Best chance for Sri Lanka to win WC: Ranatunga

Updated: Mar 23, 2011, 16:20 PM IST

Colombo: With the team`s quarterfinal and semifinal matches scheduled at home, Sri Lanka have the best chance to win the ongoing World Cup after a hiatus of 15 years, feels former captain Arjuna Ranatunga.

"The fact that we will be playing our quarterfinal and semifinal fixtures at home will be a huge advantage," said Ranatunga, the man who led Sri Lanka to their only World Cup title way back in 1996.

"It`s a luxury we couldn`t afford when we won the World Cup in 1996. As you know, we played our quarterfinal in Faisalabad and the semifinal in Calcutta. I believe this is our best chance in say, maybe for another 15 years, to win the World Cup," he told reporters. "For me, the World Cup proper begins from the quarterfinal onwards and we need to start playing our best cricket," Ranatunga added.

Sri Lanka will take on England in the quarterfinals in Colombo on Saturday and if they win, will play either New Zealand or South Africa in the semifinal at the same venue on March 29. Sri Lanka had defeated Australia in the 1996 summit clash, the last World Cup staged in the sub-continent. The islanders, however, lost to Australia in the 2007 World Cup final at Barbados, and are among the favourites for the 2011 title.

While insisting that England should not be taken lightly, Ranatunga, a veteran of over 250 ODIs, said the Andrew Strauss-led English side will struggle against Sri Lanka`s formidable spin attack led by veteran Muttiah Muralitharan. "England will struggle against spin, no doubt about that, but having said that, we shouldn`t underestimate them. Andrew Strauss had led England admirably in this tournament and his leadership skills have been one of the standouts for me in England`s campaign," he added.

He, however, was worried about Sri Lanka`s middle-order with Angelo Matthews, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Silva yet to fire with the bat. "I am glad our top-order is among runs. All four of them have made hundreds in the tournament so far, but I am a bit worried about the middle-order though," said Ranatunga, who was the top run-scorer for Sri Lanka in three successive World Cups -- 1987, 1992 and 1996.