LECHLADE CC have signed young New Zealand star Arnie Yugaraja as their overseas player for the 2013 season.
It is a major show of intent for this go-ahead club as Yugaraja played for his country in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup only last season in Australia.
A delighted Lechlade CC chairman Paul Rowley said: “We have got a lot of cricketer for our money.
“Lechlade has never had a player who has represented his country at tiddlywinks before, never mind cricket.”
Yugaraja arrives in mid-April and will play for Lechlade throughout the season. Having won the West of England Premier League Wiltshire Division in the weather-blighted summer of 2012, Lechlade will this year compete in the superior Glos/Wilts Division against the likes of Biddestone and Potterne The 20-year-old Yugaraja, who was born in Sri Lanka and nominates that country’s Kumar Sangakkara as his favourite player, is one of the brightest prospects to have come through the ranks in Canterbury, New Zealand’s largest region.
He is a left-handed batsmen but right-arm off-break bowler, and has skippered Canterbury through several age-groups – steering the U17 side to the national title in 2009/10, when they finished unbeaten.
He captained the U18s and last season played a pivotal role for the Canterbury U20 side.
Having come through New Zealand Cricket’s Elite Player Development Programme, he was called up to play for the national side at last year’s U19 World Cup.
Significantly, in terms of acclimatisation, he played a full season for Surrey League club Chipstead two years ago, shining with both bat and ball.
And he once scored a ton against Eton for a Kiwi touring side.
Rowley said: “We have had overseas players at Lechlade since 2001 and generally they have been successful.
“We did not use one last season but then we had brought in Luke Sellers as our player-coach.
“Luke remains with us and Arnie is going to be helping with the junior coaching as well.
“We have done our homework on Arnie and I would sum him up as a top-order batsman who can bowl as well. Also, I believe he is a very nice chap.
“His arrival has cost the club only a little money because it has been made possible by the generosity of two individuals.” Rowley is leaving no stone unturned to make Yugaraja comfortable.
“I am putting him up and I have just had Sky TV installed in his bedroom so he can watch the cricket,” he said.
Rowley is under no illusions about the task his club faces this season, however.
“The only other time we have played in the Glos/Wilts Division (2009) we were relegated in our first season,” said the chairman.
“But I like to think we are a stronger club now with greater depth and we have a lot more going for us.
“I believe Potterne have signed a Sri Lankan professional who is a serious cricketer, but with Luke and now Arnie on board, we are going to give it a go.”