Muralitharan doubtful ahead of SL-NZ semifinal

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 16:26 PM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka veteran off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is a doubtful starter for Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, as he is yet to recover from a hamstring injury and knee problem.

The record-breaking bowler, suffered the hamstring injury during Sri Lanka`s 112-run victory over New Zealand in the group stages, where he made a significant contribution by taking 4-25.

He then aggravated a quadricep muscle during the team`s quarterfinal win over England.

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said Murali, who will retire after the World Cup, now faces a race against time to get fit for the crucial game tomorrow.

"Murali and everyone around him is trying to get him as fit as soon as possible and fit enough to play," said Sangakkara.

The skipper also hinted that he would be keen to play even a half-fit Muralitharan.

"It`s no use thinking about the final and saving him for other games.

"This is the crunch game and if he can play tomorrow that`ll be great for us, but if that doesn`t work out, we`ve got enough cover to make sure that we are still a solid winning side," said Sangakkara of replacing the off-spinner with pacer Nuwan Kulasekara.

Admitting that one-day`s highest wicket-taker with 532 is nursing multiple injuries, Sangakkara said, "There are multiple injuries. So we`ll just have to monitor how he goes and hope he is fit enough to play."

Sangakkara said his players need to focus on their fielding, which has been the weakest link so far. Against England, the Islanders dropped as many as four catches, three off Eoin Morgan.

"We need to brush up on our fielding and improve because if you give one batsman a chance then it can prove costly," said Sangakkara.

Meanwhile, New Zealand team that has not been able to go beyond the semi-finals stage in five previous attempts in the mega-event would be looking to end the jinx.

And captain Daniel Vettori admitted that the reason for their failure is the lack of consistency.

"It`s our big chance in the semi-finals to go one better," said Vettori.

New Zealand have won only one major event – the Champions Trophy in 2000 -- so they would be relying heavily on their match-winners to come out with flying colours.

The Kiwis would be hoping that allrounder Jacob Oram will come up with a similar show like his four-wicket haul and two fabulous catches in their quarterfinal win over South Africa.

"I think the reputation we have is that we can beat any team on a given day," said Vettori.