My grandmother told me never to play cricket for the sake of money. She wanted me to do my best and enjoy the beautiful sport – Pulina Tharanga.
Pulina Tharanga’s heartfelt story has been told before, but not many people are aware of the whole occurrence.
The story is fundamentally based on the world’s deadliest disaster, the earthquake and Tsunami that took the lives of approximately 184,000 or more people in the South Asian region.
In Sri Lanka only, the death toll crept up to 35,322 as expert investigations emphasized in the aftermath.
Furthermore, families lost homes, their wealth, loved ones and almost everything they once possessed. Children were left alone and stranded with nobody to feed as diseases spread the entire country’s coastal region.
The extent of destruction was unimaginable. No words can be used to express the fear and despair among people.
Before the 26th of December 2004, 11-year-old Pulina lived an ordinary life with his parents and his siblings in the coastal city of Galle. 5 ft 10 inches in height, Pulina attended Sri Devananda College, Ambalangoda back then.
Originally from Seenigama, Pulina had shown tremendous interest towards cricket, considering that the beautiful sport was in his blood. However, his parents were not in a position to afford any cricketing gear back then. Nevertheless, the youngster found his way to represent his school in the U11 level.
The Day of the Deadly Tsunami
Just as it looked like beautiful Sunday, everything turned gloomy before the waves first struck the coastal towns of Eastern and Southern Sri Lanka, washing away and creating panic like never before. Quite similar to Pulina’s family, thousands of other families in Sri Lanka depended on the sea to make a living.
Unfortunately though, the waves came crashing down buildings and houses, taking down entire cities. Words can’t really explain the impact it had on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
As the waves struck, Pulina’s mother was pushed into a situation where she was forced to let go of one of her children as both Pulina’s sister and his brother clung on to her arm. She resisted the high-pressure waves but failed to save herself in the process. The three kids lost their mother and almost their lives on that devastating day.
As days passed Pulina’s father felt victim at sea. An unfortunate boating accident took him away from his children.
The orphaned children were then brought up by their beloved grandmother who supported them throughout hardship.
A year later, Pulina was inspired by his enthusiasm to join the Laureus-supported Foundation of Goodness program in Seenigama. By then he had made his mind to start working towards his dreams and goals. He obtained proper cricketing gear through the foundation. Fortunately, his talent was identified by Kushal Gunasekara (Founder) and the world famous Muttiah Muralitharan.
Later when he joined Tamil Union, his grandmother supported him by helping him with match fees. In return, Pulina gave all of his earnings to his beloved grandmother.
Eventually, the Sri Lanka U19 selectors came in search of this talented young man who played cricket with nothing but absolute passion.
“There was a trial match. I scored 70+ and bagged 4 wickets. The coach then told me that I was in the 30-member U19 squad. I was absolutely deligted to hear that,” said Pulina Tharanga.
Pulina’s first tour was the quadrangular U19 series against India. Ten months later, Pulina Tharanga made it to the ICC U19 World Cup squad in Australia.
“We were very fortunate, happy and blessed to see him progress,” said Kusal Gunasekara. Even at a losing cause, Pulina’s impressive innings against South Africa in the U19 World Cup caught the attention of Sri Lanka’s finest batsman Kumar Sangakkara.
“My target is to make it to the national team. Earning money is not my goal. If I have money, I would help many people who are in need. Because when I lost everything, there were many people to help me out,” he said at an interview for ICC 360.
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