|President Mahinda Rajapaksa fetes the Sri Lankan team at his home on April 4. Photos Sudath Silva|
Sri Lanka let India win the Cricket World Cup, President Mahinda Rajapaksa suggested to a reception welcoming back the team, echoing wild allegations that the players had deliberately performed below par.
"I like to tell my Indian friends that 20 million from our small country, took a step back to allow 1.2 billion Indian people to enjoy some happiness, for the second time since 1983," he told attendees.
See NDTV’s report here.
Rajapaksa’s comments nearly caused a diplomatic storm across the Palk Straits - see Emirates 24/7’s report here on another development since India’s victory:
Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister has ordered eleven Sri Lankan cricketers playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to return to prepare for the national team’s tour of England next month.
This is despite their prior agreement with Sri Lanka cricket (SLC) that the players would complete their IPL contracts before joining the national team in Britain. (The IPL league concludes end May, the England tour begins mid-May).
The IPL contracts are lucrative for both the players and SLC. As such, the Minister’s directive makes clear Sri Lanka’s players have to put the country before their professional careers.
That the Sri Lankan team are seen as ambassadors of the country is underscored by the lavish reception in his home that President Rajapaksa gave the team.
Flanked by his wife Shiranthi, Rajapaksa presented players with a 5,000 rupee gold coin and a pair of gold cufflinks encrusted with colourful stones.
“You have done us proud,” Rajapaksa, a staunch Sinhala nationalist, told the players.
See more pictures (by Sudath Silva) of the reception: