We have come across many stories charting the downfall of Indian athletes who had to resort to selling their Commonwealth Games or National Games medals in order to survive post their retirement, but none so yet in the field of cricket. Upul Chandana, considered to be one of the best leg spinners ever played for Sri Lankan cricket team, faced such a dramatic change in his fortune and is now running a sports goods shop in order to feed his family. Upul Chandana was a key member of the Sri Lankan team which won the 1996 Cricket World Cup held in India.
According to an Indian Express report, Upul Chandana’s shop, named as Chandana’s cricket shop, is located inside the Nondescripts Cricket Club. But alongside cricket equipments, it also sells table tennis racquets, jogging shoes and tennis balls.
During his career, he was majorly kept on the side benches due to the presence of his “close friend” Muttiah Muralitharan. It was only after he emerged as a bowling all-rounder that he started getting included in the playing XI.
His downfall began after he decided to join the unofficial Indian Cricket League following his retirement from International cricket in 2007. He was not only slapped with a ban but also didn’t get the complete amount mentioned in the contract he had signed.
“It was a stupid decision. The next year, they started the IPL, and they still owe me 60,000 USD,” Chandana told Indian Express.
Chandana in order to make ends meet, decided to open a sports goods store: “There are so many cricket clubs around and there weren’t too many good sports stores in the locality. So I thought I’ll start one,” he said.
Indian Express in its report stated that the club he played for allocated a room inside the compound, which he wasn’t very happy about. “People don’t spot it easily. Only if you come inside the club will you notice it,” Chandana said.
The second reason he gave behind opening the shop turned out to be a bit emotional. He said: “In my childhood in Galle, we played with one ball for months. There was no sports store and we had little money. Even the schools couldn’t afford it. The first time I held a cricket ball, my fingers almost went inside the ball. It was almost two separate pieces. So I decided one day when I grow up I’d open a sports store.”
Chandana announced his retirement from cricket in 2007 after finishing the Bangladesh tour. A ban on him was imposed for playing unofficial Indian Cricket League, which was only lifted in September 2008; a little too late for him.