Insti, home to a plethora of activities and a diverse set of students, also boasts of being home to one of the best sporting cultures. These hardworking teams and its players have brought glory to the institute and have proved their mettle time and time again. Their talent and sporting spirit have no doubt helped carve out a name for IIT Madras in the sporting niche.
Shakespeare once asked, ‘What’s in a name? ‘. Well, I’m of the opinion that a lot can be contained in a name and our institute sports teams seem to agree. That being said, I’d like to indulge myself in the seldom-visited area of labels. Brimming with talent and passion, our teams are also the proud bearers of team names that encompass history, legacy and alluring stories.
Like the teams themselves, their names vary in terms of their genesis and meanings. Any discussion about team names would be incomplete without the legendary origin story of our Swimming and Waterpolo teams’ names.
The year was 2009. The Inter-IIT aquatics meet was happening at IIT Kanpur where IIT Madras was competing. After a glorious stretch of matches, they were set to go against IIT Bombay for the semi-finals. Little did they know that their real enemy was going to be a set of sandwiches from the food stall. Five of their players were hospitalized with food poisoning and were on saline drips.
But despite warnings from the medical officers and the player’s weakened condition, they competed with incredible grit and strength and won the match, to the awe of everyone present. The stunned IIT Bombay contingent was so impressed that they christened the IIT Madras team with the name Sharks.
The Water Polo captain Jai Kedia says, “…from then on we took pride in that name, Madras Sharks. When I got to know about this epic story behind the name in my freshie year, it just filled me with immense feels upfront”. Madras Sharks are one of the most hardworking teams in Insti with their practice sessions going up to 5-6 hours a day. Their alumni are also in constant contact with them, inspiring them to give a stellar performance and pushing them to live up to the Sharks brand.
Another team with a popular team name is the IITM Football Team. Known as Wolves, their name represents their teamwork and togetherness, reflected both on-field and outside it. One of their common sayings is ‘The pack survives’ and yes, it is inspired by Game of Thrones. However, the name itself was borne out of their tradition of playing wolf before tournaments, especially during Inter-IIT and main camp. Their captain Midhun says that the team has only been getting better since its inception and the current team won their first gold. Their performance at IIT KGP was also lauded and the runners up, IIT Roorkee, invited them to the podium as an act of sportsmanship.
But my personal favourite story would be the one behind the Frisbee team, who go by the name Saints. A pretty weird name for a frisbee team, right? The team was named in honour of Pascal, a foreign exchange student credited with initiating the present Frisbee club.
According to legend, Pascal preached about Frisbee religiously day in and out, pulling unbelievers into the sport, and finally ended up earning himself the nickname St.Pascal, and henceforth the Frisbee team came to be known as Saints.
A close contender would be the Institute Hockey Team who are known as Madras Garibos, whose captain interprets it as the ‘the poor gold-winning team‘. An expensive game, Hockey requires a lot of different types of equipment for one player to perform, which our Gymkhana unfortunately lacks. However, despite the deficiency in infrastructural facilities and financial support, the Hockey team has brought gold and silver to the institute throughout the years.
Christened Garibos in 2012, their motto is ‘Go to Inter-IIT with nothing and come back home with something‘. The team is inspired by the legacy left behind by their alumni, who have been Hockey champions more than 25 times in all the 54 Inter IIT sports meets.
An honourable mention would be the Badminton team, Madras Falcons. Named after the falcon, the fastest bird in a dive, their name symbolizes the shuttle, the fastest-moving object in any racquet sport. The falcon also symbolises determination, victory, vision and rising above challenges, qualities which are embodied in the team as well. The team was anointed with this name by one of its team members, Rishabh, in the 2017 Inter-IIT where they won double gold.
Inspired by the fast reflexes and quick movements required for the sport, the Institute Table Tennis team is appropriately named the Madras Vipers. The captain Adhish says that they are a close-knit team, who are inspired by their team name, their legacy and their desire to work hard to become worthy of the name Vipers. Meanwhile, the weightlifting team is aptly named the Madras Hulks and represents the strength and the demeanour that is required of the sportsperson.
Former captain Tejas Tayade explains that the guidance from their seniors, constant support from their coach, the numerous achievements of their alumni and their own desire to succeed is what motivates them to work hard and keep getting better.
A play on words, the Chess Team is known as U-knighted. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces in chess, and this represents the struggle the team faced to get Chess into the inter IIT main meet. One of their seniors, Nitin M Pain, has competed at the Commonwealth games while another one, Shivam Chandak, won 8th at the U-25 Nationals.
The Athletics Team’s name, Gazelles, illustrates the team’s speed and strength. The agility and vitality required by the Basketball Team is reflected in their name, Stags. Some of the other teams include the Cricket team Madras Mavericks, the Volleyball team Madras Eagles, the Squash team Madras Hawks, and the Tennis team Madras Warhawks. Despite all their differences, a common thread running through all these teams is the pride they take in their respective teams, their fiery passion and their love for the sport.
“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
Maybe Shakespeare’s love-stricken Juliet felt that names inherently mean nothing, but for our institute sports teams, they are a source of motivation, inspiration and an ideal to live up to.