In the midst of chaos and crisis, brought upon by decades of financial mismanagement, the people of Sri Lanka embraced a brief spell of joy when Australia toured their nation for multi-format cricket series. For the first T20I in Colombo, over 30,000 people assembled under one roof, and for the first time in months, they saw the lights flickering for three hours straight. Back at home, the power hardly stays for so long, as the country undergoes its worst fuel crisis.
Sports often overestimate their potential to heal social ruptures but, it does provide a welcome distraction and a sense of shared community from the constant staring at hardships. In most of these matches, the stadium was jam-packed. The simple act of sports watching became a thing of the greater good, as the Sri Lankan cricket board had already pledged to donate revenue generated from the ticket sales for the betterment of people in crisis.
Sr Lanka Cricket (SLC) had already donated $ 2 million to the hospitals on the Island. The successful tour from Australia will also help them revive the tourism sector, on which the nation is heavily reliant.
For the entire tour, the on-field rivalry was drowned amidst the countless gestures of solidarity and thankfulness to both sides. It was nothing less than heroic for Cricket Australia to carry on with the tour when speculations were rife about the cancellation. Throughout the limited-overs leg, the home fans would throng the stadium in bright yellow-colored jerseys – a mark of gratitude.
More Than A game
Australia Test captain Pat Cummins understood the significance of this tour, and said this is “more than just cricket”. Cummins, who is also UNICEF’s Australia brand ambassador, posted a heart-warming video on Twitter, where he is seen speaking with two young local cricketers to understand their travails.
“Sri Lanka is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in decades. I recently sat down with Kowsala and Sathuja (two local girls) in Sri Lanka to speak about their experience and learn more about what’s happening on the ground,” wrote Cummins.
Australia’s limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch also thanked the Sri Lankan fans, and said, “It was a tour that meant so much to so many people, and it was really an honour to tour this amazing country again! Thank you to everyone in Sri Lanka for the amazing memories!”
After the completion of the tour, David Warner too penned an emotional note and said “he can’t wait to one day visit for a holiday with my family.” The dwindling tourism industry in the wake of the pandemic followed by the economic crisis is among the biggest concerns for Sri Lanka. The Australian tour, in this respect, came at a crucial juncture.
Aussie Cricketers Donate Prize Money
The story didn’t end with the tour. More than a month after the completion of the series, Cricket Australia (CA) has decided to donate all prizemoney from the tour. A sum total of AU$45,000 will be donated to UNICEF’s programs to support underprivileged communities.
“It was very clear to us how much day-to-day life for Sri Lankans is being impacted,” Cummins said. “When the team saw what was happening it was an easy decision to donate our prize money to UNICEF, who have been in Sri Lanka for more than 50 years supporting the needs of children and families.”
As far as the tour is concerned, Australia started with an emphatic T20I series win, but lost the ODI series by ODI series 3-2. The Test series ended with a 1-1 draw.
Lead Image: ICC/Twitter