The Opening Ceremony for the MURALI HARMONY CUP was launched on 7th September at the newly-built IODR Oval in the little northern town of Oddusuddan in Mullaitivu Province, an area that was in the thick of fighting in 2008/09 during Eelam War IV. This cricket ground and its facilities were constructed in just 33 days by the Sri Lanka Army.
This competition is being played out at five grounds across Northern Sri Lanka in the towns of Jaffna, Oddusuddan, Mankulam, Kilinochchi, and Vavuniya as I write and will occur over the period 8-12 September. The cricket matches are in T-20 format and feature an Under-19 School Boys Tournament and an Under-23 Women’s Tournament. A dozen boys’ teams and eight ladies’ teams from across Sri Lanka are playing two matches every day at each ground, with the finals taking place on 12th September at the IODR Oval in Oddusudan.
- For some pictures and a summary see http://cricketique.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/murali-harmony-cup-in-the-north-launched-by-mahela-and-sanga/
- For more pictures and several items see the official web site http://www.themuralicup.com/. Note the impressive list of sponsors for this tournament.
- A fuller understanding can only be grasped if one attends to the work of The Foundation of Goodness centred at Seenigama and founded by Kushil Gunasekara. See and search for google items on the visit to that centre by Michael Clarke on one occasion and Harry Solomons on another, both following a long history of support for tha work at that locality from the MCC, Bryan Adams, Ian Botham, Steve Waugh, Kapil Dev and numerous others.
- Note also that the Foundation of Goodness and the Laureus Foundation have acquired 50 acres at MANKULAM by courtesy of Presidential decree and are proceeding to develop a school of excellence to serve the whole of the northern Vanni. See the details of the event that announced this project and the photos of the flying visit to the area by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Ian Botham and Michael Vaughan in March 2011 in
Kushil’s Q and A with Kumar Sangakkara in the muralicup web site
KS: I joined the Foundation of Goodness when I was invited by Murali and Kushil. I had been a friend of Kushil’s for a long time. After the Tsunami when they started up the Foundation of Goodness on a much larger scale, I saw the excellent and much needed work they had done in the area. It was easy for me to see how important the Foundation’s work was and also realise that I could be a part of something that was going to touch the lives of thousands. Now many years on, I count myself very fortunate to be able to join the Foundation of Goodness as a trustee and also be able to work with charity in a very hands-on way in the social work we do.
The Murali Cup is an off-shoot born from a hybrid of other projects. The main idea is to enable children from disadvantaged areas of Sri Lanka to come together and develop through sport. The MCC partnered us very strongly in this effort and we are very grateful for them as they continue their support for the Foundation. The Murali Cup concept has become a success with schools from England especially, and alongside Sri Lankan schools from various parts of the country, it is a wonderful tournament for exchanging ideas and fostering cross cultural harmony and understanding.
It was your idea to host the tournament in the North this year. Why was this so important for you?
KS: I think this year’s shift takes on a special significance. Only a few years after the war has ended, we are taking the Murali Cup up to the north with 20 Sri Lankan teams coming together in areas where a couple of years ago, playing cricket like this would never have been a possibility. We are going to see a new concept being enabled in these areas where children who have undergone thirty years of hardship are now able to express themselves through sport.
To reflect the ICC World T20 format in Sri Lanka exactly, the Murali Harmony Cup invites 8 women’s teams. How do you see the development of the women’s game in Sri Lanka now?
KS: The women’s game in Sri Lanka is healthy, but a lot more can still be done. I think there needs to be a stronger partnership between the men’s and women’s cricket teams especially in an administrative sense in the sharing of facilities and funding. But at the same time, it is up to us through the Murali Cup to enable more and more children – girls and boys –to play the sport and give access to facilities for all to play cricket.
What type of legacy do you hope that this tournament will leave?
KS: I hope that you don’t have to look too far down the line. The tournament itself is a necessity and a timely venture in the northern area of the country. This event is about promoting school cricket and it is about encouraging children to take up cricket. It is also about fostering better understandings between communities in Sri Lanka, especially through the youth because that is how I believe we will achieve a lasting, final peace and racial harmony in Sri Lanka. The second step of the Murali Cup is to continually build up and finish school grounds in the northern area enabling more and more children access to cricket. That is the kind of legacy that I hope this tournament will leave in the short term, but in the long-term through the use of those grounds and more kids taking up the sport due to easier access, we would like to see the best cricketers in Sri Lanka being produced from these areas. I ultimately hope that progressively more players from the north and the east can develop and come through to represent Sri Lanka on the international stage.
One could also say that the precursor for this cricket tournament was the decision/initiative taken by Kumar and Yehali Sangakkara to visit St. Patricks College in the Jaffna Peninsula in April 2011 (just after the World Cup in ODI cricket) as a pathway of reconcilaition that recognised the place of cricket in bridging ethnic distinctions and divides within the island. SEE http://thuppahis.com/2011/04/12/sangakkaras-visit-st-patricks-college-jaffna/
For the Northern Empowerment Project being pursued by the Foundation of Goodness, see