Sharjah: Former Sri Lanka captain Anura Tennekoon played his cricket as an amateur, much like those who play the game in the UAE.
Despite leading the team at the first World Cup, he played in an era when his nation was yet to get Test status and had to take time off from his job to play the game.
Speaking to Gulf News of his early days when he struggled to hold down a job and play cricket at the same time, he said: "It is very difficult to play international sport on a part time basis as you have to train and practice hard and this involves a lot of time.
"So if employees have good sportsmen they must be given time off.
"Unless they do that it will be hard for those players to compete with fully professional players."
Most of the UAE players struggle to make time to practice due to their job commitments.
Tennekoon, now manager of Sri Lanka, was no different.
"I had to hold on to the job and play cricket," he said.
"I played as an amateur finding time in the evening for practice and it was also a time when opportunities to play international cricket was also few."
Tennekoon played in only four one-day internationals although he is hailed as one of the finest and most stylish batsmen Sri Lanka has ever produced.
"The realisation that how tough it is to play the game as an amateur has to come from the state or country they are representing," he said. "The board can also hire players on a contractual basis and help them play full time." Tennekoon's top score came in his last one dayer, a fighting 59 runs against New Zealand in the 1979 World Cup at Trent Bridge.
When asked how difficult it was to retire after hitting a half century in his last innings, Tennekoon said: "At that stage I was the father of two children and I thought I must concentrate on my job to go up the ladder.
"I was working in the marketing section of a tobacco company and they gave me all the encouragement when I was playing. After the 1979 World Cup I had to take the decision to concentrate fully on my job."