COLOMBO: All too often ignored in favour of the big name sport stars, cricketing groundstaff who kept the rain-hit Asia Cup running were promised a $50,000 shared bonus by organisers on Sunday.
Pace bowler Mohammed Siraj, who returned figures of 6-21 to lead India’s rout of Sri Lanka by 10 wickets as they clinched their eighth Asia Cup title, also vowed to donate his $5,000 man of the match prize winnings to those who looked after the pitches.
The 50-over Asia Cup is a precursor to the upcoming ODI World Cup, and most of the matches were moved to Sri Lanka after India refused to tour Pakistan due to political tensions.
But rain played havoc and multiple matches in the six-nation tournament were delayed, and some abandoned.
The nearly three-week-long event was only saved by an army of around 100 Sri Lankan groundstaff wearing orange tops, who sprinted out with the covers each time rain halted play.
The team have been hailed the real stars by fans, commentators and players.
“Big shout out to the unsung heroes of cricket!” president of the Asian Cricket Council Jay Shah posted Sunday on X, formerly Twitter, praising their “unwavering commitment and hard work”.
Shah, who is also the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief, said the Asian Cricket Council and Sri Lanka Cricket were “proud to announce a well-deserved prize money of $50,000 for the dedicated curators and groundsmen.”
Staff at Sri Lanka’s grounds at Colombo and Kandy would get the bonus, he said.
While the cash will be split between scores of staff, it will be likely well received in a country which last year suffered an economic crash that sparked dire food, fuel and medicine shortages, with GDP per capita sinking to $3,354.
“From pitch perfection to lush outfields, they ensured the stage was set for thrilling cricket action,” Shah added.
“This recognition highlights the critical role these individuals play in cricket’s success”.