Hambantota: Middle-order batsman Thilan Samaraweera has told his Sri Lanka teammates to underestimate Canada at their peril when the two sides meet in the World Cup on Sunday.
Both teams will be opening their Group A campaigns at Hambantota and although tournament co-host Sri Lanka will start as the clear favorite, Canada's impressive performance in a warmup against England this week has rung a few alarm bells at the tournament.
"If you relax they, can upset any team," Samaraweera said of the Canadians, who only lost to England by 16 runs in Bangladesh.
A right-handed batsman, Samaraweera has become an integral part of Sri Lanka's middle-order lineup in one-day internationals over the last two years, hitting two centuries since being recalled in 2009 after a four-year gap.
However, he was also among those injured during the 2009 tour to Pakistan when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus, killing six policemen and a driver.
Looking ahead to the World Cup, he has no doubt about where he fits into Sri Lanka's plans.
"I think my role is to control the innings, last year I did very well and also did well in the warmup matches," he said Friday, referring to innings of 55 and 60 in the recent victories over West Indies and Netherlands respectively.
Opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan also half-centuries in those practice games and Samaraweera hoped the opening batsman would repeat the same in World Cup.
"We have Dilshan, who is normally an aggressive player, and after that the middle order has to make the bulk of the runs," he said.
Colmobo's R. Premadasa Stadium, which will host seven matches, and Hambantota's Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium, where Pakistan plays against Kenya on Feb. 23, has over 80-yard (70-meter) boundaries. Samaraweera expects 260 runs as a par score at both venues.
"Lot of people talk about 300 runs but that could happen in India," Samaraweera said. "The wickets are flat and the grounds are small (there)."
Samaraweera said his team had not yet prepared in detail for its other games in the group against three-time defending champion Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
"In this type of group stages you have to plan one by one and don't plan ahead," he said. "Australia can still do a lot of things. Pakistan is really a dark horse and can change the game any time and have firepower and even New Zealand are good."