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No Dalai Lama for fearful Lanka

It was surprising not to find Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene — the Kings XI Punjab’s Sri Lankan imports — as part of the entourage that visited the Dalai Lama last month during the Dharamsala-leg of the IPL.

cricket Updated: May 05, 2010 00:17 IST
Subhash Rajta/Agencies

It was surprising not to find Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene — the Kings XI Punjab’s Sri Lankan imports — as part of the entourage that visited the Dalai Lama last month during the Dharamsala-leg of the IPL.

Sangakkara, the skipper, had made no secret of his desire to visit the Tibetan spiritual leader when asked if he wanted to meet the holy man. “It would be a great honour to meet someone as exalted as the Dalai Lama. I will be really keen if the franchise can arrange an audience with him,” Sangakkara had said in a press conference.

So, quite a few eyebrows were raised when Jayawardene and he, despite the keenness, didn’t show up when the franchise arranged for an audience with the monk. The franchise officials had then brushed aside the issue as a matter of personal choice, but it has now emerged that the Sri Lankan government had instructed the duo not to call on the Dalai Lama, fearing it would anger China.

“Kumar and Mahela were instructed not to visit the Tibetan leader. It was a foreign ministry directive that was issued to us, via the sports ministry,” Sri Lanka Cricket secretary, Nishantha Ranatunga, was quoted by agencies on Tuesday. “We were made to understand that we should not upset relations with China,” said Ranatunga.

When contacted by HT, Kings XI remained evasive. “We don’t know what the issue is all about. It was the players’ choice whether they wanted to visit the Dalai Lama or not. And several of them, not just Sangakkara and Jayawardene, skipped the meeting,” said Kings XI Punjab CEO Anil Srivastava. Sri Lanka, a key Buddhist nation, supports a “one-China” policy and regards Beijing as a key political and military ally.