Cricket: Sri Lanka keep fingers crossed over 'Murali' race for fitness
Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss is confident Muttiah Muralitharan will play in tomorrow's World Cup final against India.
Muralitharan is due to bring an end to his record-breaking career at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, but his ambitions of a dream send-off in his 350th one-day international have been threatened by a run of injuries.
The off-spinner, who turns 39 later this month, has hardly looked in peak condition for most of the tournament, during which he as at certain stages battled hamstring, side, groin and knee complaints. He hobbled his way through the semi-final win over New Zealand, but, despite his problems, has still managed 15 wickets in the tournament.
Bayliss said he would give Muralitharan and fellow injury worry Angelo Mathews maximum time to prove their fitness.
In the meantime, Sri Lanka have taken the precaution of flying veteran seamer Chaminda Vaas and off-spinner Suraj Randiv in as cover.
While the title of world champions will be on the line tomorrow, the match promises several major subplots, most notably the battle between Muralitharan and India's batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar.
Tendulkar will play in front of his home crowd in Mumbai needing just one century to reach triple figures for the 100th time in a glittering career.
India will have to make a call on whether to retain left-armer Ashish Nehra, who replaced spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for their semi-final win over Pakistan.
Captain MS Dhoni admitted that Nehra was picked in a 'horses for courses' policy that paid dividends after he returned figures of 2-33 in 10 overs. With the Wankhede Stadium surface likely to be more conducive to spin, India may consider turning back to Ashwin. The decision may also be influenced by doubts over Nehra's fitness.
* IRELAND'S two-match RSA series against Pakistan will now take place in Belfast on May 28 and 30 -- a day later than previously announced -- to accommodate problems with flight connections.