x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE medium pacer gets his turn after eight years

Manjula Guruge has impressed since being eligible to play for national cricket team.

The UAE seam bowler Manjula Guruge, centre, has taken six wickets from three matches in the ACC Trophy. Satish Kumar / The National
The UAE seam bowler Manjula Guruge, centre, has taken six wickets from three matches in the ACC Trophy. Satish Kumar / The National

ABU DHABI // It took eight years for Manjula Guruge to get his chance to play for the UAE, but he says it was worth the wait.

It is not because he was overlooked for selection but because the laws of the ICC are such that he had to wait to become eligible under residency rules.

The rules state that two players can be selected by a country to become eligible after four years living there and any others have to wait for seven years.

"It's like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," the Sri Lankan left-arm medium pace bowler, said after biding his time playing in domestic competitions. "I was over the moon when I was named in the squad for the Holland tour in July. I have never felt that happiness in my entire cricket career and think it is reward for all the hard work."

Guruge, 31, made his UAE debut against Holland in the four-day Intercontinental Cup in the summer.

He took two for 49 from 20 overs in the rain curtailed drawn game, and returned with one for 10 and two for 34 in the two List A 50-over matches on the tour.

He has taken six wickets in three matches so far in the ACC Trophy and says his objective is to play as long as possible for the UAE.

"I have played the game with passion from my school days but at the same time had a very hard time to keep playing at club level because of work commitments," said Guruge, who is a storeroom assistant at the New Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi. "I arrived in Abu Dhabi with the promise of playing cricket but I had to find time off from work to play, which made it quite hard to keep my fitness levels."

Guruge played in the Sri Lanka's top division for Singha SC for two years between 1999 and 2000 and in the second tier for three years after the club's relegation before he moved to Abu Dhabi.

"Manjula was very keen to play for the UAE and he has worked very hard to fulfil that ambition," Gayan Silva, a former UAE wicketkeeper-batsman and a long-time teammate of Guruge in the Singha and New Medical Centre teams, said.

"He had talent and was short listed in the Sri Lanka bowling squad. Even Arjuna Ranatunga [the 1996 Sri Lanka World Cup-winning captain] had a word of praise of his bowling when he played against them and took his wicket.

"Sadly though, he didn't have much support financially. That hindered his progress and it was at that time we recommended him for a job in Abu Dhabi."

apassela@thenational.ae

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