Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning team has come forward to launch a charity to help the country's former cricketers who are struggling to make ends meet.
The 1996 World Champions were present in Colombo for the launch of 96 Legends Square, a 69-storey luxury apartment complex to be constructed by 2021, to celebrate 25 years of Sri Lanka World Cup triumph. The project is initiated by Wills Realtors Pvt. Ltd. The sponsors will make a significant contribution to the charity for the World Champions' role in promoting the complex.
"A few years ago I attended the funeral of one of our former cricketers. He was a fierce fast bowler in the pre-Test era. He had been sick. There was a strike in the government hospital. His children were told to move him to a private hospital. They couldn't make ends meet and instead he was taken home until the strike was over. A few days later he passed away," a tearful Arjuna Ranatunga told at the launch.
"The next day I met Aravinda at his residence and we discussed about launching a charity. Last year, the World Cup-winning team visited Australia and we played two games and participated in two functions. One was in Melbourne and the other was in Sydney. The funds that we collected from that trip went to support the past cricketers," Ranatunga added.
"But much more needs to be done. When Wills came over and gave out their plans for the complex, I told them I will get involved if they support me to establish the fund. They agreed," Ranatunga said.
Wills Realtors will be making a substantial cash donation that will set up the fund. "We have done a few charities to help our past cricketers. But this initiative will be big. This will allow us to introduce a medical and pension scheme," Ranatunga noted.
The contribution from the sponsors is expected to be USD 350,000 for the initiative, according to Ranatunga. The World Champions are expected to raise more funds through other charitable activities.
All members of the victorious Wold Cup squad were present at the event except for Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, who were unavailable due to coaching duties.