Players pitch in with cricket gear in tsunami-devastated villages September 9, 2006

Malinga and Tharanga return to their roots

Post-tsunami reconstruction begins at the Galle International Stadium © Getty Images

Lasith Malinga and Upul Tharanga did an invaluable favour to their respective former schools by providing them with cricket gear. The gear itself was donated by former Sri Lanka Under-19 captain Asitha Jayaweera and was distributed through the Foundation of Goodness.

This was part of the ongoing effort in the south of the country to rehabilitate the victims of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Devapathiraja School in Rathgama (where Malinga studied) and Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda (where Tharanga was educated) were picked as the recipients because they were in close proximity to Seenigama where the main work on tsunami victims is taking place.

"Malinga and Tharanga emerged on the international cricket scene from virtual obscurity. It is amazing that cricketers of their calibre had come to the level of performing at the Mecca of cricket at Lord's and achieved success without having had the training facilities that cricketers in affluent countries enjoyed," said Kushil Gunasekera, founder of the Foundation of Goodness.

"In that context it was absolutely admirable that talent which is so great in these areas is given the proper infrastructure so that the Malingas and the Tharangas of the future could emerge."

Around 80 boys in the under 13, 15 and 19 age group categories benefited from Jayaweera's gesture, who is resident in the UK and a member of the UK-Sri Lanka Cricket representative committee.

Malinga nicknamed 'Malinga the slinger' by the English press because of his unusual bowling action gave some useful advice to the young hopefuls. He said: "One thing I want to tell all you promising cricketers from both schools is never to look at what you don't have, but look at the positive of what you have and then work on them rather than complain about not having anything. Work on your strengths to get to where you want to go, don't look at the negative side of things."

Malinga (23) and Tharanga (21) sparkled for Sri Lanka in their 5-0 whitewash of England in the recent one-day international series. Malinga picked up the most wickets by any bowler from either side - 13 at 17.53, and Tharanga was the leading run-getter in the series with 347 runs (avg. 69.40).

Meanwhile, things are certainly looking up for the tsunami victims in the south. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the Surrey County Cricket Club and world-renowned pop star Bryan Adams are all part of the reconstruction work there.

Helping hands: Rosalie Birch, of the England women's team, with the fishing community in a tsunami-hit village © Getty Images

The MCC is planning to develop a Centre of Excellence in partnership with the Foundation of Goodness at Seenigama, a village that was badly hit by the tsunami. The idea is to provide a first-class learning institution for the village with the focus on youth development.

For this purpose Gunasekera, from the Foundation of Goodness, has gifted his former villa and an acre of land surrounding it which was damaged extensively by the tsunami.

Roger Knight, the secretary and CE of MCC, and his wife visited Seenigama recently to get a first hand impression of the work done there before deciding to fund it. Once complete the Centre will for the first time provide village youth the opportunity to interact with top instructors, professionals and athletes from across the globe. State-of-the-art equipment will aid them in their learning. Seenigama is home to more than 350 families including 300 children.

Surrey County CC, is funding the construction of a cricket ground with a state-of the-art artificial, all-weather pitch at Seenigama called The Oval. It will also include indoor pitches, a 25-meter swimming pool (a first for the area and one of few in the entire region), a gymnasium, change rooms, a club house and offices.

"We intend to complete construction of the entire Cricket and Sports Centre by October 2006 with a view to having a grand opening in early November 2006," said Gunasekera.

Singing sensation Bryan Adams has pledged the foundation 75,000 pounds sterling to construct a new swimming pool at the Sports Complex. Once completed, a total of seven schools in the region will benefit and will train potential young swimmers who would otherwise practice in the ocean.