The 2015 Murali Harmony Cup

The Murali Harmony Cup is always our favorite time of the year here at FoG. This year, the 4th Edition of the Tournament took place from the 7th to the 11th of October across 5 venues in the north. It takes months of hard work and preparation to successfully organize this monumental event and yet, for the fourth time running, the dedication and passion from the FoG and Red Dot Team, enthusiastic volunteers and incredible sponsors along with the Sri Lanka Army have managed to make it a reality.

The Murali Harmony Cup is a unique tournament conceptualized to develop and encourage school cricketers in Sri Lanka’s rural areas, especially in the war-affected north and east, as well as promoting community-building, the development of cross-cultural friendships, and the creation of goodwill and harmony within Sri Lankan society.

The tournament, developed and managed by the Foundation of Goodness and Red Dot Tours, was first staged in 2011 in Seenigama with five overseas schools playing against three local teams from Seenigama, Matale and Jaffna.

The following year, in 2012, Sri Lanka was hosting the ICC World Cricket Twenty20 and this presented a unique opportunity to change the focus of the tournament towards domestic schools. Cricket legends Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, both trustees of the Foundation of Goodness, who had been working in the North and East that year with their respective charities, recommended that we become more ambitious and take the entire tournament to the north.

Mahela and Kumar argued that the best way to develop cricket in the North and East was by inviting teams from all corners of Sri Lanka to play in towns like Kilinochchi, Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Mankulam. It would encourage and inspire talented cricketers as well as providing a unique opportunity for cricketers from the South to gain a life enriching experience.

By 2014, the number of teams participating in the tournament expanded to include 16 Schoolboy teams and 8 Ladies Club teams, giving even more teams and a total of 360 players an opportunity to be included.

This year, the tournament was played across the grounds at Jaffna Central College, St. Patrick’s College, Kilinochchi Central College, Mankulam Maha Vidiyalayam and the IODR Oval at Oddusuddan Mahavidiyalayam. 16 Schoolboy Teams and 8 Ladies Club Teams participated and the finals took place at the IODR Oval which was specifically developed during the introduction of the Murali Cup to the North in 2012.

These teams are specifically picked to represent cricketers from all across Sri Lanka, and give them the rare opportunity to face off against each other, challenging rural players to step and let their true colours shine against urban schools which have earned themselves reputations as the top dogs of school cricket. This year, we were very happy to introduce a new Up-Country Combined Schools cricket team specially picked with the support of MHC Sponsor Finlays.

Prior to the start of play on the 7th, Kumar Sangakkara had a special meet and greet with all the teams and players prior when he officially opened the event on Tuesday the 6th of October at the Kilinochchi Central Grounds. Taking the time to meet all the teams and have a special group discussion with them about cricket and his own experiences which brought with it a wealth of knowledge. During his speech opening the event, Kumar urged the youngsters to really use this opportunity to make new friends and get to know each other. He emphasized that while playing the game with all your heart and passion was very important, the real goal here was to experience something new through the time in the north and learning more about each other to create closer bonds across languages and cultures.

Kumar is no stranger to development and reconciliation in the north. Along with Murali and Mahela, he has been visiting the post-war region as part of the Murali Harmony Cup as well as other development projects conducted with FoG over the past four years. One of his principal projects with us has been the ‘Sanga’s Bikes for Life’ campaign which has now delivered over 3,700 bikes to the north. During an intermission on the 1st day of play, Kumar took the opportunity to present 20 bikes (sponsored by BBDO) as part of his campaign to students who have no means of transport and have to walk long distances to and from school everyday.

Our favorite part of the tournament is when these rural teams which are often neglected or overlooked create major upsets by unexpectedly besting the well known and well trained urban teams, and the 2015 tournament did not fail to deliver its fair share of these unexpected turn of events. The very first day proved this, as Kumar Sangakkara watched on.

Jaffna Combined College produced the first major upset of the Murali Harmony Cup with a three-wicket victory against D.S Senanayake College at St. Patrick’s College on the 7th Wednesday, the very first day of the tournament. Jaffna Combined bowled out D.S Senanayake for just 121 after a brilliant all-round display in the field, led by opening bowler S. Piratheepan who claimed 3 for 22 from 3.3 overs. D.S Senanayake College, one of the tournament favourites, mounted a spirited fight-back in the field before Jaffna clinched victory off the last ball of the game.

Kilinochchi & Mullaitivu Combined Schools stunned a strong St. Anthony’s College Wattala with a surprise five-wicket victory on the second day of the Murali Harmony Cup on Thursday. The Combined Team took control of the game with a brilliant display in the field, dismissing St Anthony’s College for just 100 with Arunuthayan Anchayan (3 for 11) and Mugunthan Nithushan sharing six wickets. Middle order batsman Ragunthan Rajeevan then guided K & M Combined home with a responsible 42 from 43 balls.

Meanwhile at St. Patrick’s College in Jaffna, there was a nail-biting encounter between D.S Senanayake College and Maliyadeva College that ended in a tie. D.S. Senanayake College eventually won the game in the Super Over. Opener Thimila Vidyasekara was their star performer with a 37-ball 61 in the first innings.

At the end of the day on Friday the 9th, Ananda College, Richmond College, D.S. Senanayake College and St. John’s College Jaffna had all qualified for the Murali Harmony Cup semi-finals which took place on Saturday the 10th.

Defending champions Ananda College topped Group A with a clinical performance against St. Anthony’s College Wattala, winning by 85 runs to finish undefeated. The highlight of their victory was a brutal last over assault from left-hander Kaveeshka Anjula, who crashed 21 runs including three sixes to finish unbeaten on 42 from 25 balls.

St. John’s College Jaffna were the only other team unbeaten in the group stages, winning a tight game against a strong Debarawewa Central College team. The local team battled hard to put up a most 123-run target but were then brilliant in the field, especially their opening bowlers NBC Kulendran (3 for 23) and P. Thuvaragaseelan (2 for 25).

D.S. Senanayake College had to work the hardest for their semi-final berth after a surprise first game defeat, holding their nerve in a Super Over on Thursday and then defeating Monaragala Combined by 13 runs. Jaffna Combined tried hard to snatch away D.S. Senanayake’s semi-final berth, finishing on equal points after defeating Maliyadeva College but falling short in terms of their Net Run Rate.

P. Niroshan was outstanding with the bat for Jaffna Combined, striking 70 from 50 deliveries with six fours and four sixes. The final qualifier was Richmond College in Group C, stationed at the IODR Oval in Oddusuddan, the venue for the final on Sunday, who were too strong for Mannar-Vavuniya Combined.

Opener Liyam Chamikara top scorer for Richmond College with 53 from 46 deliveries and then K. K. Kaveen was superb with the ball, dismissing the top four batsman to finish with 4 for 10.

A very special guest was also present at the grounds on Friday. National cricketer Sachithra Senanayake, made a visit to the north just to participate in the tournament and meet the teams. He enthusiastically watched all the games and took the time to speak with the teams one on one to talk about his own experiences and answer the questions put to him with good sound advice.

At the semi-finals on the 10th, it was Ananda College the defending champions from 2014 that played the opening game and they were given a spirited fight by a lively D.S. Senanayake College team that threatened at times to take control of the game.

Indeed, D.S. Senanayake College started brilliantly with a 89-run opening stand between Thimila Vidyasekara (60) and Nimesh Rathnayake (32), but then collapsed to finish with a modest 146 for 7. Dileepa Jayalath was the chief architect of the spectacular collapse, taking 5 for 12 from his four over spell in the middle of the innings.

In reply, Ananda College made an unconvincing start, slipping to 30 for 3 and 46 for 4, before a commanding 56 from 34 balls with four sixes from Kaveeshka Anjun, a rising star. St. Johns College Jaffna had played brilliantly in the first round to remain unbeaten and they looked on course for another strong performance as their openers added 58 for the first wicket.

However, Avindu Theeksana ripped through their middle order with a spell of 5 for 15 from four overs and St. John’s College were left with the difficult task of defending a below-par 120 for 9. Richmond College took control of the run chase from the start and despite a mini-wobble during the middle of the innings, they cruised home with seven wickets and nine balls to spare.

This meant that the final showdown with Ananda College facing off against Richmond College, to be played at the IODR Oval in Oddusudan, would be a repeat of the 2014 final.

In the women’s competition, Combined Girls Schools, a collection of talented U19 players, qualified for the final alongside Nittambuwa Ladies.

The finals which took place at the Oddusuddan IODR Oval in Mullaitivu was a truly exciting day. Muthiah Muralidaran, whom the event is named for, arrived at the venue to eagerly watch the teams who had fought their way to the top to face each other one final time. His keen eye kept a close watch on the field as he admired a well-executed play or exclaimed over a missed opportunity.

Ananda College, unbeaten in the competition thus far, struggled with the bat after winning the toss and posted only a modest 138 run target.

They started positively with a 31-run opening stand but then lost three quick wickets, slumping to 32 for 3 and then 50 for 4. Throughout the tournament their middle order, led by the outstanding Kaveeshka Anjula (28), have rescued Ananda College but this time, there could not fully repair the top order damage.

Richmond College also started unconvincingly, slipping to 32 for 3, before Kalindu Siriwardana steadied the innings with 36 from 35 balls. With Richmond College on 84 for 3, the game looked lost for Ananda College but then Anjula’s dismissal of Siriwardana sparked a collapse. Seven wickets tumbled for just 29 runs and Ananda College were left jubilant for the second consecutive year.

Dinuka Jayaratne was outstanding with the ball for Ananda College, taking 3 for 10 from his four overs to follow a useful 26 off 22 balls earlier in the afternoon.

Defending Champions Ananda College won the fourth Murali Harmony Cup by 24 runs. Richmond College, also the runners-up in 2014, were left ruing a spectacular late collapse having appeared to be on course for victory mid-way through their run chase.

In the women’s competition, Nittambuwa Ladies clinched a 5-wicket victory over Combined Girls Schools, which included talented U19 players from different clubs. Combined Girls Schools struggled after winning the toss, slipping to 27 for 2 before a 44-run stand between Harshita Madavi (25) and Parami Mahinsala (29). Once their third-wicket stand was broken though, they collapsed and were eventually restricted to 109 for 7 in their 20 overs.

Nittambuwa Ladies always looked comfortable with Shanika Tharushi top-scoring with 25 and they reached the target in the final over of the innings.

As this amazing tournament drew to a close, we at the FoG and Red Dot Tours would like to extend a special thanks to those who made this amazing tournament a success. Principal Sponsor Lanka Graphite, Co-sponsors Tokyo Cement and Fortune/ Pyramid Wilmar, Associate sponsors MAS, Access, KIA and Finlays, Banking partner NDB and Print media partner the Wijaya Group. All of this would also not have been possible without the incredible support we received from the Sri Lanka Army in ensuring that all logistical matters proceeded smoothly. A huge thank you also goes out to Muthiah Muralidaran, Kumar Sangakkara and Sachithra Senanayake who took time off their busy schedules to come up for the cricket tournament and inspire the young players.

We also cannot forget the players along with their coaches and officials who came from all around Sri Lanka to spend a week in the north, playing very enthusiastic cricket while making new friends and memories that would last them a lifetime. Last but not least, our most sincere appreciation to the staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly day and night for months to make this event a success.

With the combined effort and support from all of those mentioned here, we are honoured to have conducted this tournament for the fourth consecutive year, in the name of developing rural cricket and showcasing hidden talent, while also creating friendship and understanding across geographical, language and ethnic barriers to create harmony and reconciliation across our resplendent isle.


14th October 2015



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