Lankan cricket greats call for global aid

Published: Sunday, January 9, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Melbourne:Sri Lankan cricket greats Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya appealed for more global aid to help rebuild their shattered country from the tsunami disaster.

The pair are here to play in an Asian XI against the Rest of the World XI in the tsunami charity one-dayer on Monday as world cricket's response to the Asian catastrophe.

Muralitharan, who only avoided being caught up in the disaster because he delayed a scheduled journey to one of the worst-hit regions, has been personally involved in delivering food parcels to the needy.

Jayasuriya's mother Breeda had a miraculous escape when she was swept away by a giant wave at a local market.

A villager managed to save her and she has spent the past week in hospital recovering from her injuries.

Muralitharan will make his long-awaited comeback from shoulder surgery in the Melbourne Cricket Ground showpiece, which is a 70,000 sellout.

The star spinner said his people would be grateful for the millions of dollars expected to be raised by the match and an accompanying telethon.

"There are millions of people homeless," Muralitharan told reporters here Sunday.

"They (their homes) need rebuilding -- that's the most important thing.

"If they don't have houses, they can't live."

Jayasuriya, who was on his team's cricket tour of New Zealand when the disaster struck, lost his family home.

His house in Matara, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Colombo, was destroyed but his immediate concern had been for his mother.

"People who were there at the market -- most of them died. My mother was very lucky," Jayasuriya said.

"She got discharged only yesterday. She has got a lot of wounds all over the body and she was almost drowned, but someone saw her and took her out of the water.

The house, the walls have gone, inside things have gone. We will have to rebuild again.

"People have lost their houses, lost their loved ones. It's a very sad thing for our country."

Jayasuriya, who has also been visiting regions hit by the tsunami, said the Sri Lankan people's spirits were being affected by talk of another giant wave.

"The people are mentally down at the moment because people are saying it will come again and people are listening to all these rumours going around the island that another tsunami is coming," he said. "It's a big problem at the moment."

Muralitharan said foreign aid was getting through to Sri Lanka, but ferrying it around to those who needed it was proving difficult.

"Food and stuff like that -- it is getting through to the country but the only problem is infrastructure. It's very bad because where the tsunami has hit, there are no roads and we have no choppers and things like that."

"We need help from the international community coming and giving choppers and getting the food to the people."

Sri Lanka skipper Marvan Atapattu has pulled out of the Australian match after his children fell ill.

"Marvan was set to leave this morning but has decided to stay with his two children after they were hospitalised last night," Sri Lanka Cricket's media manager Ray Illangakoon said.

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