HAMBANTOTA, SRI LANKA // Kumar Sangakkara believes Sri Lanka will have too much firepower for Canada as the 1996 champions launch their World Cup campaign at a new stadium today.
Despite having little knowledge of Canada, and of the ground in the tourist town of Hambantota, where 3,000 people died in the 2004 tsunami, Sangakkara, said: "We are confident of a good start and when we go to play sides that we haven't played much we don't need to worry because it's all about us, how well we do and how well we play our cricket."
Sri Lanka will be without middle-order batsman Chamara Silva, whose elder sister died on Thursday. He will be replaced by Thisara Perera, the all-rounder.
Sangakkara said giving all 15 players in the squad time to play in the warm-up matches had been crucial.
"We had given chances to all players, so that when an opportunity arrives we have another player to fill the gap," said Sangakkara, who denied he was already thinking ahead to the clash against Pakistan. "We can't think ahead. Once we finish Sunday's match then only we will plan and think about the match against Pakistan," said Sangakkara, referring to the match in Colombo on February 26.
Sri Lanka, runners-up in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, go into the tournament in good shape after comfortable wins in their two warm-up matches.
All of the side's batsmen - except for Mahela Jayawardene - had good workouts in the build-up and are likely to relish the inexperienced Canadian bowling attack.
Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews and Perera will lead the pace attack but Muttiah Muralitharan's off-spin is likely to cause the most problems for the Canadian batsmen.
The leading wicket-taker in one-day internationals, Muralitharan, with 519 wickets in 341 matches, has fully recovered from knee problems. Ashish Bagai, the Canada captain, admitted his team faces a big challenge.
"Obviously Muralitharan and Malinga are the big threats but if we can get through a couple of their bowlers we have a good chance," said Bagai, who also played down the issue of the new venue.
"It is a new venue, even they won't know what to expect, so it's going to be tough for both teams," said Bagai of the ground, built at a cost of nearly US$8 million (Dh29.3m).
Consistent rain has given little time for the pitch to settle down but it is likely to help slow bowlers.
Besides Bagai and John Davison, Rizwan Cheema and Sri Lankan-born Ruvindu Gunasekera lead the batting in the 15-man squad, which includes players born in India, Pakistan and Uganda among other nations.
But whether Davison, who initially walked away from the squad because two experienced players were excluded, can find his top form at the age of 40 remains to be seen.
The two countries have only met once before, with Sri Lanka mauling Canada, dismissed for 36 - still the lowest total in a World Cup match - by nine wickets at Paarl in the 2003 World Cup.
Bagai is one of the survivors, along with batsman Davison, who played against Sri Lanka in that game. Davison smashed a 67-ball hundred against Bangladesh in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, a record broken by Australia's Matthew Hayden four years later.
"There's only two guys from that World Cup here and we don't talk about that game too much," he said.
* Agence-France Press