Australia’s cricket tour of Sri Lanka was meant to help divert attention away from the island nation’s economic woes, but the unrest in the country on Saturday came within shouting distance of the pitch. Hundreds of people climbed the walls of the beautiful Galle Fort in the morning session of the second Test to protest against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mismanagement of the country’s finances. Looking down on the field as Australia finished their innings, the president was forced to flee his home by an angry mob in the capital just two hours before a loud shouting of crowds demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Australia’s Steve Smith said after the stump, “Today obviously the country is in turmoil, outsiders are speaking out. We can clearly hear it, I mean we can still hear it.” Huh.”
But the former captain, who scored an unbeaten 145, said the hullabaloo had no bearing on the match. “You can hear a lot,” he said. “But it didn’t get to anyone or play any role in what was happening here.”
Smith was at the crease when the protesters climbed the walls of the fort about an hour before lunch. “I saw them there this morning but didn’t pay much attention to it,” he said.
Watch: Sri Lankan protesters outside Galle Stadium
The protest has made it to the fort overlooking the cricket. Police can’t stop such numbers pic.twitter.com/14HaQ2s7Qd
— Andrew Fidel Fernando (@afidelf) 9 July 2022
The commentators and match officials were all the more curious to see the scene, taking time out from a balcony in front of the protest site to take pictures of the protests on their mobile phones.
Saturday’s rally at the Galle Stadium was one of several events across the country.
Crowds gathered around the cricket ground throughout the day to wave Sri Lankan flags and to cushion the impact of the economic crisis.
“My wife and I have been sticking to one meal a day for two months to make sure our child gets three,” protester Zenith Malinga told AFP.
Malinga said that Rajapaksa had to step down to improve the country’s dire situation.
“Everything is messed up,” he said. “This is not the Sri Lanka I dreamed of.”
‘No reason to reschedule’
The island nation has made life miserable for its 22 million people with acute food and fuel shortages, rolling blackouts and galloping inflation.
Australia’s white ball captain Aaron Finch Said at the start of the tour that his side hopes they can bring some “joy” and entertainment to Sri Lanka as it faces a crisis.
The latest unrest comes during the last match of Australia’s tour, with Pakistan also on the island for their upcoming series.
Cricket officials said there were no plans to change their schedule, adding that the game was unaffected by the political turmoil. “There is no opposition to the game happening. In fact, the fans are supporting and we have no reason to reschedule,” a cricket board official told AFP.
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