Rex Clementine, in The Island, 3 October 2021, where the title is different
At the age of 28, Pulina Tharanga is on the verge of representing Sri Lanka. A leg-spinner, who is handy with the bat and excellent on the field, will soon make the headlines all over the world. His Steve Waugh like guts, the never say die attitude, is what that has impressed the coaches most. Like most southerners, he has inherited it by birth. Or perhaps he has developed the toughness more than the other southerners. Life threw challenges one after the other at him. Here’s his story.
Pulina Tharanga hails from Seenigama. He took up cricket at a young age representing Devananda Vidyalaya. His father was a fisherman. Life threw the first punch at him when he lost his mother to the 2004 tsunami. Less than a year later, his father went out to sea for fishing and never returned home.
Having lost both parents at the age of 11, young Pulina was abandoned; nowhere to go, no food and shelter. Cricket came to his aid. Ours is not just a gentleman’s game, it’s a generous game too.
Former Ananda College cricketer and Board Secretary Kushil Gunasekara hails from Seenigama and has taken a lot of initiatives to help the underprivileged people of his area. Quite a few prominent cricketers are trustees of the charity he runs and several legends of the game have visited his place be it Sir Ian Botham, Kapil Dev or Shane Warne.
As Kushil took young Pulina under his wings, having spotted his potential, he appealed to a few friends. The philanthropist has some influential friends around the world. Cricket’s most famous club, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) came forward to sponsor Pulina providing him with a monthly allowance. There have been other big-hearted deeds like from David Cruse, a Sri Lankan living in Melbourne.
Thanks to cricket’s goodwill gestures, Pulina was able to chase his dreams. Tamil Union gave him the first big break in cricket. Then, he represented Sri Lanka Under-19 with flying colours and now he is set to take a giant step forward.
MCC will put up a grand show when Pulina plays a game at Lord’s as their efforts ensured he did not fall on the way side but continued his passion for the great game. Is there a better way to nurture the sport?
Pulina is not the traditional kind of leg-spinner. He is no Wanindu Hasaranga. He doesn’t loop the ball much but a wicket to wicket type of bowler. Bit like Anil Kumble. He doesn’t get much turn but he is pretty solid with his line and length that makes him an ideal prospect for T-20 cricket. Which is why he has been called up for the World Cup?
This year there have been some brilliant cricket stories of how players made it to the top despite many hardships. There is Pathum Nissanka and then Praveen Jayawickrama, both Kalutara boys. Pulina soon will be in the limelight as well and there are many such young kids who need help and guidance.
Kudos to Foundation of Goodness for looking after players like Pulina at a time when they most needed support. He is not the charity’s first cricketer though. There have been quite a few players who have been supported by them. The generosity is not limited to cricket but extends beyond; they show unconditional compassion.