Sangakkara says Canada won't be taken lightly

Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara during a press meet before the match.

Hambantota: Feb 20, 2011

By Shahid Hashmi

Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara vowed Saturday not to take minnows Canada lightly as the 1996 champions look to get their 2011 World Cup campaign off to a flying start.

Sunday’s Group A clash at the newly built stadium in Hambantota is tipped to be a one-sided affair but Sangakkara said his team would need to play well against the Canadians.

“You can t take Canada lightly,” said Sangakkara after a practice session at the stadium. “If you take the warm-up game they played against England, they lost only by 16 runs. Every team raises their game when the World Cup comes and we need to raise our game and if we do that we can do well.”

Rizwan Cheema’s quickfire 93 gave England a major scare after Canada were set a 244-run target in a warm-up match in Dhaka this week before they squeaked home, thanks to five wickets from paceman Stuart Broad.

Sangakkara admitted Canada were capable of springing surprises. “I am sure all of them (the smaller teams) are capable of doing something special when the occasion comes. You have to be very wary of these sides and make sure you play your best when you play them,” said Sangakkara.

The captain stressed the need for a winning start with tougher challenges ahead, including a match against Pakistan in their second match in Colombo on February 26. “I think our job is to more than try and win the tournament, first to try and win the opening game. It s important to build it up step by step. You have to take it game by game and we are not thinking beyond that,” said Sangakkara.

The Sri Lankan captain said personal tragedies affecting middle-order batsman Chamara Silva and team manager Anura Tennekoon had cast a shadow over the squad. “It s been a tough few days for us as Silva and then Tennekoon both had losses in their family,” said Sangakkara. Silva’s elder sister died and the manager lost his father. We feel very much for them and at the same time these things bring us closer together. We just need to concentrate on playing good cricket because they will be wanting us to do well,” said Sangakkara.

Sangakkara praised the quality of the stadium. “It looks a magnificent ground and the wicket looks fantastic. We are all amazed at what a transformation Hambantota has gone through and it is ready for the historic occasion,” said Sangakkara of president Mahinda Rajapakse’s hometown.

Sangakkara said leading his team in the World Cup was a great honour. “It s a great privilege and an honour, not just to captain a World Cup team, but to captain this particular team. They are a wonderful bunch of guys and the best we have in Sri Lanka and I want it to do its best in the event.”