Sri Lanka will keep the heat on an Australia side that will be without their skipper Ricky Ponting for Wednesday's opening one-day international in Melbourne, captain Kumar Sangakkara said on Tuesday.
The Sri Lankans received a significant boost ahead of the Melbourne Cricket Ground match when Ponting said he was withdrawing to attend his grandmother's funeral in Tasmania.
Sangakkara's team hold the whip hand going into the three-match ODI series after thrashing Australia by seven wickets in a Twenty20 match in Perth last Sunday.
The wicketkeeper-batsman warned that Sri Lanka must keep applying the pressure to the world's number one-ranked one-day team. "A player of Ricky's calibre not being in the side, he's a huge blow to anyone," Sangakkara told reporters. He added, "He's one of the best batsmen probably in the last two decades or so. I'm not sure how it will affect the Australians, but for us again it's a case of thinking more about us and trying to keep a focus on the processes that we try and do setting the tone for the innings and getting our combinations right."
Although Sri Lanka are using the Australian tour as a buildup to next year's World Cup on the sub-continent, Sangakkara said his focus would be on trying to beat the home side. "The World Cup is there, everyone knows when it is and this is a build-up for it," he said.
"But for us, this tour is very important, so we take this series in that context, as a series on its own. Of course, the combinations we play will probably allow us to make some decisions about certain players, it will also give players opportunities to grab those elusive places in a final World Cup squad. But we have to play this, we have to play the West Indies and then think about the World Cup." Sangakkara said.
Like Australia, Sri Lanka are yet to decide their line-up for Wednesday's game, but Sangakkara confirmed Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan would open the batting.