Sangakkara, left, will be hoping to take inspiration from selection committee chief Aravinda de Silva, right, who helped lead Sri Lanka to 1996 World Cup victory [AFP]

Captain Kumar Sangakkara pledged to take his Cricket World Cup campaign one game at a time as Sri Lanka prepared to face their first opponents Canada on Sunday.

Sri Lanka's bid to win the world title for a second time pits them in Group A, which also features three-time reigning champions Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Sunday’s game at the newly built stadium in Hambantota is tipped to be a one-sided affair but Sangakkara said his team would need to play well against the Canadians, especially in light of their recent narrow loss against England.

"You can't take Canada lightly," said Sangakkara after a practice session at the stadium.

"If you take the warm-up game they played against England, they lost only by 16 runs. Every team raises their game when the World Cup comes and we need to raise our game and if we do that we can do well."

Building momentum

Sangakkara wants his team to build momentum over time and just focus for the moment on beating Canada - a team that were bowled out by Sri Lanka for just 36 in a group match at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

"Our job is to win the first game rather than try and win the tournament from the first game,'' Sangakkara said.

"We are going to try and enjoy every game, take it step by step and hopefully build ourselves up.''

Sangakkara acknowledged the pressure was on his team as they carried the hopes of 20 million cricket-mad Sri Lankans.

"The expectations are huge but it's important we play game by game,'' said the skipper.

Sri Lanka face much tougher challenges ahead, including a match against Pakistan in their second match in Colombo on February 26.

Legacy

Upcoming matches

Sunday February 20
Kenya v New Zealand
Sri Lanka v Canada

Monday February 21
Australia v Zimbabwe

Tuesday February 22
England v Holland

W'day February 23
Kenya v Pakistan

Thursday February 24
S Africa v W Indies

Friday February 25
Australia v New Zealand
Bangladesh v Ireland

Saturday February 26
Sri Lanka v Pakistan 

Powerful batting displays from Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva led Sri Lanka to victory in 1996 World Cup when they defeated Australia in the final at Lahore, Pakistan.

De Silva is now chief selector and was present at the brand new 35,000-capacity Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium for a chat with the team.

"His advice is extremely valuable at all times, he is a very shrewd thinker of the game and a fantastic cricketer,'' Sangakkara said.

Sangakkara will be playing in his third World Cup and with the likes of experienced spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and fast bowler Lasith Malinga in the side, Sri Lanka are joint favourites along with other co-host India.

"It's a great privilege to captain this particular team,'' Sangakkara said.

"I think they are a wonderful bunch of guys and it's a great honour to play for your country in front of your home crowd. So hopefully we can do everyone proud.''

The Sri Lankan captain said however that personal tragedies affecting middle-order batsman Chamara Silva and team manager Anura Tennekoon had cast a shadow over the squad.

"It's been a tough few days for us as Silva and then Tennekoon both had losses in their family," said Sangakkara. Silva's elder sister died and the manager lost his father.

"We feel very much for them and at the same time these things bring us closer together. We just need to concentrate on playing good cricket because they will be wanting us to do well," said Sangakkara.

The skipper hinted he might include either leftarm spinner Rangana Herath or Ajantha Mendis alongside Muralitharan for Sunday's game, with all-rounder Angelo Mathews providing a medium fast attack.

"We can go with two spinners as Angelo Mathews brings in a nice blend to the side,'' he said.

"Among the fast and spin bowlers, we hope to pick four to play with Angelo.''

Source: Agencies