Colombo: Battered by the ongoing economic crisis, Sri Lankans gathered on the streets to welcome the Asia Cup-winning cricket and netball teams, who were paraded from the airport to capital Colombo on Tuesday.
People flocked to the airport on Tuesday morning to welcome cricket captain Dasun Shanaka and his team, which lifted its sixth Asia Cup defeating Pakistan by 23 runs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, UAE on Sunday.
“This is a victory for the entire country. With what we did, if we could bring smiles to the people of this country that is a great victory for us,” Bhanuka Rajapaksa who scored an unbeaten 71 and won the ‘Player of the Match’ award, said as he came out of the Bandaranaike International Airport.
“As a country, the world is looking at us in a different way right now,” Rajapaksa said, referring to the economic struggles Sri Lanka is going through.
“For years, we could not reach anywhere close to the title. However, cricket fans did not lose faith in us. We faced some tough challenges (in the competition), and now we want to continue the success at the (T20) World Cup in Australia,” said Bhanuka.
On Sunday, the country’s netball team, Asia’s defending champions, also clinched the Asian Championship title, defeating hosts Singapore — the four-time champions — 63-53.
With the victory, Sri Lanka also booked their spot in the 2023 Netball World Cup. The team defended its title from 2018, as the 2020 championship was cancelled due to COVID-19.
The two Asian champions were paraded in two open-top double-decker buses escorted by the Sri Lanka Police from the airport to the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) headquarters and the Netball Federation headquarters here.
“Fans are encouraged to show their support and appreciation to the teams by lining up along the road and cheering for the kings and queens of Asia by waving the national flag,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s media division said in a statement.