Sangakkara: Do it for Murali

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

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Muttiah Muralitharan

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara hailed the presence of veteran Muttiah Muralitharan, saying: "It’s great to have him in the side."

Captain Kumar Sangakkara has called on Sri Lanka to rise to the occasion in tomorrow’s World Cup final and give legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan the perfect send-off.

Injury-permitting, Murali is set to play his final international in the showpiece match at the Wankhede Stadium, and Sangakkara is desperate to help bring the curtain down on his career in appropriately triumphant fashion with victory over favourites India.

Muralitharan, who has taken 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets in a glittering career, is playing through a variety of injuries but, such is the 38-year-old’s importance to the side, he is expected to feature in Mumbai.

Sangakkara said: “Murali’s presence is always important. He’s a big-match player; he has been amazing for us. If he is fit tomorrow, he will take the field for us.

“It’s hard to shut Murali up. He is always upbeat, always talking and laughing with the other players in the dressing room, and today has been no different.

“It’s great to have him in the side and it would be great to hopefully have him on the field tomorrow and to have him play this World Cup final with us because there is no other way we can have it.

"Whatever happens we want to play for him, and play for each other and do the best that we can do.”

Sri Lanka have drafted in Suraj Randiv in place of all-rounder Angelo Mathews for the final.

Mathews has failed to shake off a right thigh strain suffered during the semi-final win over New Zealand on Tuesday.

Muttiah Muralitharan

Muralitharan, right, is set to play through the pain in tomorrow's World Cup final against India - his last match in international cricket

Randiv has played 21 one-day games for Sri Lanka, taking 22 wickets at an average of 33.50. The 26-year-old off-spinner has also played in three Tests and six Twenty20 internationals.

Sangakkara’s men had the luxury of home advantage in the previous knockout rounds, eliminating England and New Zealand at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, but hinted India may not see an expectant home crowd as an entirely positive influence.

“It cuts both ways," he said. "Playing in front of your own crowd adds to the excitement and the passion and the pride that you feel but also the weight of expectation. When you feel that entire crowd looking at you, to do everything right is also tough.

“For us tomorrow is going to be about controlled aggression, not being too emotional about anything, trying to stay grounded and in the moment.”

Sangakkara was keen to play up India’s status as favourites, while admitting Sri Lanka’s recent war-torn past would serve as an inspiration for the team to pull together.

“India have always been the favourites to win this tournament and they have got to the final, so everyone will keep looking at the Indians to go on doing that and keep playing as well as they have,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re underdogs as such; I think we’re a pretty good unit. But we have to understand the fact that India for the last year or two years have been tagged as the favourites by almost everyone to win the World Cup, so I’m sure they will be looking at themselves as favourites too.”

Asked what winning the World Cup would mean to Sri Lanka, he said: “It means everything. We have come through a very tough period and a lot of people have laid down their lives for our country and in this new future hopefully we can take home the World Cup.”

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