India may be best cricket team but they are poor hosts if the treatment accorded Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse is anything to go by.
Three days after the World Cup final, foreign officials from Sri Lanka are not happy with the level of courtesy extended to their President Mahinda Rajapakse during his trip to Mumbai to watch the final, Mumbai Mirror reported.
Though no official complaint has been lodged with the Indian government, they have informally conveyed their displeasure at limited tickets made available to Rajapakse’s entourage, and at the refusal let him meet the teams before the start of the match.
A Ministry of External Affairs official in New Delhi said that Rajapaksa had not been invited by India, he had himself asked to come over.
“In Mohali, Gilani was our guest. That’s why he was taken on the field to meet the players. If there was no on-the-field interaction in Mumbai, it could be because of protocol issues,” he said.
“The tickets for the Sri Lankan president were being organised by the Ministry of External Affairs. We would have been more happy if we had more tickets for the entourage,” the Sri Lankan Consul-General in Mumbai, Upekkha Samaratunga, told Mumbai Mirror.
Rajapaksa had decided to come to India for the final after Sri Lanka’s semifinal victory over New Zealand in Colombo.
A senior official of the Maharashtra government said the Lankans were also upset because Rajapaksa’s request to meet the Sri Lankan players before the start of the match was denied at the last minute.
In the India vs Pakistan semi-final in Mohali, both Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Indian PM Manmohan Singh had the teams before the match began.
Consul-General Samaratunga said that a meeting with the players was scheduled in the President’s programme, but was later changed by Indian authorities.
Further, Rajapaksa was not allowed a picture opportunity with the winning Indian team after the final.
Rajapakse offers explanation for loss: 'We gave up joy for India'
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Monday hailed the returning national cricket team after their efforts in reaching the World Cup final - which they lost to India.
Rajapakse, flanked by his wife Shiranthi, presented players with a 5,000 rupee gold coin and a pair of gold cufflinks encrusted with colourful stones, during a ceremony at his home.
“Whether you won the Cup or not, going to the final, was a great achievement,” Rajapakse said referring to Saturday’s six-wicket defeat.
“You have done us proud.”
Saturday’s loss was Sri Lanka’s second successive World Cup runners-up finish, having lost to Australia in 2007. They won their first and only World Cup in 1996.
Rajapakse said the defeat was a disappointment to the nation of 20 million but added that “Sri Lankans took the defeat with dignity.”
“I like to tell my Indian friends that 20 million from our small country, took a step back to allow 1.2 billion Indian people to enjoy some happiness, for the second time since 1983,” he said.
India won their first and only World Cup under Kapil Dev in 1983.
Rajapakse also hailed Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for his extraordinary contribution to the national team.
Muralitharan, who turns 39 in two weeks, quit international cricket on Saturday after 19 years, with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets under his belt.
During the six-week World Cup tournament, the talismanic bowler battled knee, hamstring and groin problems and was never near full fitness.
Rajapakse, however, patted Muralitharan on his back and said he was a “great man” who soldiered on, throughout the tournament. “The country is indebted to your hard work.”
Explaining his side’s loss Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara said the team was unable to break through the Indian batting line up and grab more wickets.
“We didn’t take enough wickets and in the end the best team won. Yes, we are bit sore that we lost. It will take a while to get over that feeling. That’s cricket,” Sangakkara said.
Vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene, said his unbeaten innings of 103, during Saturday’s final was no consolation for the defeat to India.
Jayawardene was the first batsman to score a century in a World Cup final to be on the losing side.
“I would swap that century any day for a championship medal. I would have been happy scoring 10-15 runs, so long as we won the World Cup,” Jayawardene said.