By Callistus Davy
His spirit was destroyed just as he reached double figures in age but the vast ocean that snuffed out the lives of his parents also brought him new life and hope.
Eight years down the coast Pulina Tharanga is not second to any other privileged Sri Lankan boy his age and will know his part when he marches out with the team to take on India in the semi finals of the under-19 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today.
The 18-year old Pulina lost his doting mother, who once lived on crumbs to buy him a pair of shoes, in the devastating tsunami of 2004. His father who went out to sea a year later is yet to return, but the teenage cricketer is sending shockwaves and threatening to break into the higher echelons of cricket.
“Cricket provides me the reason to live and fight. This game is all that I have. I do not allow my ghosts to haunt me on the field”, Pulina said before leaving with the Sri Lanka Youth team in recollection of his deadly past.
Former first class cricketer and ex-secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket Kushil Gunasekera was the backstage dramatist who virtually plucked Pulina out of the sea, from the waves and into the sibling comforts of his meritorious Academy called the Foundation of Goodness.
“To be honest I did him a favour out of compassion when I heard that he lost both his parents and did not know that he will make the grade. But today his story is gone from tragedy to triumph”, said Gunasekera who will not be able to hold back his feelings each time the tsunami survivor steps onto the field.
The Devananda College Ambalangoda schoolboy is now touted as a fielder with a killer instinct who also spins and bats in the middle order.
Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralideran and Arjuna Ranatunga have already met Pulina while Mahela Jayawardena has been thunderstruck by his intelligence.
With his international humanitarian contacts Gunasekera introduced the budding cricketer to the outside world and got him scholarships and breaks through the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), Gunn and More, one of the most prominent cricket equipment makers in the United Kingdom and a host of other individual well wishers.
Pulina’s story may not be out of the ordinary to some but at least his battle against dreadful odds is an inspiration to a generation as he makes history as the first orphan boy to play for his country.