Historic Match in the U.S. Marks Launch of Cricket Diplomacy

The Sri Lankan Cricket Team is pictured with the Embassy of Sri Lanka, USA staff at the start of a dinner honoring the team.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya welcomes the 400 dinner guests for the Gala dinner with the Sri Lanka Cricket Team.

Mrs. Wickramasuriya, Richard Kaplan, the Mayor of Lauderhill, Florida, Ambassador Wickramasuriya and Donald Lockerbie, Chief Executive Officer of USA Cricket  Association at the benefit dinner hosted by the Sri Lanka Development Foundation.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya meets with Sri Lankan cricket fans at the Lauderhill, Florida cricket grounds as the Sri Lanka Cricket team defeats New Zealand on May 23, 2010.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya meets with Sri Lankan cricket fans at the Lauderhill, Florida cricket grounds.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya meets with Sri Lankan cricket fans.

Sri Lankan cricket fans cheers for the Sri Lankan Cricket Team as it scores against New Zealand.

Dr. Amarasinghe holding up a signed cricket bat he bought at auction, along with Mrs. Priyanga Wickramasuriya and Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya at the Sri Lanka Development Foundations gala dinner with the Sri Lanka Cricket Team.

Mrs Priyanga Wickramasuriya, Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya and former Indian Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar meet at the Lauderhill cricket grounds.

Sri Lankan Cricket Team captain Kumar Sangakkara tells the dinner audience how cricket can play a vital role in healing the wounds of conflict in Sri Lanka.

Vinoda Basnayake, a Washington D.C. attorney and board member of the Sri Lanka Development Foundation, explains the Foundation’s work to dinner guests.

The dancers of Channa Upuli entertain guests during dinner.

Concert Pianist Rohan De Silva, a native of Sri Lanka, playing the national anthems of Sri Lanka and the United States to open the cricket dinner hosted by the Sri Lanka Development Foundation.

Ruwan Weerasekera’s haunting violin pieces entertained guests during and after the dinner.

Photos by Sagara Lakmal De Mel and Rajinda Gunasena

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., -- Members of the Sri Lankan National Cricket Team were guests of honor at a May 22 charity dinner for nearly 400 people co-hosted by the Sri Lankan Development foundation and Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States.

The dinner was the highpoint of a historic cricket weekend, when two teams - Sri Lanka and New Zealand - played two cricket games in the first-ever International Cricket Council match in the United States.

Nearly 5,000 people attended the two matches at the cricket grounds at the Central Broward County Regional Park in nearby Lauderhill, Fla. Sri Lanka lost the May 22 opening game to New Zealand, but stormed back on May 23 to take a decisive victory.

During a Sunday, May 23 awards ceremony, the two teams shared the Pearls Cup trophy.

County officials said it was the largest crowd so far for the stadium.

Some Sri Lankans flew in for the matches from across the United States and Canada. Others drove hours to be part of the historic event.

The matches were organized by USA Cricket, ICC and the national teams of Sri Lanka and New Zealand, with assistance from the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington, D.C.

“This historic event shows just how strongly Sri Lankans support their cricket team,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “And this benefit dinner shows just how willingly Sri Lankans support a good cause.”

Nearly 400 friends of Sri Lankan cricket attended the dinner at the Harbor Beach Marriot Resort Hotel. Dinner guests included a broad cross-section of the Sri Lankan community in the U.S., including many Sinahlese, Tamil and Muslim expatriates.

The dinner featured dancing by Channa Upuli, the famed Sri Lankan dance troupe, Rohan De Silva, the Sri Lankan-born concert pianist and violinist Ruwan Weerasekera.

Sri Lankan Tourism and Sri Lankan Ailines were both instrumental in arranging for the travel of the dinner performers.

“We want this to be the first of many such events,” the Ambassador said. “We have seen how beautiful Broward County’s cricket stadium is, and of course the beach here makes us feel like we are in Sri Lanka.”

Team captain Kumar Sangakkara spoke of the team’s enthusiasm to play in the historic matches. He commented on the broader role that sport and cricket could play in healing wounds in Sri Lanka left by 25 years of conflict.

His speech drew an enthusiastic response from the dinner guests, who were able to chat, get autographs and have their pictures taken with team members.

In addition to the Sri Lankan team, team officials from Sri Lanka and New Zealand, as well as ICC board members and USA Cricket attended the dinner. Gladstone Dainty,  president of the USA Cricket Association, was also in attendance.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya presented a commemorative plaque to mark the history-making event to Nishantha Ranatunga, Honorary Secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricket board.

Anura Tennakoon, manager of the Sri Lanka team, presented a Sri Lanka Cricket Team necktie to Donald Lockerbie, the Chief Executive Officer of USA Cricket Association.

A number of Broward County and local elected leaders also took part, including Richard Kaplan, the Mayor of Lauderhill, where the cricket stadium is located.

The Foundation, which is an independent, non-profit organization, also auctioned off cricket equipment signed by the team, and a raffle raised further funds for the Foundation’s project.

Proceeds from the dinner will help launch the construction of a world-class cricket ground in Northern Sri Lanka.

Dinner guests remarked how the event brought together Sri Lankans and other cricket fans from across the county.

Indeed, during the Sunday match, Ambassador Wickramasuriya was able to met with a large number of Sri Lankan fans in the stadium. Fans praised the event and the dinner and expressed a desire for more matches in the U.S.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

01 June 2010



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