Rex Clementine, in the Island, 29 March 2011
England’s 1981 Ashes hero Sir Ian Botham says he will consider a walk from Point Pedro to Dondra Point to raise funds to help children in the north rebuild their lives. Botham together with Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan flew to Mankulam to witness the site where a sports complex will be built by the Foundation of Goodness, a charity supported generously by Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara. The project in the north is being funded by Laureus.
On Sunday evening, after his visit to Mankulam, Botham addressed the media in Colombo. Asked by Professor Michael Roberts whether he would undertake something like his 1000 mile walk stretching the length of Britain that he undertook to help leukemia patients a few years back, Sir Ian answered in the affirmative. “I’d have to think about that. It’s so hot here,” Botham said. But when informed that the length of Sri Lanka was 380 km he asked it to be converted into miles and on being told it was 260 miles, replied, ‘Well that’s different, I’ll consider that.’ Since the 2004 tsunami, Botham has been a frequent visitor to southern coastal village of Seenigama, where Vaas, Muralitharan and Sangakkara support a charity run by philanthropist Kushil Gunasekara. On Sunday Botham announced his plans to help the northern part of the country. ‘Everything’s riddled with bullet holes or shells and it’s been flattened. It’s a wilderness. There wasn’t a lot to see there,” Botham said. Botham was accompanied to Mankulam by Ashes winning England captain Michael Vaughan and he revealed that the cricket stars had joined the locals to play soft ball match. “Sir Ian played cricket for the first time since he retired and got an edge with his first delivery, but luckily for him the lad dropped the catch,” Vaughan laughed.
The sports complex is planned on a 50 acre land gifted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Muralitharan on a request made by the cricketer to support his charity. While the Sports Complex remains the main project, Foundation of Goodness also plans to help educate children, youth and adults.
Addressing the media briefing Muralitharan said, “After tsunami we decided to rebuild Seenigama. There were many people who came forward to help us mainly from Australia and England. Neil Fairbrother donated a lot of money. The MCC pumped in money and cricketers like Sir Ian, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh came and helped us.”
“Cricket in Sri Lanka is what it is today because of our supporters. When our supporters go through hardships, as cricketers, it’s our duty to help them,” Murali said. “No one realizes the devastation in North, because no one has seen it,” Murali added. “It’s not just providing housing and giving other needs that we are looking at. Things like computer studies are also equally important because these things will become important for people in the future.”