Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Biscuit factory helped put Sri Lanka on map

Factory owner SinNasamy Muthiah is as proud of his biscuits as he is his son, spin bowling legend Muttiah Muralitharan. Photo / Getty Images
Factory owner SinNasamy Muthiah is as proud of his biscuits as he is his son, spin bowling legend Muttiah Muralitharan. Photo / Getty Images

No cricketing journey to Sri Lanka's highlands is complete without a pilgrimage to the biscuit factory which inadvertently took the host of this year's World T20 from an international easy-beat to a world-class force through the early 1990s and beyond.

Luckyland Biscuit Manufacturers occupy a white-painted building on a lane leading off the main thoroughfare between Kandy and Pallekele, one of the tournament venues.

The business is owned by the family of spin bowling legend Muttiah Muralitharan.

Murali is based in Colombo but his wider family still lives in a house attached at the back of the factory. The premises are situated in the village of Kundasale, about 100m from the Earl's Regency Hotel where the New Zealand cricketers are staying.

Muralitharan's father, SinNasamy Muthiah and late uncle set up the business in 1964.

From a two-man operation the business now has a staff of around 300; 250 on the factory floor and 50 sales representatives and office staff.

Luckyland has export licences to countries as diverse as India, England and Ghana. Anything from cream wafers to chocolate biscuits to cheese and onion-flavoured crackers roll through lines of machinery from 7am to 6pm. Yet the Tamil-owned business has not been without setbacks. In 1977, when Sri Lanka was blighted by post-election riots where around 300 Tamils were killed, part of the factory was burned down by Sinhalese opponents.

Income from the biscuits helped fund Muralitharan's passage through nearby St Anthony's College, where a coach converted the then 15-year-old from a useful medium pacer into an often unplayable spinner. It also enabled Muthiah to support his son's move to Colombo on graduation. The rest is a world record 800 test wickets of history from 1992-2010.

Muralitharan is understood to have repaid his father by investing in the business' expansion.

Within minutes of an unannounced arrival, the Weekend Herald was given a spontaneous guided tour; taste testing included. The hospitality knew no bounds. First a cold Coke and straw was offered as refreshment on a sweltering day, then export executive Mr Nadaraj arrived to conduct proceedings, accompanied by a spare hairnet.

On the way we popped into the office of Murali's Dad, who is still an owner of the business. No wonder Luckyland is efficient. His office was so spick and span any rogue paper clip or rubber band had no show of staying on the loose. A big-buttoned calculator, a sample packet of the day's produce and a 16-panel closed-circuit television monitor complemented the meticulous picture.

As an interview subject Mr Muthiah proved as modest as his son for explaining how this all came about, but he could not have been more obliging, given a journalist had plonked himself uninvited on his premises.

Mr Nadaraj went on to showcase the production of their 15 biscuit varieties from mixing tonnes of flour and sugar through to the packaged products which lay several hundred metres into a factory maze filled by perpetually smiling workers.

On exit into the fray of bustling Sri Lanka, you couldn't help but commend Murali's family on the impact they have had on the community and, as if to prove it, my complimentary cream wafer proved a treat.

•Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates

- NZ Herald

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