Cricket provides an outlet for asylum seeker
A young Sri Lankan asylum seeker who fled violence, death threats and crime syndicates at home is carving out a new life for himself on Melbourne’s cricket grounds.
Maleesh De Silva arrived in Australia in November 2012 and spent 18 months in immigration detention at Broadmeadows in Melbourne’s north.
As an asylum seeker he has no right to work and very little money but since August last year he has been occupying himself playing cricket with Pascoe Vale United Cricket Club.
The bowling all-rounder has taken 13 wickets in 10 matches with best figures of 5/40 and he has made a top score of 25.
“I love cricket. It is a great game and it gives me something meaningful and worthwhile to do,” Maleesh said.
“My teammates have made me very welcome and playing cricket is the best part of my week,” he said.
The 20-year-old who lives in Glenroy says he feared for his life in Sri Lanka. He says his uncle became involved in business dealings that were targeted by powerful crime gangs who then carried out violence and made threats against his entire family.
“It was terrible; I couldn’t live in Sri Lanka. I was afraid I was going to die. These criminals are linked to the government and the army and they are very dangerous people,” Maleesh said.
Maleesh has been improving his English and learning about Australian culture.
“Australia is a good country and it is safe with proper law and order,” he said.
“Now I’m in Australia I feel safe and I can play cricket,” Maleesh said.
Maleesh was introduced to his cricket club by Sports Without Borders, a not-for-profit organisation which provides support for young people from new and emerging communities to overcome the barriers of participation in community sport.
Cricket Victoria spokesman Aaron Wharton said Maleesh had quickly adapted to cricket in Melbourne.
“We first saw Maleesh in September last year when he was still inside the detention centre at Broadmeadows. We held a clinic there and he came up and thanked us afterwards,” Aaron said.
“He then attended the Harmony Cricket Carnival we held at Jacana Reserve in January.
“Maleesh has been flying since then; performing really well in the Pascoe Vale United second team as an opening bowler – which is a great achievement for him,” Aaron said.
AMES settlement case manager Mandy Ackman said Maleesh has become more confident and positive through playing cricket.
“He obviously loves the game and he’s very proud of his achievements,” she said.
“It’s given him confidence and sense of purpose and he’s made important connections into the wider community,” Mandy said.
AMES Senior Journalist