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Tamil cricketers defy the odds

By Chandana Keerthi Bandara
BBC Sinhala service

Young cricketers in Jaffna attend one of Aravinda de Silva's coaching sessions
The young players of Jaffna 'showed talent and commitment'

A former top Sri Lankan cricketer has launched what he says is the first training camp to integrate young Tamils from the north into the national team.

Aravinda de Silva said he was highly optimistic that Tamils from the area would play international cricket soon.

He spoke to the BBC after returning to Colombo from a "talent search" in the war-torn Jaffna Peninsula.

The civil war and ethnic divisions have meant that few northern Tamils have played in the national side.

'Extremely positive'

"The keenness of the players was unbelievable," Mr de Silva told the BBC's Sinhala service.

Young cricketers in Jaffna
Mr de Silva thinks some players will break through into the national team

"We spent three days coaching about 70 teenage players and seven of those have now been selected to come for a super camp which will be held later on in the year."

Mr de Silva - a former top test batsman - said that the players responded to the training camp - held amid heavy security - "extremely positively" and many out-performed their contemporaries in other parts of the country less seriously affected by the war.

"The way they took the sessions so seriously and the way they kept on asking questions reflected really well on them all," he said. "It never happened on any of the previous eight camps we held.

"One observant young player even asked if the reason why I have one leg more muscular than the other was because I am a right-handed batsman and put more weight on one particular leg."

Mr de Silva said that one of the best prospects to be discovered at the camp was a young pace bowler who he expects to be selected to represent Sri Lanka in the next under-19 World Cup.

Mr de Silva is one of Sri Lanka's best known cricketers. He was named as Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1996 and retired from international circlet after playing in the 2003 World Cup. He finished his career with 15,000 first class runs.

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