MORE THAN A GAME: Nichols Point cricketer Will Liddle recently returned from an “eye-opening” tour of Sri Lanka. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

WHAT started as a cricketing tour of Sri Lanka became an eye-opening life experience for Will Liddle.

The 18-year-old Nichols Point Cricket Club star recently returned from a playing tour of the sub-continental nation through Brian Hawke and RORZ Cricket.

Cricketers aged 16 to 18 from across Australia applied for a position on the tour, and the Sunraysia Cricket Association all-rounder was one of the lucky few chosen.

“I applied to be part of the tour 18 months ago,” Will said.

“I’m not great batting against spin bowling so I saw it as a good opportunity to learn.

“I was just there to play. When I first applied it was all about a new experience for me and improving my game.

“The tour, though, was a real eye-opener for me.”

Sri Lanka, much like neighbouring India, has a lot of people living in poverty.

The amazing game of cricket, however, runs through their veins and is one of the most important aspects in their lives.

Will said he wasn’t sure what to expect when disembarking at Colombo Airport in the country’s capital.

“When you get off the plane it’s just hot,” he said.

“There is a fair amount of poverty, too. People would often be living in their little shop huts by the side of the road.

“There are also issues with garbage disposal, so the locals are burning their rubbish piles on the side of the road. On a few occasions there was a haze of burning rubbish.

“We played at the awesome P. Sara Ground in Colombo and even then there was the haze of the burning rubbish. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

“The kids are cricket crazy. As soon as they found out we were cricketers from Australia they were all over us. They just love the game.

“Despite not having a lot, the people there are so happy.

“Since coming back home I find myself constantly thinking about how lucky I am to live where I do.”

Will received the captaincy of the touring team across seven One-Day and Twenty20 matches against junior teams from across Sri Lanka.

“I started off slowly but had a couple of good innings where I didn’t get much luck,” he said.

“I made 37 not out in a T20 but ran out of overs. In another I was on 39 and smoked a straight drive back towards the bowler, and he took an unreal reflex catch.”

Will added that the aggression of the Sri Lankan players was more than SCA First Division.

“I couldn’t believe how aggressive and in your face they were,” he said.

“They would be speaking in their own language, which made it worse because we had no idea what they were saying.

“Every team we played had at least one provincial-level fast bowler, and they were stacked with left-arm and right-arm off spinners. Not many leg-spinners but ‘offies’ everywhere.

“Here we train for two hours twice a week. Over there, they train almost every day.

“School is from 7.30am to 1.30pm, then they will often train for five or six hours straight afterwards for five days per week.

“Because cricket is so massive, it is one of the main ways for people to escape poverty and make some money if they can become professional, so it’s extremely competitive.

“We saw boys running laps of the oval with their kit bag on because they’d failed in an innings.

“There isn’t much of them, either. I’m fairly skinny but I would have been bigger than most of these kids. But they still hit the ball like it’s nothing and bowl fast.”

Will said he highly recommended the tour for any young cricketer who gets the opportunity.

“I’ve experienced a place I never imagined and have made mates for life doing it,” he said.

“I got some one-on-one tuition from an international coach, which not everyone gets.

“I think I also have a greater appreciation for the fun of the game. I got heatstroke on the second last day and was pretty upset at missing the game. Each of the teams we played, however, had 16 players, but the five or so that missed out were still pumped to be there and happy to be part of it, even if they weren’t playing.”

For more information on RORZ Cricket Tours, visit www.rorz.com.au.