LONDON // Kumar Sangakkara and his Sri Lankan teammates will be glad to turn their attentions to the business of knocking Australia out of the World Twenty20 today, after being the subjects of political protests since their arrival in the UK. A group of London-based Sri Lankans protesting against oppression in their homeland were a regular presence outside Lord's in the lead-up to the start of the tournament.
While the opening match was taking place, the group assumed a position outside the ground's North Gate, the main entry point for spectators, calling for the side to return home and other nations to boycott matches against them. Banners condemned the Sri Lanka government's "human rights abuses" against Tamils. Another read: "ICC, you banned Zimbabwe, but why not Sri Lanka?" The Lions have long been considered an emblem of peace, containing as it does players of varying ethnicity. The majority are Sinhalese, but Muttiah Muralitharan, their champion off-spinner, for example, is a Tamil of Indian-origin.
Sangakkara, who was recently installed as captain, made the short trip from his hotel to Lord's for Friday's opening ceremony - eventually aborted due to inclement weather - in the company of two armed guards. Sangakkara however has not been swayed from the task facing his side on the field. If they beat Ricky Ponting's side at Trent Bridge today, Australia are certainly out of the competition following their demolition by the West Indies on Saturday.
Sangakkara said: "The pressure will be on them, but we are not taking victory for granted. They will come hard at us and we have to be ready to stand tall. "We know a side must win at least one game to stay in the race. We have just got to take our chances. "We have a great mix in both batting and bowling, but at the end of the day it all depends on executing your plans well." Ponting, the Australia captain, said his side were in familiar territory following defeat in the opening game. The same thing happened two years ago, the inaugural World Twenty20, when they were shocked by Zimbabwe.
They stumbled through to the second phase on that occasion, and Ponting said: "This form of the game can change very quickly. We're in exactly the same position as we were last time. "I guess some of the guys that were in the tournament last time will know what we have to do. There is nowhere else where we can go now." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org