Sri Lanka set off for the Caribbean
Sri Lanka's World Cup cricketers, led by Mahela Jayawardene, were given a grand send-off to the Caribbean yesterday by Sri Lanka Cricket, their supporters and well-wishers.
The team members assembled at Sri Lanka Cricket headquarters at five o'clock in the morning, prior to their departure to Barbados via London, and were served kavun and kiribath (milk rice) after a traditional religious ceremony had taken place.
At around half-past-six Jayawardene received a call from the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently on an official visit to China. He conveyed his best wishes to the team and also personally spoke to Sanath Jayasuriya who, at 37, is the elder statesman of the team.
A dozen Grade 5 schoolgirls sang Jayamangala Gatha to invoke blessings and presented each team member with a rose for luck.
The previous night a leading private radio station organised a grand musical show at the R. Premadasa Stadium where members of Sri Lanka Cricket and supporters had the opportunity to meet the team members individually. A giant bat with over 100,000 signatures from around the country wishing the team a successful World Cup was also displayed.
The team's departure was telecast live by the national television channel Rupavahini. Sri Lanka Cricket sources revealed that the team has been promised about 30 percent of the participation fee of US$ 2.25million if they bring home the World Cup.
Sri Lanka, who won the World Cup in 1996, open their 2007 campaign on March 15 with a match against Bermuda at Queens Park Oval, Trinidad. Bangladesh and India are their other opponents in Group B. Sixteen countries are competing in the event that concludes on April 28 at Barbados.