Players' involvement boosts efforts January 3, 2005

Cricketers help relief programme

Cricinfo staff

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Muttiah Muralitharan hands out aid © Getty Images
Sri Lanka's cricketers have been playing an active part in the relief effort in the aftermath of last week's tsunami which has so far claimed 30,000 lives and left more than a million people homeless on the island.

And Muttiah Muralitharan, possibly Sri Lanka's most famous face and an ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program, joined one of many convoys across the country helping to deliver supplies to a refugee camps at Kinniya, 20 kilometres south of Trincomalee on Sri Lanka's north-east coast. He was accompanied by Ruchira Perera, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

Murali and his colleagues made an immediate impact and were mobbed wherever they went. At one stage they bought up a mass of ice creams from a local shop and handed them out to the homeless. Children queued for the lollies, adults to meet the players. It was a rare moment of normality.

Such is Muarli's standing, he can make a real difference. One aid worker said that in the immediate aftermath of the disaster almost all the lorries carrying emergency supplies headed for Galle. All it took was one telephone call from Muarli and five trucks were diverted to the north-east.

"We aren't going to play for one and a half months," Murali told reporters. "We are going to help people."

But the situation still presents massive challenges. "There are problems with getting aid to the right people, proper food and sanitation, and there does still seem to be a some level of disorganisation," Sangakkara explained. "Sometimes it is a case of getting aid but not being able to use it in the proper way. Every time we speak to someone at a camp there does seem to be a problem."

"I don't have the words to describe what I saw," Atapattu admitted. "As national players, we wanted to let the people know that we are with them, after all they are our strength."

Meanwhile, Matara, a fishing hamlet in the south of the island, which is the hometown of Sanath Jayasuriya, was one of the worst hit from the tsunamis. "It would have been difficult to focus on the game if the tour continued," Jayasuriya said. "I only knew that my mother was injured and cricket was the last thing on my mind after that."

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