’96 champs to embark on charity tour to Australia

Monday, 3 October 2016 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


From left: CEO SP Solutions Neidra Williams, Director Marketing SP Solutions Jehan Bastians, Partner at Austin Group Manjula Kulatunga, Former National Cricketer Asanka Gurusinha, President of the Sri Lankan Cricketers Association Ken de Alwis -Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera


From left: Director Marketing SP Solutions Jehan Bastians, Partner at Austin Group Manjula Kulatunga and Consultant at Winfield Finance Ron Meerwald 

By Madushka Balasuriya

The 1996 Cricket World Cup winners will for the first time in nearly 20 years reunite on the pitch, as they embark on a tour of Australia later this month, it has been announced.

The tour, which is being sponsored by Australian Strategic Partnerships, formerly Strategic Partnership Solutions, will begin on 29 October with a T20 match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the ’96 champs will take on an XI comprised of former Sri Lankan Test players domiciled in Sydney and Victoria. The second and final T20 match on 1 November will take place in Melbourne, and will see the ’96 heroes face a separate selection of former Sri Lankan Test players domiciled in Melbourne.

“This idea was conceptualised on 17 March 2016, which was the day of the final in 1996, as the team was celebrating the 20-year anniversary at the SSC,” revealed former national player Asanka Gurusinha. “It was a fantastic night, and it was about two in the morning when I mentioned the idea to some of the players, and asked if they were interested in coming to Australia to play a match and have some fun. Needless to say, they all said yes.”

Gurusinha added that there was still a lot of work to be done to make the idea into a reality, as he said “nobody was really taking it too seriously at 2-3 in the morning,” but noted that once all the sponsors - with special thanks reserved for Australian Strategic Partnerships and Cricket Australia - came on board it became even “bigger than we all expected.” 

Along with the matches, there will be two gala dinners. The first will be on 30 October in Sydney and another larger one will take place on 5 November; ‘A Night with the Champs’ is expected to see 700 guests in attendance and will take place at The Grand on Cathies in Melbourne.

All proceeds from the tour and its corresponding events will go towards a trust fund which was set up for past cricketers earlier this year. The Sri Lanka Cricketers Association since its inception had for years assisted former cricketers both financially and medically, thanks in part to contributions from Sri Lanka Cricket. 

However in 2011, the SLC’s then administration brought a halt to the contributions, which led to Aravinda De Silva coming up with the idea of creating a trust fund for past cricketers in association with the ’96 winners to continue the good work that the SLCA had started.

Funds for the trust were first raised in March when the ’96 winners took on an All Stars XI in an exhibition match in Colombo and now the tour of Australia is set to be an even bigger draw.

“The 96 group of players have their own lives to lead and their own businesses, but they have banded together to ensure that past cricketers have a better life,” said President of the Sri Lankan Cricketers Association Ken de Alwis.

“The reason the SLCA was formed was to ensure the welfare of past cricketers. We are also the spokespeople for current cricketers. So this trust fund which has been established between the ’96 WC winners and the SLCA will definitely help cricketers without whom the foundation for this country’s cricketing success would not be possible.”

Tickets can be bought at the sales office in Melbourne which is situated at 5a Hartnett Close Mulgrave Vic 3170, and the Colombo branch which is located at Level 1, No. 9-1/2, School Lane, Kollupitiya, Col.03.