Muttiah Muralitharan believes Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup victory changed the face of cricket in his country but feels it is time to look forward and not back (Sri Lanka 9/2 to win World Cup).
The Sri Lankans pulled off one of the biggest shocks in cricket history when they claimed the sport’s biggest prize with victory over Australian in the final 15 years ago, with Arjuna Ranatunga leading a young side to glory in Lahore.
The record-breaking off-spinner is the only member of that side in the current squad for the 2011 World Cup but the new breed of Sri Lankan cricketers are a talented, hungry and confident bunch, led by a superb captain in Kumar Sangakkara.
Prior to the ’96 World Cup, Murali’s men were considered minnows of world cricket who could, on occasions, raise their game to beat the best in the world, but they have now established themselves as a major force in the game.
India are tipped to win the tournament this year but Sri Lanka are not far behind in the market and also have the advantage of playing in familiar conditions, with Muralitharan set to play a major role on spin-friendly pitches (Murali 11/4 to be top Sri Lankan bowler in World Cup).
The popular bowler believes that the result in ’96 will always be etched in the minds of the Sri Lankan players but he is keen to move on and try to win it again in what will be his last major tournament.
“The day we won the cup in 1996 was the happiest day – it is because of that our cricket has come this far,” he said. “It’s been 15 years since 1996 and we can’t dwell in the past. The teams are different. You can never compare generations.”
And Murali was upbeat about the co-hosts’ chances of lifting the trophy at the start of April, adding: “In 2003 we entered the semis and in 2007 we entered the finals. We had good teams but we could not win the cup. But this team I think we have a chance.”