Cricket with crab & charity

Lankan cricketers getting ‘Trekurious’ 

Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara at their restaurant in Colombo

COLOMBO: “Cricket. Or crab. Or charity?” Standing outside the 400-year old Dutch hospital in the heart of Colombo, Rukmankan Sivaloganathan, a banker turned entrepreneur was being munificent with dinner options. Swank cars and red auto rickshaws were whizzing past, the waves were thrashing raucously nearby and Rukman’s words were getting addled in the clamor of the capital city.
The evening was balmy, the wind clement and I curious. T20 World Cup is round the bend and cricket certainly is the city’s flavor. I wish I could order a ladleful of cricket with crab and charity thrown. In Colombo, I was getting gluttonous. “Can I have all three?” I threw in a greedy question. “Yes, you can have all three. Let’s step into the Ministry of Crab,” Rukman happily agreed, as if pulling an incredible cricket dinner experience out of his fedora.
What was once a Dutch hospital housed in the oldest building in the Fort area is now a ritzy shopping and eating address in town. And under the red tiled roof is the Ministry of Crab, cricketer Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena’s restaurant famed for its butter/garlic/pepper/steamed crab (You can also order the Oh My God (OMG) crab which weighs more than 1.5 kilos!). The Ministry is functional in its décor, the colors orange, the seating communal and cutlery is laid on the table only if you insist – crabs are meant to be devoured by hand.
So says Sangakkara who that evening was sitting in his restaurant after a rigorous training regimen. Ask Sangakkara what his favorite crab dish is and he’d sing paeans to the butter crab which is best served chilled with warm butter. However, that evening, it was not crab that was served on the dinner table. It was cricket. Obviously. Not T20 cricket, though. It is charity through cricket. A cricketing cheer that Sangakkkara and Jayawardena aim to spread through supporting cricketing schools and nurture talented cricketers in Sri Lanka’s under-funded rural outstations.
The outfit: Mahela Jayawardena Foundation. The first priority: Provision of team kit bags for U13, U15, U17 and U19 and supply of coconut matting. The aim: To raise funds to nurture cricket at the rural school level and metamorphose Sri Lanka into a cricketing giant. The intentions are noble, the dreams colossal but funds are always the big hurdle. And it is for this that the cricketers joined hands with Rukmankan Sivaloganathan, the co-founder and CEO of Trekurious (www.trekurious.com), a marketplace for premium experiential tours and activities in Asia.
Rukman can not only crunch numbers with ease, in one long breath he can run a marathon, in another climb a mountain and throw in satire in a conversation. With an INSEAD MBA on his shelf, he has created innovative ideas to raise funds for the cricket charity.
This charity is certainly not a mundane method of fund raising. Here, during the T20 World Cup, cricket will mingle with charity in celebrity style.
On September 24, you pick up the golfing iron, hop onto an air taxi and join either Sangakarra or Jayawardena’s team and play a round of competitive golf at the picturesque Victoria Golf Club in Digana, Kandy.
On October 2, you can go ‘crabby’ with Sangakarra and Jayawardena and celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa, who owns Nihonbashi, a premier chain of Japanese restaurants. The evening will begin with private cocktails and canapés at Nihonbashi and then crabs at Ministry of Crab. There will be a dash of camaraderie, photo-ops and autographs.
Or, if you can spin a ball, or want to learn how to spin a the red twine ball, on October 2 join the Muttiah Muralidaran’s Masterclass – the legendary cricketer will host six fans at his favorite hunting ground, the Singhalese Sports Club, for a round of spin bowling class, net session and lunch. The proceeds will go to the Foundation of Goodness, an NGO committed to empowering the underprivileged rural communities in Sri Lanka.
I know I do not stand a chance against Murali, I am not perfect at teeing, but as I sat in the Ministry of Crab listening to Sangakkara talk animatedly about a new cricketing ground, about bikes for girls so that they can ride to school (they have so far donated 2,500 bikes), cricket tournaments in war-torn North Sri Lanka and another T20 League being played by young boys and girls in the shadow of the ICC T20 World Cup, I realized that cricket is not only about white flannels, red twine ball and an oval green – for Sangakarra, Jayawardena and Murali, cricket is about hope. Cricket is a means to reconciliation.
It is the cricketers’ way of giving back to society. Cricket is about a better tomorrow for those who hold the tomorrow in their hands. That moment, I ignored the crab sizzling in the wok. I thought of a bunch of little boys with new cricket kits in hand and hope in their eyes. That thought had me curious. Trekurious, to be precise!

Preeti Verma Lal

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