Sri Lanka ponder controversial rest repeat against Ireland
by Julian Guyer Tue Apr 17, 1:21 AM ET
ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (AFP) - Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, who were controversially omitted for the crushing World Cup defeat by Australia, could also sit out Wednesday's clash against Ireland.
Their absence, and that of already injured quick Lasith Malinga, meant the 1996 World Cup winners went into Monday's loss to the defending champions without a trio of bowlers who have taken 41 wickets at this tournament.
Australia cruised to a seven-wicket win with 44 balls to spare after dismissing a full-strength Sri Lanka batting line-up for 226 at the Grenada National Stadium.
However, Sri Lanka, like Australia, had already qualified for the semi-finals and skipper Mahela Jayawardene insisted he had no qualms about the decision to leave out Muralitharan and Vaas, two of the stars of the side that won the World Cup 11 years ago.
"Obviously those two guys had been playing throughout the World Cup. Murali had a problem with his groin as well - he played with a strapping in the last two or three games.
"Once we realised we had the semi-final spot I thought we needed to give those guys a break," Jayawardene said after Monday's match.
"They have had injury problems in the last six to 12 months, and we've been giving them breaks.
"That is something the team management has been doing, and it was a decision we had to take for the best interests of the team.
"Lasith still was not fit, and we couldn't risk another injury. We had to give them a proper rest.
"We never devalued the game. Up to now we have taken every game very seriously, and this game too. We have brought 15 guys to play this tournament, and they are all quality players."
Looking ahead to the Ireland game, Sri Lanka's final Super Eights match, Jaywardene said of his rested bowlers: "If they want to have a go at Ireland - maybe it won't be that tough a game - they can easily come back into things.
"But if they feel they need another break we will give them one. We need them 100 percent going into the semi-finals."
Ireland followed up their stunning defeat of 1992 champions Pakistan in the opening group stage with a 74-run thrashing of Bangladesh - themselves conquerors of India and South Africa - in Barbados on Sunday.
"Ireland are a very strong side," Jayawardene said. "You can't take any of these teams lightly. Bangladesh and Ireland have been upsetting a lot of the big names."
Australian-born Ireland captain Trent Johnston said he hoped his team had one more major performance left in them.
"We have a pretty big game against Sri Lanka. That will be the last game for (coach) Adrian Birrell, and it would be a fitting way for us to send him off by putting on another good display."
South Africa-born Birrell, who leaves the job after the World Cup, said of his side: "We have got a great squad of players and there is a wonderful team spirit.
"Five years ago we were ranked below Denmark. Now we are ranked above all the Associates (junior nations) and that is very satisfying."