Following the 2015 Murali Harmony Cup the Foundation of Goodness handpicked the most talented players from the 16–18 age group among the teams hailing from all across the island that attended the tournament to form the Murali Harmony Cup Unity Team. This is a practice we have had since the first Murali Cup, and the aim of this exercise is to give the boys an opportunity to broaden their horizons through an overseas tour whilst also learning to work together in harmony overcoming language and cultural barriers.
The 2012 Murali Cup Unity Team visited Singapore and the 2013 Unity Team went on a tour to UK, and even had the opportunity to watch a match at the Lords grounds. Unfortunately we were unable to have a tour in 2014 but once again in 2015 we could facilitate for the Unity Team to go on tour to UAE because of a kind invitation from Kevin Pietersen’s KP24 Foundation……………. The KP24 Foundation has been created by cricketing superstar Kevin Pietersen to assist the development of elite cricketers from underprivileged backgrounds all over the world, inspire young people through sport and education, raise awareness of Ocular Melanoma and help support patients and families affected by the very rare form of cancer.
The Unity Squad, designed to showcase Sri Lanka’s cultural diversity while promoting nation-building and reconciliation, departed for the UAE on 25th November for the 10-day tour and included exceptionally talented U18 cricketers from different schools island-wide, including five boys from previously war-affected areas in the North and East and captained by wicket-keeper batsman Nipun Haggalla from Ananda College who were the Murali Cup Boys’ Champions this year……………….Muthiah Muralidaran had a special meet and greet with the boys prior to their departure to wish them luck on their tour.
Nipun Haggalla (Captain) – Ananda College (Wicket Keeper & RH Batsman)
SK Kiritharan – Mannar & Vavuniya Combined Schools (RH Batsman)
Vishwa Dissanayake – Maliyadeva College Kurunegala (LH Batsman & Left Arm Leg-Spin)
Avishka Shehan – Trinco & Batti Combined Schools (RH Batsman & Right Arm Medium Bowler)
Dileepa Sandaruwan – Monaragala Combined Schools (RH Batsman & Right Arm Off-Spin)
MMG Akalanka – Up Country Combined Schools (LH Batsman & Right Arm Fast Bowler)
Niroshan Benjamin – St John’s College Jaffna (RH Batsman & Right Arm Fast Bowler)
KK Kevin – Richmond College Galle (LH Batsman & Right Arm Leg-Spin)
S Thasoban – Jaffna Combined Schools (RH Batsman & Right Arm Off-Spin)
Bhanuka Pamuditha – P De S Kularatne College Ambalangoda (RH Batsman & Right Arm Off-Spin)
Chanuka Asinsana – Debarawewa Central College (RH Batsman & Right Arm Off-Spin)
Mugunthan Nithushan – Kilinochchi & Mullaitivu Combined Schools (LH Batsman & Right Arm Off-Spin)
The tour was spearheaded by England legend Kevin Pietersen who has set-up a cricket academy based in Dubai to develop cricket worldwide. The flagship 24/7 project aims to unearth talent in some of the poorest communities from some of cricket’s greatest playing nations. Six teams from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, India, Kenya and UAE, took part in the fully funded trip to Dubai where the players were given unique access to the KP Academy including a 7-day intensive training camp which culminated with a T20 World Cup style tournament played over the final 3 days of the 10-day tour.
The Unity Team members had the opportunity to train at the state of the art ICC Academy and even had Kevin Pietersen himself come in to conduct a training session with them. The boys also went to watch the 2nd day of the England vs Pakistan test match at the Dubai International Stadium. When their own matches began, the Unity Team managed to win their games against both India and UAE but were unable to beat the Pakistan Team, even during their second encounter with the team at the final where they lost by 9 wickets.
The Unity Team may not have been the overall champions but all the boys definitely came away as winners having experienced an incredible 10 days of training and experiences, meeting teams from around the world, developing their skills and experiencing a new land. It must be noted that none of the boys had been overseas prior to this and therefore, this was an incredible opportunity for them. As part of this programme, KP24 Foundation will also identify a player from each country who will be offered a very special Foundation Scholarship, fully supporting them in the next phase of their personal development and this player will be flown back to Dubai the following year to assist with the delivery of the next intake of the 24/7 Project as a playing ambassador.
This has been the adventure of a lifetime for the boys and a special thank you goes out to the officials who accompanied the boys on this tour, the Team Manager Joel Fernando, Assistant Manager/ Tour Coordinator Chaminda De Silva and Schools Representative A. S. Nishanthan, Movenpick Hotel who hosted the Team and all the special visitors and well-wishers who came to meet the team including ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, Shyam Impett who was closely involved with organizing the Murali Cup in 2012 and 2013 and especially George Hettiarachchi and Friends who have been great supporters of FoG for many years and who in a truly generous spur of the moment act, collected funds and gifted the visiting boys with cricket equipment that they really needed. And last but certainly not least, a great big thank you to Kevin Pietersen and all at the KP24 Foundation, especially Charity CEO Richard Logan and Operations Manager Dannie Rees, for giving us this incredible opportunity, it was a once in a life time experience for these young boys and one they will treasure for the rest of their lives! Thank you for partnering with the Foundation of Goodness for this monumental event!
ALSO NOTE : One can get the day by day details and media releases issued during the 2015 Murali Cup at the official website: http://www.themuralicup.com/; …. while article son the events can be located at http://www.themuralicup.com/?post_type=news In addition, consult the FoG website: http://www.unconditionalcompassion.org/sub/20151014-The-2015-Murali-Harmony-Cup%20.php?_r=2