The Dilmah Blind Cricket Tournament finals was a true celebration of sportsmanship and teamwork among the visually impaired through the game of cricket. The two evenly matched teams Ranaviru of the Ranaviru Sevena (Home for Injured Soldiers) in Ragama and Shakthi Sports Club from the isolated area of Moneragala met in a nail biting match. Clawing their way back from a near defeat, the Ranaviru team took home the coveted Dilmah Cup in a gritty performance of teamwork, winning by two wickets. Both teams consisted of players of varied stages of visual imparity from partially sighted (B3), to partially blind (B2), to totally blind (B1). Dilmah also sponsored the special equipment needed for the Blind Cricket tournament; the finals were played at the Royal College grounds in Colombo.
Former international cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga who brought fame to the country by bringing home the 1996 Cricket World Cup was the chief guest at the event. He was joined by veteran cricketers Brendon Kuruppu and Upul Chandana. Speaking at the award ceremony Minister Ranatunga said that he was amazed by the talent of these differently-abled cricketers and hoped that they would get better national recognition so that our national team can represent the country with confidence at the upcoming Blind Cricket World Cup to be held in India, January 2017.
Handing over the Dilmah Trophy to the winning team, Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando said he always marveled at the talent of Sri Lanka’s differently-abled and felt that it was everyone’s responsibility to help them develop their talents. He said that Sri Lanka was known as the Cricket country and the Dilmah country and hoped that the visually impaired cricketers would gain due recognition.
Elimination matches 40 overs per side, started April 30th with 12 teams vying to get into the finals, a total of 37 matches were played including the finals. Each weekend matches were played in the two locations of Colombo and Moneragala, which gave the outstation cricketers equal opportunity to play in the matches. Not even the inclement weather conditions Sri Lanka faced in May could dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the dedicated players.
Man of the Tournament awards were handed over in the three categories of B1 - Dimuthu Ranaveera of Team Ranaviru, B2 - Upul Sanjeeva (Team Shakthi) and B3 - Chandana Deshapriya (Team Shakthi). Man of the Match was Sahan Kumara of Team Ranaviru of the B1 category for achieving 45 runs from 44 deliveries. Each participant received a certificate while the special winners further got medals and cash prizes. Ranaviru SC won the toss and elected to field. Shakthi SC scored 243 in 33.3 overs with Ranaviru achieving 247 in 37.5 overs.
Dilmah also donated two complete cricket equipment kits to the Brilliant Cricket Team from Batticaloa and the Jaffna Sports Club.
The President of the Visually Handicapped Association Norbert Silva thanked Dilmah for sponsoring and organizing the tournament which helps illuminate the skills and talents of the visually impaired cricketers and for giving them an opportunity to play in a national level tournament.
The MJF Charitable Foundation has throughout the years assisted the visually impaired through initiatives such as the Knowledge Chest, launched on World Braille Day in 2014, with the aim of voice recording popular books giving the visually impaired access to these popular books while countering the high cost of Braille books. The Charitable Foundation further supports the Subhagya Vidyalaya - the School for the Hearing and Visual Impaired in Monaragala as well as working closely with the School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana.
The annual Dilmah Blind Cricket Tournament is a celebration of the abilities of the differently-abled sportsmen, a cause close to the heart of Dilmah Founder and Settlor of the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation, Merrill J. Fernando. His philosophy that business is a matter of human service is at the core of his commitment towards dignifiedly empowering the differently-abled in Sri Lanka. Dilmah has sponsored the event since 2008 and took over the organizing as well this year. The tournament gives all teams registered with the Association an opportunity to participate at a national level cricket tournament and, is used as a means to select players for the national team.