Vettori unhappy over 'used wicket' for semi-final
The World Cup semi-final between Sri Lanka and New Zealand will be played on the same slow strip on which the hosts steamrolled a jaded and tired England, and Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori is not happy about it.
"The pitch is going to be the same one on which England played, which is very surprising for us," Vettori said. "Playing a World Cup semi-final on a used wicket is strange. We would have thought it would be mandatory to play on a new one."
Sri Lanka have clearly decided to make the most of the home advantage, and what Vettori thinks about the move will not make them lose much sleep.
New Zealand are the only non-Asian team in the semi-finals, and, to boot, they fell prey to Sri Lanka's coordinated spin attack in Mumbai in the group stages.
Further, six players from each side are survivors from the previous edition's semi-final, where Mahela Jayawardene stamped his class and stole the game away with one of the most memorable and well-paced one-day innings ever.
Image: A general view of the Premadasa stadium
Photographs: Getty Images
'It is irrelevant what people think'
On his team being the unexpected guest at the All-Asian party, Vettori said: "I think that allows us to fly a little bit under the radar. That sits well with us, and we are used to it. So it is irrelevant what other people think what is going through our heads."
Reminded about New Zealand's tame loss in Mumbai and the encounter four years ago at the same stage, he said: "This semi-final is going to be lot harder. Because we are playing Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. Five or six of our players are from the same team. Same for Sri Lanka. But we should see this as a completely separate entity."
Sri Lankan skipper Sangakkara too said there is no room for complacency ahead of the encounter.
"There is no room for complacency at all," he said. "There's no chance of that happening in any one's mind. You understand the gravity of the situation. You understand the challenge that's going to come our way. You can't play too much to the crowd or too much to show off."
Image: Daniel Vettori
'Will be great if Murali can play'
Though the match is going to be played on the same wicket, Sri Lanka are not sure whether they will play three spinners. Muttiah Muralitharan is carrying an injury and it is unsure whether he will be ready in time for the semi-final.
"Murali and everyone around him are trying to get him as fit as possible and fit enough to play," Sangakkara said. "It's not about thinking about the final and saving him for that game. This is the crunch game and if he can play that will be great enough for us. But if that doesn't work out, we've got enough cover."
Explaining Murali's injury, Sangakkara said: "He knocked his knee in Mumbai, and now he has a slight strain from the last game. We just have to monitor how he goes and hope he is fit enough to plays for us."
Image: Muttiah Muralitharan
'Kulasekara has done exceptionally well against New Zealand'
On the supposed advantage in winnings the toss at the P Remadasa Stadium, he said the pitch has evened out in the recent months, and the toss is not as big a factor as it used to be earlier.
"This wicket now has evened out well, and the toss is not going to make huge difference. But at the same time, regarding playing three spinners, I think it's the question we have to ask ourselves today. Nuwan Kulasekara has done exceptionally well against New Zealand every single time he has gone out there and he's a strong contender to play tomorrow. Everyone's in the mix. We'll have to make decisions based on how we field today in the evening and what we think is the best to play New Zealand with as a combination."
He said the team factored in both the conditions and England's weakness against spin, before going with three spinners.
"The last game we played three spinners we thought it was the best combination to play against England," he said. "It was a very very good track and stayed even and true throughout the game. And I think it won't be any different this time. At the same time we have to consider the other options we have. We have got to make sure we get the right combination."
Image: Nuwan Kulasekara
'We expect nothing but the stiffest competition'
On whether sub-continental sides have a huge advantage with their world class spinners on slow wickets, Sangakkara said teams have made it a point in recent times to get acquainted with spin.
"Sides around the world have improved a huge amount in playing and facing spin," he said. "England have come a long way from where they were from 5-6 years ago. We expect nothing but the stiffest competition tomorrow. And we can't just turn the ball and think that everything is going to be all right. Every single thing we do tomorrow has to be done with purpose."
The wicket also leaves Vettori with the dilemma whether to bank on spin or pace. Asked if he will go in with three spinners tomorrow, he said: "I think the factor that this is a used wicket will allow us to probably look at three spinners. But, then again, Sri Lanka have grown up on spin. So we'll make that decision tomorrow."
Image: Kumar Sangakkara