|Player:||SL Malinga, KC Sangakkara, M Muralitharan, WPUJC Vaas|
|Event:||Sri Lanka in India 2006/07|
DateLine: 6th February 2007
Sri Lanka will rely on unpredictable fast bowler Lasith Malinga to rattle India in the one day series starting this week, vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara said on Monday. The 23-year-old Malinga has claimed 71 wickets in 21 Tests and scalped 37 victims in 25 one-dayers with his unusual round-arm slinging action that batsmen find difficult to read. Sangakkara said Malinga would be Sri Lanka's main weapon in the four matches against India in the absence of stalwarts Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, who were rested ahead of the World Cup. "Malinga has brought that X-factor into the side, that bit of unpredictability," Sangakkara said ahead of the first match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday. "He bowls at 150 kmph-plus (95 miles) regularly. He is very accurate and has got a very positive attitude. That rubs off on all the guys in the team and when we play with him we tend to be a bit more aggressive, a bit more positive and follow him along. We have got an all-round pace attack. We've got a good balance, got guys who bowl fast and guys who bowl line and length." The four-match series will be the last for the rivals before the World Cup opens in the Caribbean on March 13. Both India and Sri Lanka are drawn in group B of the World Cup preliminary league along with Bangladesh and first-timers Bermuda. Sangakkara, a brilliant batsman-wicket keeper, dismissed suggestions that Vaas and Muralitharan should have taken part in the India series to warm up for the World Cup. "They have played for such a long time for Sri Lanka and I don't think four more matches would make a difference as long as they put in hours of practice and prepare well," he said. "They are taking a break from matches but not from training. Back home they are working very hard. If we can safeguard those two people who are kind of lynch pins in our side we will have a great chance in the World Cup." Sri Lanka, who won the World Cup in 1996 and made it to the semi-finals in the last edition in South Africa in 2003, are regarded as strong contenders to win the sport's premier competition. "Our confidence is pretty high because we have played good cricket for the last six months. We have been improving steadily," said Sangakkara. "Performance in one-day cricket depends on how well you do on a particular day and how well you prepare for it. We look forward to playing India over the next two weeks. Any kind of cricket before a big tournament is good because you tend to keep the good habits and the more cricket you play the better prepared you are." Sri Lanka's last two tours of India ended in one-day defeats. They were walloped 6-1 by the hosts in October 2005 and failed to make the Champions Trophy semi-finals last year. After Thursday's opener in Kolkata, the other matches will be played in Rajkot (February 11), Goa (Feb 14) and Visakhapatnam (Feb 17). The World Cup squads have to be named by February 13.
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