“Ball by ball, over by over.”
The statement is the mantra of the Harvard club cricket team. It means to take the game a play at a time and to avoid brash decisions. It’s also the motto of team captain and founder Ibrahim Khan, one of the most important figures for the squad both on and off the field.
Despite his achievements, the senior from Lahore, Pakistan may not strike someone at first glance as a star cricket player who resurrected the Harvard program after two dormant decades.
“When you first see him, he looks kind of goofy,” team member Vivek Jayaram said. “He’s got long hair, a high school haircut. He’s always making a lot of jokes on the field, making fun of people…. He’s a very lighthearted person.”
Despite the laid back appearance, Khan has almost single-handedly built a program which just three years ago did not exist into a national powerhouse, all while maintaining a humble perspective on what has been an incredible journey.
It all started with a desire to play and fully discover the sport which Khan had grown to love from a young age. Despite playing recreationally throughout his youth in Pakistan, there still seemed to be a personal gap that Khan felt he needed fulfill.
“When I was very young, I had a bit of an injury,” Khan explained. “It was a minor injury, but my parents were always paranoid with the sport and thought if I played at a high level I’d get injured…. I had a sense I hadn’t really explored the sport to the ultimate.”
Just a year after forming the team as a recreational activity at Harvard, Khan took a big step forward by obtaining official club status for the team, allowing it to compete at a national level.
In order for the team to make further progress, however, a faculty adviser was necessary to back the club and provide support.
In came Professor Stephen Blyth, whose Statistics 123 class Khan was taking at the time.
After inviting Blyth to a Kirkland faculty dinner, Khan shared his vision and goals for the team.
Among those goals was making cricket a sport talked about on campus, competing at a high level, and winning a national championship within five years.
Khan’s vision and boldness impressed Blyth, who had played cricket at Harvard from 1989 to 1990.
“It never seemed like it would not [work] when he was talking to me,” Blyth said. “What was needed was someone to catalyze that, someone that’s charismatic, someone that’s got the energy, who can lead, and it never occurred to me that it would not be successful or well-run.”