International Level Cricket in Mahawilachchiya

It was the year 1997 or 1998. We used to play tennis ball cricket in the evenings at the playground in Bogas Handiya, Mahawilachchiya. During our elder brothers’ days boys had cleared an abandoned plot of land and formed a sports club called Deepthi Sports Club. Sports club had once organized to show movies on a makeshift cinema hall to raise funds to the club. Unfortunately they hadn’t got the revenue expected and had been in debt to the shopkeeper in Bogas Handiya.

After we took over from the senior boys, I wanted to pay the debts as it had been a bad reputation for the club. So, I suggested the boys that we organize a limited over cricket series to raise funds. We decided to organize the match following the ‘international standards’ and collect an entry fee of 500 LKR from each team for participation. Many were pessimistic about the plan as no team would play 500 LKR to take part. But I was determined.

We cleared the ground neatly and started practicing hard. We sent invitations to the known clubs and expected around 10 teams would take part. We decided to keep neutral umpires to each match so that decisions will be as fair as possible. We also announced with loud speakers mounted on a van that we are having a cricket series and those who interested can join.

The day of the series dawned. We got a very bad news early in the morning. One of our players’ grandma had died at dawn the same day. The funeral house was close to the playground as well. Many suggested postponing the series but we did not have any mean of informing the teams. Teams would have already started their journeys to the ground by the time we met at the ground in the morning. Those were the days without telephones in the village. So I suggested that we go ahead with the series and display our sympathies with the family by observing one minute’s silence with all the teams present.

More than 20 teams took part and it was very difficult to arrange the match schedule and we calculated that we need at least 3 days to complete the series.

The series was a knockout one. This increased the excitement even more. Each team will be play 10 overs. We introduced the 30-yard-circle law and pinch hitting was allowed for the first 3 overs of the innings. There was a match referee, a former player who was experienced with the laws, to solve disputes that would arise during the matches. Not only that, we brought ball by ball commentaries with advertisements in the middle over the loudspeakers. There were few talented boys to bring Sinhala language commentaries. A friend of mine, a teacher called Yasarathna from Galle who taught in Mahawilachchiya did the English commentaries with me. Every two overs language changed in the commentary box. We got a few Muslim boys from the visiting teams to provide Tamil summaries as well. For the children and the youth this was an edutainment experience. For the people gathered, this was a new experience. There was the atmosphere of an international cricket series around the ground. Even the older people who did not like cricket gathered to see what was happeing. Our team lost on the way and the trophy went to a visiting team from Anuradhapura. Everybody was happy about the success of the series.

We paid the debts to the shopkeeper and even retained a profit for the club after the tournament.