World Cricket League October 10, 2008

Win or bust

Hemantha Jayasena, Italy

Hemantha Jayasena, Italy

Four games have now been completed in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League and all our hard work now rests on the outcome of our final match.

After beating Tanzania we know that if we win on Friday we will get promoted to Division 3 and we are all desperate to play in Argentina next January – we will do everything that we can to qualify for that tournament.

We played Afghanistan in a warm-up game before this tournament which it won by three runs, but that match was our first in Tanzania and we were still getting used to the conditions, so we are not worried about that. It should be a fantastic game.

The one problem that we have had at this tournament is injuries – it was like sitting in the casualty ward at a hospital in our dressing room against Tanzania.

We managed to lose one of our players for the rest of the tournament when he sprained an ankle in the warm-up and then ten minutes before the start of play another got severe spasms in his neck when pulling on his Italian shirt and ended up having to go to hospital and wear a neck brace for the rest of the day. It was absolutely incredible.

I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Italy when I was twenty years old. I was asked whether I wanted to come to Italy to play club cricket – I had never even thought about moving to Italy until then – and once I was there I decided that I didn’t want to live anywhere else.

I work in factory for the sponsors of our cricket club and have a wife and two daughters living with me in Italy. My eldest girl is already showing a keen interest in the game as well which is great.

I was lucky enough to play eight first-class matches back in Sri Lanka so it is great to be able to share my experience with players who are coming up in the Italian team.

My favourite cricketer is Sanath Jayasuriya. I actually played against him twenty years ago in a schools game – you could tell even at a young age that he was going to be a star.

I have also played against Muttiah Muralitharan – I only faced him for two balls and I’m pleased to say I didn’t get out against him. Unfortunately the bowler at the other end dismissed me!

Cricket in Italy is getting more popular. Although the majority of people who play the game are expats, there is lots of work being done to get young Italians to play the sport which is important for the growth of the game at home.

I have also noticed a big difference in my time living in Italy. Before people hadn’t even heard of the sport, but now they at least recognize what game we are playing when they see us taking part in a match. I think that shows that cricket is slowly becoming more popular but there is still a lot of work to be done.

In our domestic competition we play once a week, which is 50-over cricket, and there is also an annual Twenty20 competition. It’s been quite tough this week having to play four matches in such a short space of time which I think is why we’ve had some injuries.

The league is very multicultural and just in my club team, which I captain, we have players from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Argentina and of course some Italians as well. Playing in the competition is a great way to meet people from all around the world.

It will be really special if we can make it through this tournament and I just can’t wait for Afghanistan game to begin.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa