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What was a paddy field 40 days ago was the scene of the first competitive cricket match near the town of Mullaitivu, the central military base of the LTTE during the Sri Lankan civil war and the location of one of its bloodiest battles. Cattle were cleared off and truckloads of soil hauled in to transform the field at Oddusuddan High School, which has now become a cricket venue replete with pavilion and practice nets. The development was to prepare the ground for the Murali Cup, which brings 20 teams from around the country to compete in a Twenty20 tournament across five venues in the war-torn north of Sri Lanka.
The venue was opened by Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who had first hatched the idea to bring the Murali Cup to the north. "When Mahela visited this area last year, we thought we had to play the tournament in the north because of the passion for cricket that we could see here," Sangakkara said. "It's about giving an opportunity for the local kids to develop and showcase their skills and providing them with the facilities to improve."
The Murali Cup is an initiative of the Foundation of Goodness, of which Muttiah Muralitharan is chief trustee. The tournament is also supported by Jayawardene's Mahela Foundation, and Sangakkara's Bikes for Life campaign. Newly developed grounds at Kilinochchi and Vankulam also hosted matches, as well as venues in Jaffna and Vavuniya.