A 22-year-old Canterbury club cricketer has set up a coaching school in Sri Lanka with ambitions to expand into India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan and Africa.

Alex Reese has established Cricket Live, a non-profit organisation which intends to use the sport as a vehicle to change the lives of children from slums.

You know you're speaking to someone with initiative and perseverance when they're prepared to climb on to a pavilion rooftop to get enough reception to take your call.

Reese's cricket school is based in Moratuwa, a fishing village less than 20km from the heart of Colombo. New Zealand have played a test (in 1992) and two one-dayers (in 1984) in the town.


Reese went to Sri Lanka and India six years ago as part of a tour with The Willows, a club based in north Canterbury. He loved the experience and, at 18, returned to India to work at the Global Cricket School academy in Mumbai which was used by international teams. He met a taxi driver who showed him few Indians had a genuine chance to play cricket, despite the country's general passion for the game.

With the assistance of Dilmah tea company owner Merrill J Fernando's MJF Charitable Foundation in Sri Lanka, Reese worked since January last year to set up a school there which educates coaches and teaches cricket to under-privileged children.

"I hate it when people's opportunities in life get dumped on by those who are more powerful. I asked myself: 'How can I help these people further themselves?' Introducing them to cricket is a no-brainer. Fortunately it's also my lifelong passion.

"I have worked with children from slum areas and they can't afford the coaching or gear. In some cases, they can't even afford to get to the ground for training. However, talent is talent, and it is a shame when money gets in the way of this basic concept.

"On the subcontinent, there are always lots of steps and signatures on paper to do it properly but it's not impossible. I'd love to do this full-time because I have some crazy development plans like expanding into India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan and ultimately Africa."

Reese says the programme's success depends on how local coaches run it: "Educating them is key. Three New Zealand coaches and I are teaching about 15 locals. Initially I want to be involved so I can implement my vision. I don't want to be seen as a Father Christmas figure just offering hand-outs. You achieve more in these parts by getting your hands dirty."

That was the case when it came to tidying up the ground which Reese is using as his headquarters (and whose pavilion roof he spoke from).

"It was an absolute dive. We needed to clean the walls, get out the paint and organise someone to cut the grass.


"Fortunately my parents and girlfriend were over, along with the operations manager I had appointed, so we rolled our sleeves up and got stuck in."

The first course started last month and goes until April with another scheduled for August-November. Most of the approximately 40 children involved are 11-12 years old and will participate for three years.

Reese hopes a few of the best players are approached by the country's prestigious cricketing schools. Sri Lanka has one of the most revered school competitions in the world, with games taking place at international grounds such as the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.