With the aim to prepare Malaysia for the upcoming ACC Trophy, the HSS-MCA Franchise League starts in May and has received a boost with the arrival of seven Sri Lankan cricketers.

"We have all come here to play, have fun and gain a little more knowledge about Malaysian cricket," said Chathura Athukorala, one of the Sri Lankans.

"The introduction of the Sri Lankans is seen as a way of instilling a higher playing standard to ensure that the Malaysian players are ready for the ACC Trophy," said Malaysian Cricket Association Vice-President, Sivanandan Chinnadurai.

MCA Vice-President Datuk Shantha Kumar with the seven Sri Lankan cricketers and the Franchise League trophy

Malaysia's leading all-rounder Suresh Navaratnam said, "Having to compete against the Sri Lankan players, we will automatically raise our level of play. They may not be here with us for too long but I feel it is long enough to leave a positive impact on our national squad."

Malaysia's new national coach, Sri Lankan Romesh Kaluwitharana said, "With the introduction of the seven, the level of cricket in Malaysia is sure to get better. Club level cricket in Sri Lanka is played at a very high standard. Although there is a lot more to improve, the Malaysian boys already have more energy and are more positive. With more exposure to this sort of competition, Malaysian cricket will definitely improve."

The Sri Lankans join the four teams: Tenaga Nasional, Klang Mamangam, HSSI and Armed Forces; the teams then play each other twice over the course of three weeks with the final being played in June at Kinrara.

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Pictures courtesy Malaysian Cricket Association

Filed May 20, 2008