Though on surface it was only a reconnaissance tour about a pending cricket tournament which is scheduled to take place in the former war-torn areas at the end of this month, certainly there was more to it. The modus operandi of this exercise is to bring back normalcy — through the game of cricket — [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

A touch of goodness with a cricket sense


Though on surface it was only a reconnaissance tour about a pending cricket tournament which is scheduled to take place in the former war-torn

Edward Aden at practices

areas at the end of this month, certainly there was more to it. The modus operandi of this exercise is to bring back normalcy — through the game of cricket — to the people who really faced the strife through the thirty long years of that devastating war. But, what really engulfed my imagination is that reconciliation is a process that could be achieved through persistence and honesty and the effort of the Foundation of Goodness through its Murali Harmony Cup is meeting that bid to a good extent.

The Murali Cup was a streak of thought that ran across the Lankan champion off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan’s mind a few years ago. This is the fourth edition of the tournament and it will be held this year in Oddusuddan, Killinochchi and Jaffna.

When the first Murali Cup was played in Seenigama with the participation of some overseas teams and a few local teams, the Archimedes in Murali ran across the ground shouting, “I want to play something similar to this in the Northern areas of the island too. So the Murali Harmony Cup was born. He really wanted to give the war-hit northern children the opportunity that he enjoyed as a Sri Lankan. He wanted to give the children the opportunity

Muralitharan’s mentor Sunil Fernando who was in Jaffna at the same time took time to have a look at the young Jaffna batsman R. Tudor

to break away from the shackles of the negative war mind frame and gradually slide into the mainstream.

After a ride that lasted for several hours from Colombo our first stop was at Oddusuddan — a northern hamlet that was thick in the grasp of the LTTE during the war times. The Oddusuddan Maha Vidyalayam ground stood by the main school and its pavilion stood at one end of the ground like a beacon. Not only the ground, there were three lovely side strips which were laid with artificial surfaces.

Ironically one of the first things I noticed was the vandalism that had taken place. It was only last year that the whole facility was given a facelift before the Murali Cup, but three hundred and sixty five days later there are more repairs to be effected to the facility than the year before.

To me this is where the crux of the matter. I thought to myself, have the people of these areas moved forward since the war ended and are they looking out to the world of opportunity that is packaged in goodies like the Murali Cup. Not only was the pavilion, the ground was also

The Oddusuddan Oval

built for them. But, by the vandalism I concluded that they have not still grasped that it was built for them and that was one of their possessions. It is they who must take into their hearts that what is provided is just not a facility, but an opportunity that has come along their way. Now that they have come into the focus, any kid with real talent could get the same opportunity that Muttiah Muralitharan got many years ago.

The lad from Oddusuddan — Vinusen — said that now there is growing interest in cricket

A.Vinushan at practices

in the area and people do watch cricket and even the IPL and the Champions Trophy games which ended a few weeks ago. But he was still not quite sure of the real purpose of this exercise other than getting involved in a sport.

Sri Lanka Army’s Colonel Anura Gunasekera who will be handling the logistics at the Oddusuddan end was very enthusiastic and keen to go ahead with the project. He was also of the view that the people of the area should take the Murali Cup as an opportunity. He said, “We are the ones who will be expediting the process and we

Col. Anura Gunasekera explaining matters

would do everything to see that this is going to be a success. “We know there are a lot of repairs that we have to effect before the matches begin on the 28th, especially in the pavilion and the pitch area and we will be doing them as soon as possible.”

When we travelled to Jaffna the perspective changed somewhat for the better. Edward Aden, a lanky six-and-a-half foot cricketer, was at the side net and took time to talk to us in spite of his session. He was one of those cricketers who had been picked by the Foundation for employment and he is placed in his area to look after the budding cricketers.

Aden understood what cricket could bring to them. He was glad that he was one of those who had been picked and channelled into the system. Now he is a part of the North-East combined Xl which won the SLC under 23 division III tournament. His team has been promoted to the Under 23 Division II tournament. Aden and his mate Tudor boasted that they even could play in the Donovan Andree Trophy cricket – another SLC run open tournament.

Even Aden sees reality. He says cricket is played among schools during the season and thereafter it is over. He feels for cricketers from areas like Oddusuddan where cricket is still new and they have to get used to the idea of playing the game seriously.

The three side wickets at Oddusuddan

On the other hand the Army is seriously involved in every aspect of promoting recreation in the area. I feel they are offering the olive branch from a position of strength, but if they do it on an equal footing, it carries a lot of meaning. However, those efforts should be directed only into the reconciliation process and should not become the fodder for political usurping.

However, the process, especially in areas like Oddusuddan, may take time. Some of the people in the thinking process of those areas are still living in the barricaded ages. The only way to break that trend of thought is to work the process of the Goodness till they understand that goodness begets goodness. Till the day that goodness breaks that barrier, the system will have to perambulate. Yes, it would be slow, but remember it was the tortoise which won the race ultimately.

As for cricket, the SLC should be more earnest in its act. By forming a North-East combined XI you cannot buy a genuinely potent product. It is for the simple reason that the two centres are too far away from each other to merge and grow up as a unit.

They must have two teams from the two areas and keep nurturing them. Initially they may be below par. But, they must persist with the idea at least of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Meanwhile especially the lads from Jaffna will know that there is cricket after school and they would come closer to the game and begin to believe in it like how the rest of the country did. But, the day the North produces its own Muralitharan the seams will burst and CSR will turn into a real process.

Yet, back in their hearts they would remember, it all began with a touch of goodness.

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