The Australian cricket team’s six-week tour in the midst of an economic crisis in Sri Lanka could have a positive spin.
Sri Lanka Cricket on Monday said all income from tickets for the three Twenty20s, five one-day internationals and two test matches would be donated to public welfare initiatives.
“These are tough times for our people,” SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva told reporters in Colombo. “We are indeed grateful to Cricket Australia and the Australian government for supporting this series despite the hardships we as a nation are facing.”
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The island nation is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, barreling toward bankruptcy and saddled with foreign debt so big that it has no money left for basic imports. Sri Lankans are struggling to access the bare necessities like food, fuel, medicine and cooking gas.
Sri Lanka Cricket has already donated $2 million to the health sector to buy essential medicines.
Cricket in Sri Lanka was played mostly in empty stadiums for two years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, although a 50% capacity crowd was allowed in for the test series against the West Indies in Galle last December.
The series will get started Tuesday with a T20 match at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium, and will be the first time Sri Lankan fans are allowed into venues for a limited-overs matches since the pandemic started.
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Tickets went on sale Saturday and within five hours the T20s on Tuesday and Wednesday were sold out.
The T20 world champion Australians unveiled a formidable XI, including Steve Smith in the middle order at the expense of Josh Inglis, to take on Sri Lanka in the series-opening game.
“Over the years, we have had some close contests against Sri Lanka. They are a good team and they have some match winners,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said. “If you take someone like Wanindu Hasaranga during the IPL, he was quite handful even on flat wickets.”
In the Indian Premier League, Hasaranga went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.3 million and he finished the competition as the second-highest wicket taker.
Sri Lanka was expected to finalize its lineup after a training session under lights.
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“We had a close series against Australia earlier this year and it was in their conditions — we’re pretty confident that we would be able to turn things around in our conditions,” Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka said. “Our bowling is quite formidable but our batting needs to fire.”
Sri Lanka will be without injured top-order batters Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando.
Sri Lanka (from): Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Nuwanindu Fernando, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Thushara, Matheesha Pathirana, Ramesh Mendis, Praveen Jayawickrama and Lakshan Sandakan.
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson and Josh Hazlewood.