The Sri Lankan president met with the cricket team before the start of the ICC World Cup. —Photo by AP
The Sri Lankan president met with the cricket team before the start of the ICC World Cup. —Photo by AP

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa will fly to Mumbai to watch Kumar Sangakkara’s men take on India in the World Cup final on Saturday.

Rajapaksa urged all Sri Lankans to rally around the national cricket team “as it is the best way to pay tribute to Muttiah Muralitharan.” The off-spinner will be playing his last international match on Saturday.

“The ICC had invited the president. The Indian government is looking forward to his arrival and is making arrangements,” presidential spokesman Bandula Jayasekara said.

Rajapaksa’s visit will not carry any of the heavy political overtones of Wednesday’s India-Pakistan semi-final. The prime ministers of the nuclear-armed rivals sat side-by-side to watch the match in what was dubbed “cricket diplomacy”.

Muralitharan, 38, the sole survivor from Sri Lanka’s 1996 champion side, is the leading wicket-taker in both test and one-day cricket.

National carrier Sri Lankan Airlines said on Thursday it will operate an additional flight to Mumbai on Saturday to transport cricket fans, on top of its usual daily service.

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