The Sunday Leader

Campus Cricket Coming To Sri Lanka

By Richard Browne

Sri Lanka is gearing up to host the finals of Asia’s first intercontinental University Twenty/20 cricket tournament. The winners of the university domestic competitions in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, will meet at Colts Cricket Club, Colombo from the 19th to the 23rd April, for a knockout tournament with the winners having the opportunity to take on the Lankan 1996 World Cup winning team and a host of potentially life changing prizes for the star players.
The tournament is being sponsored by Red Bull, the energy drink, and has caught the attention of Gautam Gambhir the Indian opener, who has whole heartily lent his support to the event.
“The reason Red Bull India and I came up with this event is because today college cricket isn’t taken too seriously. There are great players out there, but they don’t really have a platform. This tournament will give them that,” said Gambhir.
Universities for so long the lifeblood of international cricket teams are simply not producing international cricketers like they used to. Academic expectations have spiraled and for those who are serious about their cricket in 6th form don’t have the time to dedicate to their studies to get the marks to satisfy the university entrance boards.
Former Sri Lankan Test player, Brendon Kuruppu who will coach Colombo University the Sri Lankan representatives of the tournament, after winning last year’s inter university Twenty/20 cup, agrees:
“In the 60’s and 70’s you had trainee doctors and accountants representing Ceylon, while still doing their undergraduate studies. This created a really vibrant cricketing university culture and also created leaders.
Sanga and three of his year played premiership cricket while studying at Colombo University, but since then Sri Lankan uni’s’ have not produced a Sri Lankan cricketer. I really think this tournament could be the launch pad we need to get Sri Lankan uni cricket back to where it belongs,” said Kuruppu.
England is a good role model. During the days of amateur and professionals, which ended in the early 1960’s Cambridge and Oxford Universities, would often provide half of the English team. As the world got busier though talented sportsmen could no longer have a sporting and business career or at uni spend the relevant time on a degree and on the oval to excel in both.
Thus the MCCU came into fruition, an MCC supported bid to get British university cricket back on a pinnacle. It has been a success. MCCU Cardiff for example has twenty players on its books, all aspiring professionals and all getting degrees at either at the University of Cardiff or Glamorgan.
This is creating hardened sportsmen who also thorough their degrees have a rounded understanding of the world. There are six such institutions, all with academies, top level coaching and a very competitive inter uni completions, throughout England.
“There is far too much of an onus on A-level grades in Sri Lankan universities. We need to get all-rounders in, who can excel outside the classroom. A university education is about so much more than a degree it’s training for life and I would like to see the universities here training cricketers for a life in top level sport,”said Kuruppu..
One of the guiding principles of the tournament is to give top university cricketers some international exposure.
“We strongly believe that hosting a south Asian competition will hugely benefit the current crop of campus cricketers,” said Gambhir. “The exposure to international cricket will help their game, but also give them an understanding of the mental strength required to succeed in foreign conditions.
The tournament is the perfect barometer for the players and coaches to see if they have the mental toughness to push on in the game.”
The player of the finals will get a summer contract to play in England. All the teams will have ex international players as their coaches; there will be workshops and coaching sessions for the players, media exposure and a taste of the pressures and pleasures of playing competitive cricket against teams from different countries, for very real awards.
This is Red Bulls first sponsored cricket tournament and Sri Lankan Communications Manager Shobhana Kagoo is very excited about the possibilities:
“For us this is only the beginning. The qualifying tournament has been a real success in India and the people who run Sri Lankan university cricket are really excited too. 32 teams tried to qualify and we will soon be down to three, that is what top level sport is all about- the cream coming to the top and that is what we are creating.
We want to expand to get university students from all over the cricket playing world in one place playing meaningful cricket against each other. Twenty/20 is vibrant, fun, young and exciting, and we want to tap into this to create a long lasting tournament that will benefit cricket and aspiring cricketers.”
Too many children are having to make decisions on about their futures before they have enough experience of the world. Do I concentrate on sport or my studies? For those who are competent at both tournaments such as these give more time to decide. If cricket is the answer, Campus Cricket provides a tangible contest of skill and character and one presumes will help to end fierce arguments around the dining tables of the subcontinent.

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