Sri Lanka suspends three players over Covid bubble breach

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Vice-captain Kusal Mendis is one of the Sri Lankan players seen breaching Covid rules in England after videos emerged online
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Sri Lanka suspended three players on Monday, including vice-captain Kusal Mendis, and withdrew them from the upcoming one-day international tournament in England over a breach of their bio-secure Covid bubble.

Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella were seen smoking in the streets of Durham, where they are based ahead of this week's first one-day international at Chester-le-Street on Tuesday.

In a second video on social media, opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka is seen joining the pair, violating the coronavirus rules of their stay in England, where they are not allowed to roam freely.

Sri Lanka Cricket said the three players were suspended from all forms of the game until an inquiry was completed.

"This decision was taken following a preliminary inquiry conducted over a video posted on social media in which the said three players can be seen outside their designated hotel," the board said.

A cricket board source told AFP that none of the players were supposed to go out of their hotel unescorted.

"The three players have been asked to return home today," the cricket board source told AFP. "They can no longer return to the bubble because that could be a risk for other players."

England pace bowler Mark Wood admitted the Sri Lanka breach showed top level sports people must stay focused to avoid putting their game at risk.

- 'A bit more rigid' -

"It's disappointing from them, and they're pretty good players as well unfortunately. But we are going to have to make sure we are doubly on it now because little slips like this can put the whole thing in jeopardy," Wood said.

"We were told that in Durham the Covid levels are particularly high, so we have to back off a little bit. We weren't allowed in restaurants, coffee shops or anything like that. Not even sitting outside or anything like that. So we stripped it right back.

"I don't know what their team measures are, what they have been told. I don't know if theirs is more lax than ours - every team is different - but we have taken this very seriously and actually appointed a Covid security officer who tells us what we can and can't do.

"At times, it is hard for some of the lads because they want to get out and do things but in a hotspot like Durham we have to be a little bit more rigid."

Sri Lanka are due to play three ODI matches against hosts England.

Sri Lanka were swept 3-0 by England in the Twenty20 series that concluded Saturday with the hosts cruising to a thumping 89-run victory in Southampton.

Disgruntled fans launched a campaign to shun the team on social media after they slumped to a dismal fifth consecutive Twenty20 series defeat.

The hashtag #unfollowcricketers began to trend on Facebook on Sunday as thousands of fans boycotted the social media pages of Mendis and Gunathilaka, reports said.

Fans were also sharing memes asking each other not to watch the national team on television.

There was no immediate reaction from any of the senior players, but some observers posted that the performance in England was one of the team's worst in three decades.

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