Sangakkara looking forward to Australian test
Sri Lanka's build-up to next year's World Cup continues when they leave for Australia on Sunday to play a three-ODI series. One of the biggest challenges ahead of Kumar Sangakkara and his team is winning next year's marquee tournament, and thereby emulate the achievement of Arjuna Ranatunga's side which won the World Cup in 1996, the last time it was held in the subcontinent.
"When you play sides as good as Australia, if there are any small weakness they are highlighted. It will be interesting to see how far we've come over the last one-and-a-half years," Sangakkara said. "Every tour has brought improvement. What those improvement areas are, sometimes you identify at practice but sometimes they are more obvious in games."
The Australian tour and the home series against the West Indies starting next month gives Sri Lanka their only opportunities to work on the grey areas and finalise the batting slots and the bowling combinations ahead of picking the final squad for the World Cup.
The return of legendary offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan is a tremendous boost to the team, according to Sangakkara. "There is no substitute for Murali. We saw what he did in the last Test that he played against India, the amount of fire and enthusiasm he has, the challenge he took to take eight wickets. That kind of attitude in a side does wonders. He is the best team man that I have played with. He has no ego, he is always team first and him second.
"To have that kind of person in the side helps us to bond together, helps everyone communicate better and also lifts us as a team. To make any impact in the World Cup or any tournament for that matter that kind of energy, enthusiasm, never-say-die attitude is vital."
The injury to key allrounder Angelo Mathews, who is recovering from a knee strain, has altered the team combination for the Australian series. "We have to wait and see how we can play our combinations because if Angelo Mathews cannot bowl on this tour he can still hold his own easily as a batsman," Sangakkara said. "It also means that we'll have to play our old combination of three specialist fast bowlers and one spinner."
Sangakkara himself was fighting to be fit for the tour after tweaking his left hamstring at practice two weeks before the team's departure. "I am almost back to full fitness after a couple of days running at full pace," he said. "It looks very good at the moment I just need to make sure that I keep working hard at my rehab and getting my muscles stronger because hamstring injuries can recur."
It was on the same left leg (but a different side) that Sangakkara suffered a hamstring injury when Sri Lanka last toured Australia in 2007.