Sri Lanka’s biggest brand is their cricket, says JAT chief

Monday, 8 March 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Dinesh Chandimal (left), Akila Dananjaya (centre) and Angelo Mathews (right) of Sri Lanka celebrate the dismissal of Evin Lewis of West Indies during the 2nd T20i match between Sri Lanka and West Indies at Coolidge Cricket Ground on 5 March in Osbourn, Antigua and Barbuda – AFP  

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

JAT Holdings Managing Director Aelian Gunawardene
Sri Lanka Cricket Secretary Mohan De Silva - Pix by Ruwan Walpola

JAT Holdings who has tied up with Sri Lanka Cricket as the official overseas sponsors of the national cricket team are of the belief that the game of cricket is the biggest than any brand in the country.

“Right now all of us will agree that the Sri Lanka cricket team is going through a lean period. A lot of things have been said about the team on social media and the press, and they can uplift the team. That’s what we expect as Sri Lankans because to me this is our biggest brand, certainly not JAT, not Ceylon Tea, not Dialog, our biggest brand for me is Sri Lankan cricket,” said JAT Holdings Managing Director Aelian Gunawardene at the official overseas team sponsors of Sri Lanka cricket media conference held at the JAT Holdings auditorium in Pannipitiya on Thursday. 

“This is what we have to really uplift. As administrators and sponsors we have a role to play and as the press you have a huge role to play. If we all get together we can help our team reach newer heights.”

“In 2016 we were going through a similar lean patch when JAT came around and sponsored the Sri Lanka-Australia series. I remember the (SLC) President actually mentioned during a lunch that all you could expect is two days of rain in every game so that we might be able to draw one game. But we went ahead and won that series 3-0. That was the revival of Sri Lanka cricket after the glory days of 1996,” recalled Gunawardene. Answering a question what was the driving motive behind JAT Holdings wanting to partner SLC as the official overseas team sponsor, Gunawardene replied, “We are based in the Asian countries region Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Maldives and so on. One of things that bind the Asians together is cricket. As a Sri Lankan cricket sponsor in India you are recognised as the king of Sri Lanka it’s a brand that we don’t sell as much as we should be.”

“When a team is down is when we need to support it as much as possible. When everything is going well there so many others who are willing to back the sport, it is when they are going through a lean patch that’s when we really need to support the game, the country and our players. That’s the reason for JAT getting involved.”

“It’s unfortunate that other than Dialog and very few companies, people don’t back sports. Abroad as you will know sport is something that a lot of companies clamour to sponsor and we are very proud that companies like Dialog and a few others like Singer have really come on board to sponsor the sport in Sri Lanka. I like to JAT Holdings amongst them as a company that has put a lot of money on sports,” he said.

Gunawardene also reminded that JAT Holdings was very proud to be the only Sri Lankan company to sponsor a Lanka Premier League (LPL) team. They sponsored the Kandy Tuskers in the recently concluded LPL.

“It was such a well-run tournament under trying times with COVID-19 being around, that’s why we were really proud to be associated with LPL. We wanted to own the team and negotiations were going ahead but the timings were not right so we sponsored the team.”

Gunawardene revealed that JAT Holdings has also signed up for the upcoming home Test series against Bangladesh to be one of the official sponsors.

“We have also gone to the next level in discussions with SLC for stadium branding, upgrading of the SLC headquarters office, naming rights of the stadium not only as sponsor of Sri Lanka cricket but also to upgrade cricket,” Gunawardene stated.

SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva called for everyone who loves the game of cricket to pull in one direction and help uplift the game.

“Cricket became a virtual religion after we won the World Cup in 1996. Since then we’ve seen enough ups and downs in our performances but in recent times we have been going through very unfortunate experiences,” said De Silva.

“It is our duty all stakeholders of Sri Lanka cricket not only the administrators, the sponsors, the cricket loving public of Sri Lanka and the media instead of pulling in different directions all of us should shoulder the wheel and help Sri Lanka cricket at this moment.”