Cricket is a welcome distraction for Sri Lankans in crisis

GALLE, Sri Lanka (AP) — The sport of cricket has become a welcome distraction for Sri Lankans seeking a break from the effects of the country’s economic crisis: long lines to buy fuel and gas for cooking and disruption to school and work because there is little access to public transportation.

The cricket-crazed South Asian island nation is facing its worst economic crisis in recent memory, enduring severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine. The government has closed schools and universities and has limited fuel supplies.

“Yes there is a problem in the country, people have become poor and defenseless with all kinds of problems. We have been living a monotonous life and sometimes we spend five, six, seven days on fuel lines,” said Ujith Nilantha, who watched the first test between Sri Lanka and Australia with his 10-year-old son last week in the southern city. of Galle. .

“There is no happiness for the children and we cannot provide what the child needs. When we watch this (cricket) it brings a mental healing,” added Nilantha, whose livelihood in the tourism sector was cut short after arrivals fell with the energy crisis.

Nilantha said she had planned to suggest her son play cricket, an expensive game by Sri Lankan standards, but her life quickly changed with the economic crisis and her plans fell apart.

“We love cricket but we can’t spend all our time on cricket, with the employment issues and all that. But I hope to relieve some of the pressures by watching cricket.”

Cricket, a legacy of British colonizers, has become a part of the local culture in Sri Lanka, as in many South Asian and Caribbean nations. It has been seen as a unifying factor in a country torn apart by racial, religious and political discord.

Even a bloody quarter-century civil war did not hamper the progress or pursuit of the sport in Sri Lanka.

The now defeated Tamil Tiger rebel group that fought for an independent state silenced their arms for the 1996 World Cup final, when Sri Lanka beat Australia to win the title.

Teenager Theekshana Nethumaksila was at the picturesque Galle cricket ground, having traveled by train from the neighboring city of Matara.

Nethumaksila, 16, is planning to sit this year’s public exams, but cannot prepare properly because schools are closed.

“We only have cricket in times of sadness,” he said. “We come here to watch cricket to get it out of our heads.”

Before going ahead with the tour, the Australian cricket team had to consider whether it was ethical to travel to Sri Lanka and play when the local people were struggling without electricity for even basic needs.

The tour involved a three-game Twenty20 international series, won by Australia, and a one-day five-match international series, won 3–2 by Sri Lanka.

The Australian team’s decision to go ahead with the tour earned them the admiration of fans who showed up for the fifth one-day match last month dressed in yellow, the color of Australia’s ODI uniform, to thank them for entertaining and send them a positive message about Sri Lanka to the world.

Some of the Australian players returned the favor. L edited by Capt Pat Cummins, many took to social media to say they appreciated the outpouring of support they had received from Sri Lankan fans.

Australia won the first Test match by 10 wickets, leaving Sri Lanka with a chance to square the series when the tour concludes with the second Test from Friday, also in Galle.


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