Sharjah: Muttiah Muralitharan, the legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner and the world’s highest wicket-taker, inspired 67 budding cricketers from the UAE during Desert Cubs Cricket Academy’s annual summer tour of Sri Lanka this month.
Muralitharan not only handed over the trophies to the top performers of the tour, but also spoke at length on the qualities that are needed to become an outstanding cricketer. “Dedication to the game, commitment to improve your skills and a never-ending passion are three factors needed to be successful,” said Muralitharan, who played alongside Presley Polonnowita, the head coach of the Desert Cubs’, at the junior level.
Desert Cubs Academy, who finished runners-up in the Inter Academy Cricket tournament twice in succession, embarked on the Sri Lanka tour from August 2 to 15 to gain exposure.
“We divided the players into Under-11, 12, 13, 15 and 19 age groups. Some of the prominent and current UAE players such as Rithick Bugchi, Varunan Perera and Ashley Lobo, who took part in the UAE Under-16 team tour to Thailand, UAE Under-19 player Kirk Vedhasinghe and his sister Kyna Vedhasinghe, who is a regular member of the UAE women’s team, were part of the team.
The tour was spread over Colombo, Kandy and Galle, and each team got the opportunity to play seven 30-over games, while some senior teams participated even in 40-over games. All the matches were played against the best schools in Sri Lanka such as St Peter’s, St Joseph’s, Nalanda College in Colombo, Trinity, St Anthony’s and Dharmaraja College in Kandy and Mahinda, Sri Sumangala College and Seenigama Orphanage in Galle.
Our Under-13 team emerged as the best team of the tour, winning five matches out of seven, while Under-15 came second after securing four victories,” said Polonnowita.
Their practice sessions were also attended by Sri Lankan opening bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and Nuwan Zoysa. “These two players provided invaluable tips to our budding pacers and mingled well with them. They taught them how to swing the ball effectively and use conditions to their benefit,” said Polonnowita.
The tour was managed by Aaron Vedhasinge and organised by Anoj Silva. The main sponsors of the tour were Hassani group of companies and Sharjah Airport.
Ramal Perera was judged as the best player of the junior category for his leadership in the success of Under 13 team and for piling up 192 runs with the bat. In the senior category, Renaldi Dias was named the best player for his 162 runs as an opener and 12 victims behind the stumps. All the games were officiated by Sri Lanka Cricket Board umpires, while some of the games were watched by some prominent past and present Sri Lanka cricketers.
“This tour was organised to give our young cricketers an opportunity to play against some of the top-quality players in a Test -laying country and to make them understand their own strengths and weaknesses while performing against top-quality teams. We have returned rich in experience, expanding the players’ knowledge of the game with tips from top players too,” said Polonnowita.