Sri Lanka leaves for New Zealand

COLOMBO, MARCH 24. Buddhist monks chanted hymns and tied good-luck white threads on the wrists of a 14-member Sri Lanka cricket team on Thursday before they departed Colombo for New Zealand to complete a tour that was interrupted by the December 26 tsunami.

The team, led by Marvan Atapattu, assembled at Colombo's main cricket stadium for the religious ceremony. Players came with their families and also took part in a community breakfast, eating good-luck cakes made of rice boiled in milk.

The team has seven specialist batsmen and four fast bowlers, including left-armer Ruchira Perera, whose solid domestic performances have earned him a recall after more than two years.

Perera, who played his last Test match in November 2002 against South Africa, replaced left-arm seamer Nuwan Zoysa, who is injured.

Right-handed batsman Shantha Kalavitigoda, a school teammate of vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene, is also in the squad for the first time after scoring well in the domestic premier league and inter-provincial tournaments.

The squad: Marvan Atapattu (capt.), Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Shantha Kalavitigoda, Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas, Rangana Herath, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga and Ruchira Perera. — AP

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