it was OK. Not keeping the spirit alive? Well, no one would entertain that.
On a morning every Detroiter was bracing for winter, we were shocked to hear the news of a fire at the Kamala Mills Compound, where two brothers gave their lives saving others. We were shocked and speechless — how could life and God be so cruel?
We lost not only a player but a brother in Dhairya. He lived life with a smile, he gave up his life saving others. But he left us all crying. We decided to play cricket under the team name Dhairya XI, to respect Dhairya and carry on the legacy he had left behind.
Things are still the same — we’re not winning every match, we haven’t won a tournament. But as a team, we are closer than before. Every game is started with remembering Dhairya, every run scored, every wicket taken, every time the spirit of the game is maintained, every moment we are on the ground; all of it is dedicated to Dhairya.
When we are down or when we want to celebrate, at the start and end of each game, every wicket is celebrated with a large shout where every team member holds hand and shouts “1..2…3…Dhairya” or “Go Dhairya!” When we put on the uniform of Dhairya XI, we still do have tears in eyes, and we are proud of those moments.
It might be every common cricket fan’s dream to meet a legend like Sachin Tendulkar. But for us the proud moment came when Dhairya’s parents visited from India.
We are just a normal cricket team with passion for cricket; we are not playing for winning, but for spirit of the game and for Dhairya. We always feel that he is watching from above, giving us inspiration (and sometimes laughing that we have not yet won a tournament). But we know he is proud of us, that we have never let the spirit of cricket down.
by Jinansh Shah