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Atherton: Jayasuriya call-up is cynical, political and nothing to do with cricket

Sports writer of the year and former England captain Mike Atherton wrote in The Times Tuesday June 28:

“And there are still those who say that sport and politics do not mix. Since Sri Lanka have been in England, I have twice written about the broader issues affecting the country and its cricketers: the political interference on the one hand, which has blighted selection to the extent that an entire leadership team resigned after the World Cup, and the alleged human rights abuses at the fag end of the civil war.

“The reaction has been mostly indifferent. Yet, with Sanath Jayasuriya’s recall for the forthcoming one-day series against England, the absurdity of which the batsman highlighted by announcing his retirement during it, the alignment of cricketing and political interests in Sri Lanka is laid bare.
 
“Jayasuriya is 41 and has not played international one-day cricket since December 2009. He has announced that he will be retiring for good after the first one-day international, effectively using the Twenty20 international in Bristol and the one-day match at the Kia Oval as his farewell to cricket, regardless of the interests of the team.
 
“He has been a brilliant player, changing the nature of one-day batting at the top of the order, but there is no cricketing justification for his recall, despite evidence yesterday against Worcestershire that some of his talent remains.
 
“It is a selfish and an overtly political act. Jayasuriya is no longer a cricketer but a politician; since February 2010 he has been an elected MP in his home constituency of Matara for the United People’s Freedom Alliance, the ruling party in Sri Lanka that has the final say on the selection of the national team and is accused of running the country in an increasingly anti-democratic manner and ending the civil war in a barbaric way.
 
“There have been times during the early part of the summer when the Sri Lanka team have looked thoroughly disillusioned with their lot. That it took some serious arm-twisting before Kumar Sangakkara would take the captaincy at the Rose Bowl spoke volumes and Jayasuriya’s return has been greeted with (silent) contempt by the senior players in the team.
 
“Contempt would be a good reaction from the crowd, too, when Jayasuriya walks out to bat next week. Farewells in sport are often hard to bear; this one, for different reasons, more than most.”

See also Atherton's comment on June 16: 'Tamils’ plight must prick English consciences'