Former Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya is on a new mission. It has nothing much to do with cricket though. He has been visiting countries across the globe where cricket is popular and requesting people to visit Sri Lanka.
"I invite you to my home country. Things have returned to normal in Sri Lanka. People do not wait in queues for cooking gas and petrol any more. There is no shortage of essential commodities. If you are a cricket fan, you should have a soft spot for our country. I request all Malayalees to visit Sri Lanka. Our people showed great fighting spirit to reclaim their lives. They need your support," said the former Sri Lankan captain, who is in Kochi to attend the Manorama Sports Awards 2022.
The 53-year-old Jayasuriya was appointed as the Brand Ambassador of Tourism for Sri Lanka last year. He is currently busy touring the world in the company of Tourism minister Harin Fernando with tourism promotional activities. He also travels to different countries as part of a cricket commentary team.
The indomitable Lankan spirit
Jayasuriya, who is credited for having revolutionised one-day international (ODI) cricket with his hard-hitting style of batting, adopts a prudent approach toward the problems his country is grappling with.
"Things have gotten better now. Indians can definitely enjoy Sri Lanka's demographic and cultural diversity. Culturally, India and Sri Lanka have a lot in common. Although Sri Lanka is a small island nation, it is a tourist's paradise. While Nuwara Eliya is known for its cool climate and colonial-era bungalows, in the northern part of the country you will discover the historical and cultural values of ancient Sri Lanka. The topography of the southern province is dotted with beautiful beaches. Anuradhapura in the north-central province is a historical paradise as it houses several heritage monasteries, palaces and monuments," Jayasuriya said. His excitement was palpable when he provided a glimpse of the tourist potential and cultural diversity of his country.
"The Australian cricket team toured our country when we were undergoing an unprecedented political and financial crisis. Yet, all the stadiums were packed to the brim with cricket fans. It testified to the indomitable spirit of the Lankans," he said.
ODIs are here to stay
With the advent of T20 cricket, longer-format games, especially ODIs, have been fighting hard for their survival. However, Jayasuriya is not ready to buy the theory that ODI cricket has become irrelevant.
"I see no reason why all three formats cannot co-exist. Test cricket is unique as it is the ultimate test of a cricket's ability. T20 cricket became popular not only because of its slam-bang nature, but the shorter duration of the matches too is a reason. As time has become very precious in the modern world, it seems T20s are a very attractive option as the games are short and the spectacle is great. However, that does not mean there are no takers for ODI cricket. India is going to host the next ODI World Cup. I believe the tournament will draw huge crowds," he reasoned.
Although Jayasuriya will continue to play an active role to promote Sri Lankan tourism and cricket, he has decided to stay away from electoral politics. He ran for public office at the 2010 Sri Lankan general elections and was elected to the parliament from his home town Matara with a record margin.
"Politics is a closed chapter. I don’t want to don that role again," Jayasuriya, who served as deputy minister of Local Governments and Rural Development, said when asked about his decision to quit politics.