TAMIL protesters called on cricket fans to boycott the Boxing Day Test as they arrived at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first day of play between Australia and Sri Lanka.
About 150 protesters rallied outside the MCG on Wednesday, saying that Sri Lanka and its cricket team should be exiled from world sport in the same way Zimbabwe had been and that they wanted to raise awareness of the problems in Sri Lanka.
The Test gave the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the chance to launder his ''dirty image'', the protesters said, and provided his government more spin than anything the MCG wicket could offer. ''In 2007 Australia didn't go on a tour [to Zimbabwe], mainly for security reasons, but [John] Howard called [President Robert] Mugabe a grubby dictator and said that cricket would give him the oxygen that he didn't deserve,'' the protest organiser Trevor Grant, a former cricket writer, said.
''There is very much a disparity between the treatment of Sri Lanka and of Zimbabwe.
''This is a military dictatorship. The United Nations report after the war in 2009 said the Rajapaksa regime needed to be investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity and they needed an independent investigation,'' Mr Grant said. ''Rajapaksa has refused point blank to do that.''
The protesters said the Sri Lankan team was more closely associated with the politics of their country than other national cricket teams.