Former Sri Lanka international Jehan Mubarak prepares kids for special World Cup

As a former international cricketer and current coach of Sri Lanka Under-19s, Jehan Mubarak has more than one World Cup on his mind.

While anticipation builds ahead of the battle for the top prize in the men’s one-day game starting in India next month, Mubarak is also preparing for the equivalent under-19 tournament on home soil in 2024.

Yet before either of those events take place, another international competition begins as Chennai hosts the second Street Child Cricket World Cup.

The tournament later this month features teams from around the globe comprised of children who have grown up, or are growing up, in acute poverty, living on the street or in slums.

And again Mubarak will have more than a passing interest having helped mentor and prepare the side that will represent his country.

“It’s huge for them,” Mubarak, who made 69 appearances for Sri Lanka across three formats, told the PA news agency. “You see the joy – pure joy – of kids playing a sport. It’s fantastic.

“Some of them are coming to Colombo for the first time – seeing a big city for the first time – and now they are going to get on a plane to go to India.

“I feel so happy for them. It is just going to expand their horizons and the stories they will bring back to Sri Lanka can show to everyone that anything is possible no matter who you are.”

Jehan Mubarak
Mubarak, who made 69 appearances for Sri Lanka, has taken a keen interest in the Street Child World Cup (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The tournament, a mixed-gender event played with a soft ball, features teams from unheralded cricketing outposts such as Mexico, Hungary and Rwanda as well as established nations like England, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka team is being run by the charity Child Action Lanka, a growing organisation which supports vulnerable children and has centres around the island.

Mubarak’s involvement is voluntary and part-time, when professional commitments allow, and came about by chance but has developed into a passion.

“One of my wife’s cousins was volunteering at CAL and they were looking for some cricketers to have a cricket day for some of the kids,” said the 43-year-old.

“When I was there it was like, ‘Wow’ and I started to see things from a different point of view.

Young batter from Sri Lanka team for Street Child Cricket World Cup
The children involved are from poverty-stricken backgrounds (Child Action Lanka)

“There are stories from the city which you may have known but conveniently don’t pay attention to.

“Now, everywhere I go, I see things differently. I see people less advantaged than us.

“I spent a couple of days with the kids, which was great. It led to every time CAL did a cricketing thing, they would call me. Then this World Cup came about.

“I am not the coach of this team. It is more of a supporting role. I help whenever I can.

“The purpose here is not just to put out your best team and win. It’s to give everyone an opportunity to experience the sport and different communities through sport.”

A dream for Mubarak would be to see one of the youngsters involved go on to make their name in the game, although that is not an objective.

“There are stories of kids coming through programmes like this and going on to become superstars,” he said.

“There are a couple who look good. Who knows? Something might come out of this. There is a girl now who is playing for her district team.

“I have spoken to a couple of the district coaches and said these kids are here, have a look.

“They won’t get an opportunity through their schools. Some of them don’t even go to school, and those who do may not get highlighted because of their circumstances.

“But everyone can play. Even if someone gets hit for six sixes the others are cheering them on all the time. It is really good. I love it.”