Mumbai, March 20: The millions of Sri Lankan fans will be keeping a close watch for news on the medical reports of injured off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan after he sustained a hamstring strain during Friday's World Cup match against New Zealand at Mumbai.
The wily tweaker evidently has a broad threshold for pain as he endured the discomfort from his strain to pick up four wickets and propel Sri Lanka to a resounding 112-run win in their final Group A game.
"I dived and got injured a little bit. I strained a hamstring. It's not a big tear, maybe a small one, but it was a discomfort," said the 38-year-old, whose patented smile gave no hint of the pain he was going through.
A fully fit Muralitharan can agitate most batsmen on most pitches, as demonstrated by his haul of 1343 international wickets.
On the slow and low pitches of the sub-continent, his efficacy is only augmented and the 1996 champions simply cannot afford to lose his services at this stage of the competition as they look to become the first Asian side to win the trophy twice.
No one knows this better than his skipper who is keeping his fingers crossed that the injury does not rule out cricket's most prolific bowler from the knockout stages.
"We've got a few days... hopefully he can be fully fit within that time period," said Sangakkara. "We've had guys with injuries before and we managed to fix them up pretty quickly. Hopefully we will have him again for the quarter-finals. He needs to play. This is his last World Cup. We enjoy playing with him, he wins a lot of matches for us. What he does really well is bowl and take wickets so we just want him to do that."
That is precisely what he did on Friday. He spelt serious trouble for the Kiwi batsmen after Sangakkara (111) scored his maiden World Cup century to rescue his team after some early jitters to set a 266-run target. The off-spinner, playing his last international tournament, showed off his entire gamut of tricks in front of the 23,000-odd crowd at Wankhede Stadium, the venue for the April 2 final, and ensured that the Kiwis were never in with a chance to overhaul Lanka's total.