COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Bollywood stars and Sri Lanka’s cricketers hit the pitch for charity Friday to help rehabilitate child soldiers and build homes for families affected by the country’s civil war.
India’s Hindi language movie stars Sunil Shetty, Hrithik Roshan, Ritesh Deshmukh, Sri Lankan national team captain Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, batting great Aravinda de Silva and Upul Chandana were some of the members of the star-studded teams that played two cricket matches of 10 and 8 overs each.
Former Indian players Vinod Kambli and Ajay Jadeja, who has starred in Hindi movies, also participated.
“Being able to play with Sanga, Murali, Sanath and Aravinda I think is an absolute dream,” said Shetty who showcased his batting ability with a six against Muralitharan, the world’s leading wickettaker in his first match score of 26.
“A brilliant cause we are all here for.”
The charity matches were part of International Indian Film Award functions in Sri Lanka.
Sabbas Joseph, director of Wizcraft International which owns IIFA, said the proceeds from the cricket will be split between “Cricket for Children,” an initiative by the U.N. Children’s’ Fund and Sri Lanka Cricket that helps former child soldiers, and Habitat for Humanity to build homes for 100 families in the island’s war-torn north.
Thousands of fans thronged Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club ground for an evening of cricket and music.
Off the pitch, stars like Salman Khan, Viveik Oberoi, Anil Kapoor and Bipasha Basu drove around in open cars, greeting cheering fans.
Sections of the Indian movie industry called for a boycott of IIFA’s Sri Lanka events over allegations that Sri Lankan troops killed thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians in the final stages of the civil war last year.
The protesters are from the southern state for Tamil Nadu who have linguistic and family ties with Sri Lanka’s Tamils.
According to Indian media reports, Bollywood’s biggest star Amitabh Bachchan, IIFA’s brand ambassador, his actor son Abhishek and daughter-in-law, former Miss World and actress Aishwarya Rai, will not participate along with actor Shah Rukh Khan.
AP – By KRISHAN FRANCIS