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Last Updated: Monday, 3 January, 2005, 11:00 GMT
Murali helping Sri Lanka victims
Sanath Jayasuriya
Jayasuriya's 60-year-old mother was injured in the tsunami
Sri Lankan cricket star Muttiah Muralitharan and his team-mates are helping galvanise the relief effort for the tsunami disaster victims.

Muralitharan narrowly avoided being caught up in the tragedy, leaving Galle just minutes before the waves struck.

He said: "I have to be with the people. I'm trying to get them as much food as we can as sometimes it does not get to the people," he said.

"All the players are going from place to place doing whatever we can."

Skipper Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Saman Jayantha, Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando are among the other players helping.

Sangakkara said there are still logistical problems hampering efforts to get food and clean water to the estimated 700,000 who need it.

"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.

The Test ground at Galle was badly damaged
The cricket ground at Galle was badly damaged
"Sometimes it is a case of getting aid but not being able to use it in the proper way (until other supplies arrive). Every time we speak to someone at a camp there does seem to be a problem."

But BBC Radio Five Live's Phil Mackie, who has been with the Sri Lankan team, says Murali and the team's celebrity status is helping.

"On day one (of the World Food Programme relief effort) everyone got in their truck and drove down to Galle to try and rescue relatives, so they could not get any relief out to the eastern part of the country.

"But they rang Murali up and he got them five trucks on day one which was pretty impressive.

"He has also got a team of doctors out here from Australia including the surgeon who operated on his shoulder."

Murali had stayed in Galle rather than flying to New Zealand with the rest of his team in order to recuperate from an operation to treat a lesion in his right shoulder which was hampering his bowling.

The spinner - Sri Lanka's most famous person - said it was the least the team could do in the wake of the disaster which claimed more than 28,500 lives in Sri Lanka, with thousands more still missing.

Muttiah Muralitharan
Muralitharan is Sri Lanka's biggest celebrity
"As cricketers we are always being helped by the people because if there were no spectators there will be no cricket as we would not be earning any money.

"So the people have helped us a lot, so now the people need help and we have to give it."

The players have also visited the mother of team-mate Upul Chandana, who is among the injured, as is Jayasuriya's 60-year-old mother Breeda.

The team played only one of a series of five one-day internationals in New Zealand before cancelling their tour and returning home in the aftermath of the Boxing Day disaster which has so far claimed more than 140,000 lives in the Indian Ocean area.

"I'm shaken. I've been taken by surprise," said Atapattu on his return to his homeland.

"The whole scenario, I saw it on TV a couple of times when were in New Zealand, but to see with our own eyes - it's devastating scenes here."

The tour will have to be rescheduled at a time to be agreed by the two boards.

A special match between an Asian XI and a Rest of the World side will be played in Melbourne on 10 January with all proceeds going to the appeal fund.

It will be followed in February or March by a second game, but full details have yet to be confirmed.

Interview: PCA Chief Executive Richard Bevan

Why the cricketer is helping the relief effort

Sri Lanka squad sets off for home
31 Dec 04 |  Sri Lanka
India unlikely to step in for SL
30 Dec 04 |  International Teams

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