A Game for Life
“Enjoy the game and chase your dreams, dreams do come true” – Sachin Tendulkar
Cricket for me has always been a passion, a training ground for life and most importantly a great leveler. A sport that started off as a childhood dream to represent my school and then my country has gradually evolved into a getaway of solace amidst the challenges of day-to-day life.
After Captaining STC and representing Sri Lanka at junior level, I had my heart set on pursuing a career of cricket, however, I believe God had other plans for me and directed my footsteps down an alternative path which was in hindsight for the best. It was a tough and emotional call, nevertheless I am thankful to be part of a Group that is truly more than a workplace and facilitated me to play cricket while balancing my work. This allowed me to keep that fire burning and be engaged with the sport I love.
I was privileged to have bosses who have gone through this transition and not only facilitated this but encouraged it as well. They showed faith in me at a very young age and drafted me into the JKH Sports Club to be a coordinator for Cricket as well which gave me valuable insight as to how all sports are managed within the Group.
I was able to meet and engage with many individuals from across the Group as a player and as a sports coordinator, and I believe these relationships have developed into lasting friendships which I am truly grateful for. I have also been able to engage with external bodies like the MCA (Mercantile Cricket Association), TTSC (Travel Trade Sports Club) etc. and build lasting relationships across these forums that have been very valuable from a professional and personal perspective.
Touching on my experience as a player, I have been fortunate to represent many teams for over a decade at mercantile and BU level. The first significant achievement I experienced was winning the mercantile D division tournament in a couple of years after joining the Group. I have also been fortunate to win many travel trade tournaments and inter company tournaments playing for CHML, Cinnamon Red and Cinnamon Grand over the years.
However, the highlight of my cricketing tenure at JKH is the quest we undertook to become B division Champions in 2018-19. As only a few teams, including JKH play in the A division with fully professional contracted players, many other companies field their A team (all contracted professionals) to play in the B division with the aspiration of winning the tournament and being promoted to A division. For us, we knew that we would not field 2 teams in A division and due to budgetary constraints, we were only able to recruit a few boys on short term contract to fill in some key positions to compete at this level. Hence, we had an uphill battle to compete and beat some of the best in the country. However, all of us who played were adamant to make this dream a reality. I recall some boys taking a train early morning from as far as Cinnamon Bey to come for games as we were determined in this cause. We were truly blessed to play some of the best cricket I have witnessed and to beat some top teams in this journey and come out on top as Champions.
There is one person I must mention and that’s George Jacob. Cricket at JKH was always accompanied by this loving and erratic figure who was manager, coach, critic, and a father figure to all of us over the years and we miss him dearly. I am thankful that he was with us during this Championship run, I fondly recall how I couldn’t take the trophy home and how he took the Championship trophy with so much pride. He went on to go to a studio and framed an image with that trophy which showed the passion he had for the team and the Group at his age. He has left a space within the sports club that cannot be filled, and he will always be in our memories when we take the field.
Due to my engagement with JKH sports, I also received an opportunity that had a life changing impact. I have always been an avid reader and had a passion to write pertaining to sports and cricket as well. However, I never really got down to writing anything significant other than a few short articles to magazines or school publications or a couple of LinkedIn articles. It was by chance that I was selected to interview Roshan Mahanama for an event at Cinnamon Grand. Roshan was a childhood idol and I had hunted for his autobiography which was out of production since 2001. After a successful event, while socializing with him, he mentioned that he wanted to republish his book with his experience of being an ICC Match Referee and his last two decades of experiences. He was searching for a young professional with a background in Cricket and a passion to write his story. I offered to help and two years later after spending many hours together we were able to publish his complete life story as a fresh publication. Through this I had the privilege of becoming a published author who functioned as his shadow author to narrate his story. I am truly thankful to Roshan for taking a risk with me and the seniors in the Group who opened this door for me initially.
The key decision makers of the Group have always been very supportive in facilitating Cricket and all other sports, I have witnessed year on year how the sports coordinators and members of Group HR, Finance, Legal etc. give their time to contribute to sports at JKH. Most bosses across sectors are very supportive of releasing staff, giving them flexibility in working hours to catch up on any work missed, and I have rarely faced a stumbling block as a player or a sports coordinator over the last decade. The passion and competitiveness that is on display even at intercompany events has been very encouraging to see and we are hopeful that with COVID subsiding that we will be able to get back to a normal JKH sports calendar soon despite the ongoing economic challenges we are all facing. Sports at JKH has an unmeasurable ripple down effect on staff morale, comradery and cross sector engagement and brand loyalty.
I would like to encourage everyone, especially our new JKH family members, to come forward and play whatever sport you are passionate about. You do not need to possess a history of excelling for schools or clubs, your participation and engagement is what is truly valued. It has truly been a privilege to represent the Group over the years and I look forward to doing so in the years to come.