For years Kerala has been known as the powerhouse of Indian football. However, many still don’t know about its tryst cricket, which had started in the era of the Britishers, introduced by Sir Arthur Wellesley in Thalassery. Players like Tinu Yohannan, Abey Kuruvilla, S Sreesanth and Sanju Samson are some of the notable cricketers who have come up from the state to play in the Indian cricket team.
Kerala is once more back on the cricketing map this time, not because of any player, but because of a Malayali who now owns a team at the Lanka Premier League (LPL) in Sri Lanka. A Dubai-based businessman from Kannur, Murfad Mustafa owns a team at the LPL which began yesterday. His team Colombo Kings opened against the Kandy Tuskers in Hambantota.
Mustafa had played plenty of cricket before he started working as on his business and eventually befriended players like Suresh Raina and Shadab Jakati. Jakati, incidentally, is now the director (cricket operations) of Mustafa’s team Colombo Kings.
“I have long been wanting to be associated with cricket and so, when an opportunity came in the form of the Lanka Premier League, I grabbed it. Jakati and Manpreet Gony (who played in two ODIs and represented CSK, Kings XI Punjab, Gujarat Lions and Deccan Chargers) helped us a lot, and Gony will be playing, too,” he told The Week.
Though Colombo Kings have been hit by the pullout of Faf du Plessis because of the limited overs tournament between South Africa and England, Mustafa believes his team stands a good chance of winning the title. In the first LPL match, Colombo Kings emerged victorious in a game that neither team really deserved to lose. The one-over eliminator saw the Kings set a target of 17, with the Tuskers only able to respond with 12, but that was arguably the least of the game’s highlights.
Angelo Mathews captains the side, he has been joined by big-hitter Andre Russell, Isuru Udana and Dinesh Chandimal, among others. English batsman Daniel Bell Drummond and Afghani spinner Qais Ahmad also are part of his team. He is also glad that Indian actor Salman Khan and his family own the Kandy Tuskers team in the league.
All the matches of LPL will be played in Hambantota under closed doors like IPL because of the COVID-19 restrictions. Mustafa will also be bidding for a team in the Euro T20 Slam, which is a proposed Twenty20 tournament planned to be held in Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. It was scheduled to start in August 2019 but got delayed.