Sri Lanka news November 1, 2013

Botham, Jayawardene open Murali Cup


Ian Botham and Mahela Jayawardene opened the 2013 Murali Cup in Kilinochchi on Friday, as the five-day tournament began in five venues across Sri Lanka's northern province. The Murali Cup aims to promote unity and reconciliation as well as the development of cricket, in the post-war regions of the country, by bringing men's and women's teams from the south to play sides from the north and east.

Jayawardene, who had been one of the first public figures to visit the north after the war ended in 2009, said his belief that cricket could facilitate role in social reconciliation in Sri Lanka had only been heightened by his experience of the inaugural Murali Cup, last year.

"It's all about these kids getting together, and having fun. They have open minds, and you can see the love that the people in the north have for the game, and we should be there to foster that," Jayawardene said.

"Last year, the team from St. Peters stayed with the boys from Kilinochchi, instead of staying in the separate accommodation that they had been assigned. They made friendships and exchanged Facebook and numbers, and when St. Peters got into the final against Jaffna, the boys from Kilinochchi got into a bus and went to watch that game, specially. That's the kind of thing that needs to happen."

Botham also began his charity walk through Sri Lanka after inaugurating the tournament, the first leg of which finished in Mankulam, 29 kilometres to the south of Kilinochchi. Sourav Ganguly, Steve Waugh and Allan Border are scheduled to join Botham on later legs. 

"It's a terrific tournament - one which shows cricket's capacity to bring people together, and be a common point of interest," Botham said. "It fits in really well with the idea behind the walk, which is to use sport to improve people's lives."

Kumar Sangakkara will visit the tournament venues on Saturday and Sunday, before Muttiah Muralitharan arrives for the finals on Tuesday. Twelve Under-19 teams and eight women's teams will compete in 34 Twenty20 matches.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    Its great to see this event going ahead - Anura De Silva deserves a medal for his work. It is disappointing however that the organisers have not allowed for the softball version of the game, which is much more popular in the North and played at an incredibly high skill level. On my one visit to the North, with FOG, it was evident that the schism between hard and soft runs on class lines and if the South really wants to make a difference in the North, maintaining an elitist hard ball competition without involving the majority of local youngsters who play softball, is not the longterm answer. It seems the powers who run the event do not like softball - but is this a reconciliation exercise or a proving ground for the next Murali?

  • Tony on November 2, 2013, 13:35 GMT

    @N.Hajan- Did you even read the article? Boys from Kilinochchi travelled by bus to see the Peterites from Colombo play there. What these guys are doing for the people of Kilinochchi is a great thing and the best thing about it is there is no mention of ethnicity for once!! Tamil, Sinhalese, Burgher or whatever if you enjoy cricket and want to raise money to help the people of Kilinochchi come join us.

  • Hajananth on November 2, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    With all due respect, i praise the effort of these gentle men.. But people from kilinochi don't have any means to live their basic life.. So this is not a worth effort to win their hearts! first of all please help them to set up their life before doing something in the name of reconciliation,

  • Sage on November 2, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    I met him on arrival and took part in yesterday's opening leg of the Charity walk from Kilinochchi to Manukulam. I have to say walking and keeping up to His space was very difficult and at times there was a gap of 3 km between him and my friends. but we managed to keep up with them and ended the 29 km walk in 4 hours and 7 minutes. We started at 8.34 am and ended at 12.41 pm. It was nice to meet Mahela, Percy and few other people. There was a huge crowd who took part in the walk. I must say it was great to be part of the Charity walk.

  • Dummy4 on November 2, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    Wonderful gesture by a set of wonderful human beings! Hat off to all of you guys!

  • Nival on November 2, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    We are delighted and it's an honour to see a person like Sir Ian Botham is involved in this kind of work in our country! we always have a feeling of sorts that Englishmen always look down upon people like us, but this is a great initiative:D. and as mahela says it is great if they can foster the open minds of youth and their ideas of equity in the face of countless people in both north and south trying to promote racism and religious discrimination for their own personal gains and agendas. Tamils are humans too, and they deserve all the privileges we sinhalese get and we must understand that sooner rather than later!

  • Android on November 2, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    all the Best Murali... Thank you for doing this... Hope to see these kids in National Colours.. That will be a effective success of this Tournament....

  • Ashley on November 2, 2013, 1:25 GMT

    Still can't believe that Sir Oaf has been knighted.Still well done to all involved and hope its a great success

  • rob on November 1, 2013, 21:45 GMT

    Hope it could bring something...but I am not naive to believe it though

  • Jay on November 1, 2013, 21:41 GMT

    Fine initiative. Thanks to Murali for doing what he does best, supporting humanitarian causes in the north of SL. Being a Tamil speaking Sri Lankan, it is of little surprise how much the people of the north have adopted and embraced his initiative. Of course who can forget his relief efforts during the deadly tsunami crisis of 2004 ? Well done Murali and God bless.

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