While Sri Lanka's name does the round of pre-World Cup predictions, Muttiah Muralitharan believes the side that lifted the 1996 World Cup was superior to the current contenders. "Some experts are tipping us to surprise a few at the World Cup and maybe even win it. I think we have a good chance but I still believe the Sri Lanka team of 1996 was better," he told the website bigstarcricket.com.
Muralitharan, 34, insisted the Arjuna Ranatunga-led side was a stronger batting unit, full of experienced attacking players. "When we won the World Cup in 1996, batting-wise the team was more experienced, had flair, everything was there in that team in 1996. This team now has a better bowling attack than what we had that time but we had a better balance in the 1996 World Cup because there were four spinners in the side and only two fast bowlers."
With 432 one-day international wickets, it would be easy to pinpoint Muralitharan as a threat on the slow and low pitches in the West Indies, but he felt spinners would struggle. "The rules have changed now with the 20-over power plays coming so the spinners go out of the game, you can't play two or three spinners any more," he said. "We have only one spinner at the moment so fast bowlers have more chance [of success] because they bowl in the power play."
Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, the other veteran bowler in the Sri Lankan side, were both rested for the recent ODI series against India. Both will play their final World Cup. Sri Lanka have been drawn in Group B along with India, Bangladesh and Bermuda.