Village celebrates as cricket legends open ‘Seenigama Oval’
Hundreds of Seenigama residents flocked to watch some of Sri Lanka’s best cricketers play a 20/20 match to christen ‘Seenigama Oval’, the brand new cricket pitch built by the Foundation of Goodness with the support of major sponsor Surrey County Cricket Club.
In a stunning coup, the local ‘Seenigama Cricket Club’ was joined by superstars Muttiah ‘Murali’ Muralidaran, Chaminda Vaas, Hashan Thilakaratne and Aravinda De Silva to overcome their formidable opponents, a team of former test cricketing players including Sidath Wettimuny, Pramodya Wickremasinghe, Champaka Ramanayake, Ruwan Kalpage and Chandika Hathurasinghe.
As well as the thrills and spills of the match, visitors were treated to a fantastic opening event to welcome chief guests of the day, Mr Paul Sheldon, CEO of Surrey County Cricket Club, and Dr Greg French, Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.
The guests were given an extraordinary welcome to the field which with their support has become a point of pride for the whole area. Dancers, drummers and beaming school children greeted Mr Sheldon as he walked, flanked by Murali, Vaas and the Foundation’s Founder and Trustee Mr Gunasekera, toward the Oval’s entrance. With a snip of the red ribbon strung across the gate, Mr Sheldon officially opened the ground.
The honours didn’t stop there - Mr Sheldon and Dr French also faced up to bowling from Murali as the first official batting on the new pitch.
In his opening address, Mr Sheldon spoke of the Surrey County Cricket Club’s dedication to helping tsunami affected Sri Lanka, and the joy that the working partnership with the Foundation has brought both organisations as they turned what was a marshy field with patches of bare earth and brown grass into the well kept ground it is today.
‘There’s nothing like cricket to bring people together. Above all it is a team game played for each other as well as oneself,’ he said.
The pitch, which features beautifully manicured turf, drew admiration from everyone at the event, including former test champion Sidath Wettimuny who described the ground as the best thing that has happened to the village.
‘It’s an incredible achievement and a fantastic effort from the Foundation of Goodness,’ he said.
‘With facilities like this, one day one of these little boys who live in the village could be playing for Sri Lanka.’
Teammate Promodya Wickremasinghe joined in on the praise, saying ‘the pitch is ideal for school [aged] players in Sri Lanka. There should be pitches like this everywhere to encourage young players.’
The Surrey County Cricket Club is one of a host of sponsors who have dedicated thousands to creating the cricket pitch and the Sports Centre it is a part of. Recognising the immensely important role that sport plays in re-vitalising the devastated village and providing a strong direction for the future, the gifts given by these organisations and individuals have made a world of difference.
Donors to the Sports Centre include:
• Surrey County Cricket Club together with their charity partner, The Oval Cricket Relief Trust and their major sponsor, Brit Insurance - major sponsors of the cricket venue, including the cricket & sports ground, indoor nets, gymnasium, clubrooms, offices, toilets and more.
• Bryan Adams – 25m swimming pool & indoor multi sports hall
• Cricket New South Wales – accommodation centre for visiting teams
• David Cruse – pavilion and scoreboard
• Harry Solomons – astro turf pitch surface and cricket kits
• Professional Investment Services Australia – children’s play park
• Western Australia Cricket Association (Perth) – training & sports centre.
• Y's Men International - accommodation centre completion works
• Australian High Commission (DAP) - accommodation centre completion works
• Highgate School - accommodation centre
• Jersey Side by Side - swimming pool viewing tiers, indoor sports centre fit-out, accommodation centre & completion works.
The Sports Centre is a major development for this under-resourced village whose youth are often denied the chance to pursue their sport due to poverty, particularly after the tsunami.
As the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation sponsored ‘Seenigama Sports’ has demonstrated, organised and well supported sports programs are very popular with people of all ages from across the region.
With so much enthusiasm for sport and cricket in particular, it’s no surprise that villagers crowded in to watch their heroes in action at the grand opening. They were delighted to see their neighbours playing with some of Sri Lanka’s greats, and celebrated in festival style with drums, dancing and cheers of encouragement while the VIPs enjoyed a buffet lunch and high tea.
Like a good cricket team, the Foundation staff and volunteers – in particular the Sports Committee and Project Director Shane Bayley – came together to make sure that the event was a day to remember.
Thanks to the generosity of donors and the hard work of staff, the Seenigama oval opening unfolded as a decisive win for the Foundation and villagers, as heroes past, present and future played on the new pitch, representing a step toward a brighter future for so many.
Seenigama’s sweeping victory delights crowd
The Seenigama Cricket Club overcame their more experienced opposition in the first ever official match played on Seenigama Oval.
In a twenty/twenty match between a combined Seenigama/test cricketer team captained by volunteer Project Director Shane Bayley, and former test cricketing stars of the Sri Lankan Cricket Association (SLCA) captained by Sidath Wettimuny., the VIPs, villagers and volunteers were treated to a thrilling match.
The SLCA side made a great start in the first innings, with a total of 241 for 5. Top scorer Chandika Hathurusinga made a stunning 81 runs, hitting an amazing number of sixes.
The more experienced players seemed well positioned to win, especially with star player Murali struggled earlier in the match, with four overs for 53 runs.
But in the end the youngsters proved too strong. Opener Hashan Tillekeratne scored a fantastic century of 139 not out, with an incredible 13 sixes – earning a well deserved ‘man of the match’ title. Murali also made a strong play with an amazing 40 runs off 10 balls.
The risings star of the match was 16 year old local boy Isuru Sampath, who bagged three wickets - one was that of his mentor, Champaka Ramanayake, the others of Chandika Hathurusingha and Ruwan Kalpage. Isuru was awarded best bowler for his excellent performance.
While the former test starts put in a valiant effort, the Seenigama Cricket Club was the dominant team of the day – much to the joy of the crowd.
Final scores were: SLCA - 5 wickets for 241 in 20 overs. Chandika Hathurusingha 81, Sidath Wettimuny 21, Anura Gunawardana 49, Isuru Sampath 3 for 20
Seenigama Cricket Club - 4 wickets for 242 in 17.1 overs. Hashan Thilakaratne 139, Aravinda De Silva 38, Mutthiah Muralidaran 40.
On the spot with spectators
Darindu Nuankara, Grade 8.
Are you enjoying the game? Yes
Favourite player: Murali as he is a good batter.
What do you think of the new ground? The new ground is better than the old one, before it was brown grass, now it’s beautiful.
Favourite sport: cricket, volleyball, swimming. I’m looking forward to using the new ground to play cricket.
Thusitha, Galle School Administrator
Are you enjoying the game? Yes, I enjoy watching the cricket.
Favourite player: Charminda Vaas is a good bowler.
What do you think of the new ground? It’s good because the village boys come to play cricket. Before there were many players but they had nowhere to practice before the tsunami. It’s good experience to play hardball.
R. Dayawathi, Grandmother, 88
Are you enjoying the game? Yes very much, it’s good to watch the village boys play. My grandchildren are studying at the school, and I would like to watch them play on the ground. What do you think of the new ground? I’m very happy with it, it’s fortunate for the villagers. I feel it’s my ground too.