World stars back tsunami charity match

Published: Sunday, January 2, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Cricket's world stars signalled their support for victims of the overwhelming Asian tsunami by agreeing to play in the first of two benefit matches in Melbourne next week.

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh will coach and manage a World XI which contains five Australians and four Test captains for the match against an Asian XI at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on January 10.

Champion leg-spinner Shane Warne, who has come out of limited overs retirement to lend his services, joins Australian team-mates Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting, who will lead the side.

Other top cricketers include Brian Lara and Stephen Fleming, captains of West Indies and New Zealand.

The Asian XI, expected to include players from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, will be named Monday.

A return match will be played in February in either India or Sri Lanka, the two cricket nations to have endured the worst from the Boxing Day disaster.

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed said he expected the match at the 80,000-capacity MCG to raise "millions of dollars" through ground entry, sponsorship, television rights, ground collections and a telethon.

"Cricket has a focus on the Indian Ocean. Many of our countries have a border on it," Speed said here on Sunday.

"Cricket is the most popular sport in India and Sri Lanka. It's important that worldwide we step up and show ... that we are capable of providing assistance, and capable of providing aid."

"The response has been unanimous. Everyone right around the cricket world has said 'we must do what we can'. Any differences or rivalries that might have existed have disappeared."

The Australians wanted to be involved in the special match through their cricketing bonds with India and Sri Lanka, having toured both countries last year.

Warne made his Test return from a drugs suspension at Galle, an area where thousands of people died and where the cricket ground was ravaged by the tsunami.

The Australians also have a special bond with Madras in southern India - scene of the tied Test match in 1986 and where the Australians played just over three months ago.

Waugh, who has his own charitable foundation in India, was especially keen to lend his services, and chose the world team with former New Zealand great Richard Hadlee.

"Steve wants to do whatever he can ... it's typical of Steve's approach to charity," Speed said.

The West Indians have three in the team - Lara, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo - although they may struggle to get all three to play as they have only 14 players in Australia and one-day matches on either side of the January 10 game.

"Certainly we'll have representatives there because it's something we want to support, but with only 11 (left) if we get any injuries or whatever we still have a commitment to play Australia A," said coach Bennett King.

The December 26 tsunami, which was triggered by an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province, has officially killed 127,000 people with the toll mounting.

Rest of the World - Ricky Ponting (AUS/captain), Matthew Hayden (AUS), Adam Gilchrist (AUS), Stephen Fleming (NZL), Brian Lara (WIN), Chris Gayle (WIN), Chris Cairns (NZL), Shane Warne (AUS), Glenn McGrath (AUS), Dwayne Bravo (WIN), Darren Gough (ENG), Daniel Vettori (NZL) (12th man to be named). Coach/manager: Steve Waugh (AUS).

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