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Sri Lanka cricketer Jayasuriya criticised over election

By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala

Sanath Jayasuriya (standing) shakes hands with President Mahinda Rajapaksa (file photo)
Jayasuriya, standing, is running for the party of the president (left seated)

Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya has been criticised for refusing to quit the sport as he enters politics.

The veteran of the national team has said he will run in April's election on the governing coalition ticket of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Jayasuriya said he would continue to play one-day internationals but not Test cricket.

Critics say those not selected for the team might feel they have to support the government to win a place.

'Disastrous'

Jayasuriya has retired from Test cricket but will continue in one-day internationals (ODIs) and in the Indian Premier League.

"Since I am not playing Test cricket, I will have enough time for the politics," he told BBC Tamil.

It is highly unlikely that the popular player, nicknamed "Master Blaster", will lose his election battle. He would become the first MP to play international cricket.

Arjuna Ranatunga, who was Jayasuriya's captain when Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996, was highly critical of the move.

"Jayasuriya has indicated that he will continue to play until the 2011 World Cup, so perhaps he might be trying to use his political influence to get a permanent place in the team until then," he said.

Ranatunga, a former ruling party MP, is also contesting the April elections but on the opposition ticket.

He said Jayasuriya's move would be "disastrous" for Sri Lankan sports.

"From now on many other players who do not get a place in the national team will join the governing party's political stage to be selected to the national team," he told BBC Sinhala.

However, Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge said every member of the national team had the right be a parliamentarian while playing international cricket.

"If they are qualified and still playing cricket, they all have the opportunity to play for the country. They can all be MPs but they should attend practice sessions and obey the rules of the game," he said.



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