Austins shooting victims honored by ‘band of brothers’ at weekend cricket tournament

A weekend cricket tournament honored Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, who was killed in a shooting at an Olathe bar earlier this year in what authorities have labeled a hate crime.

The Midwest Cricket League organized the Srinivas Kuchibhotla Memorial T-20 Challenge as a way to bring the community together and remember their friend who died in the Feb. 22 shooting at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe.

“We wanted to come out and show that an act of a single person doesn’t reflect on the entire Midwestern community,” said tournament organizer and friend Sukumar Subramaniyam.

“We are so not afraid of being here. We love being here. This is our home, and we’re really proud of being here.”

During the opening ceremonies on Saturday, Midwest Cricket also honored two others who were shot but survived — Kuchibhotla’s friend Alok Reddy Madasani and Ian Grillot, who attempted to stop the gunman.

Organizers hope the tournament, which they plan to hold annually, is a way to keep Kuchibhotla from becoming a statistic.

Federal prosecutors announced Friday that federal hate crimes that carry a possible death sentence have been filed against the man accused of the shooting.

Adam W. Purinton, 52, of Olathe was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly targeting two of the victims “because of their actual and perceived race, color, religion and national origin.”

On Sunday, Kuchibhotla’s team, the Mystics, beat the Wolves in a game at Minor Park in south Kansas City.

Kuchibhotla’s friend Madasani was there. He said the tournament was the best way to honor Kuchibhotla.

“Coming from India, we were all passionate about cricket, and Srinivas was,” Madasani said. “I had known him for nine years. I can say there were countless number of hours where we passionately discussed about cricket, played the game of cricket, and like they say in India, ‘We eat cricket, sleep cricket.’”

“It’s a band of brothers,” Madasani said. “When we come out to play the game of cricket, it’s not (just) about playing the game but also to enjoy each other’s company and make these three, four hours of game more than just the game of cricket.”

Subramaniyam, the tournament organizer, said the importance of the game in Indian culture is hard to overstate.

“For us, cricket is more than a sport, it is a religion,” said Subramaniyam. “We usually say cricket is my religion, and Sachin Tendulkar is our God.”

Tendulkar is one of the most famous and successful cricket players in the world.

“Every kid who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s in India would say that, and love the game of cricket,” Subramaniyam said.

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb