The true version of ‘from rags to riches’ – live performance

Chilaw Marians take Premier division title

By S.R. Pathiravithana

Above:The Chilaw Marians.
They are cricket nomads of the 21st century. Yet, they did not sit back and wait till the world crumbled around them. This strong young bunch of Chilaw Marians are the new owners of Sri Lanka’s Premier Division one title. At the same time they are also the runner-up of the Premier Tier ‘A’ Limited Overs tournament.

Unlike the privileged cricketers that hail from either SSC, NCC or the Bloomfield the Chilaw Marians do not posses the luxury of a home ground of their own or a masseur to minimize their injuries, but, luckily what they possessed was the determination and the courage to excell.

Ironically the national cricket selectors seem not to believe in the abilities of those who represent this club. The club has several ex-national players beginning with skipper Mahela Udawatte, Gayan Wijekoon and Dinuk Hettiarachchi. Especially left arm orthodox spinner Hettiarachchi has been one of the leading wicket takers in the local circuit for the past decade on a regular basis has never been considered after his single appearance. In that given chance he bowled a respectable 2 for 36 in 24 overs in the first innings and was made to use the new ball in the second innings where he was bowled 3 overs for five runs by captain Sanath Jayasuriya in a losing effort against England at the SSC grounds. That was his last effort with the national team and was never to be heard of again.

Yet, they are a proud bunch of cricketers. Skipper Mahela Udawatte explained to The Sunday Times how they constructed their success. He said “We practice at the side nets at Thurstan College Grounds. It is only a few players like me who are in the national pool that get the chance of practicing on proper surfaces tailor made for top grade cricket, the rest have to manage with the meager facilities that we can afford.
Inset: skipper Mahela Udawatte and Dinuk Hettiarachchi.

“However when I took over the reigns at the beginning of the year I told my management that I felt that this team could do the impossible and win at least one title. We were pretty sure that we had a good chance of taking the limited overs title.”

Mahela explained that this year the whole team gelled together and worked as one unit, where even the most junior player’s voice was heard and if the suggestion was good it was put into practice. He said “This is my fifth season with the club and there are several players who are senior to me so I made it a point to treat everyone alike. I knew that the seniors knew their role in the side so I left them alone. However I made it a point to talk to the juniors and make them understand what the team required from them and encouraged them to perform at their peak. At the same time we did not begin the season with huge ideas. We wanted to win, but we decided to take one game at a time and go into the game with a plan and execute it as perfectly as we could. It is only when we came into the last few games that we told ourselves in one voice, yes, we are going to win this title as we were pipped at the post by the Tamil Union in the limited overs tournament. The Marians squad comprised – Mahela Udawatte (Captain), Amal Athulathmudali, Milinda Siriwardena, Nimesh Perera, Harsha Cooray, Gayan Wijekoon, Janaka Gunaratne, Dinuk Hettiarachchi, Suresh Niroshan, Chinthaka Perera, Shaminda Eranga, Ravi Karunaratne, Malith Gunatilleke, Arosha Janodha and Malinda Pushpakumara.

Mahesh Weerasinghe functioned as the coach of this champion unit.
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