Legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan says Sri Lanka’s cricketers have nothing to fear in Sunday’s crunch World Cup clash with Australia in Sydney.
Beaten World Cup finalists in 2007 and 2011, Sri Lanka were beaten by New Zealand and struggled to overcome Afghanistan before dispatching of Bangladesh and England with relative ease. The clash with Australia will determine who finishes second in Pool A and, theoretically at least, has an easier path through the quarter – final stage.
Muralitharan, who had a foot in the Australia camp with his work as a consultant coach during Australia’s tour of the UAE last October, was confident his home country would be a threat in the knock – out stages.
A third place finish in Pool A would likely see a quarter – final match – up with South Africa, while the team finishing second would face one West Indies, Pakistan or Ireland from a tightly fought Pool B.
“Once again Sri Lanka is set to be a threat at the business end of a major event,” Muralitharan wrote in a column on the International Cricket Council’s website.
“Sri Lanka have nothing to fear (against Australia).
“The team now has a full week to rest up and prepare for the match against Australia while, for Michael Clarke’s side, it will be a third game in nine days.”
However, Muralitharan added that he didn’t expect the co – hosts to suffer any ill effects of their long – haul travel from Auckland to Perth and on to Sydney.
“It will be quite the opposite, in fact, as they will be relishing the chance to play a series of matches in quick succession after two weeks without a game,” he said.
“And they will be out to prove a point after being beaten by Brendon McCullum’s team at Eden Park.”
Australia collapsed to the tune of 8 – 26 in their loss to New Zealand last Saturday, then broke all manner of records in a 275 – run thumping of Afghanistan in Perth on Wednesday.
Kumar Sangakkara, fresh from back – to – back unbeaten centuries, suggested Australia would rightly start as favourites at the SCG on Sunday.
“Anyone playing at home is going to fancy their chances more than the visiting side,” Sangakkara told AAP.
“They’ve played very well and they’re one of the top sides.”
Sangakkara, who will retire from one – day cricket at the end of his fourth World Cup campaign, suggested his teammates should not get caught up worrying about the opposition too much.
“The next two days I’ll have a look at what the Aussie bowlers have been doing,” he said.
“There’s no use thinking too much about the strengths of the Australian side. It’s better for us to look at ourselves.”
Regardless of the result on Sunday and where they finish in the Pool A standings, because of their world ranking at the time the ICC drew up the World Cup schedule, Sri Lanka are guaranteed to play their quarter – final in Sydney on March 18 while Australia will play theirs in Adelaide on March 20.