PALLEKELE, March 8- Sri Lanka cannot afford to be complacent in their World Cup clash against lowly Zimbabwe on Thursday, knowing an upset would leave them in danger of missing out on the knockout phase.
The 1996 winners and 2007 runners-up have five points from four games and need a win to ensure they reach the quarter-finals. They face extra pressure because their last match is away against New Zealand in Mumbai.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara realises the importance of victory over Zimbabwe, against whom Sri Lanka have won all four World Cup matches in previous tournaments.
"Our focus is on the immediate game so it doesn’t really matter where you finish up. You need to beat every single team to get into the final, and to win the World Cup," said Sangakkara, whose team lost to Pakistan and saw their match against Australia abandoned due to rain.
Sri Lanka piled up 332-7 in their big win over Canada but failed to chase down Pakistan’s 277-7, before knocking Kenya over for a paltry 142 with paceman Lasith Malinga taking a career-best 6-38, including a hat-trick.
Sangakkara defended his batsmen, especially opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.
"In cricket you have instances where not everyone shines every day. You always get matches where certain people shine and some don’t," said Sangakkara, who was 73 not out when the rain washed out the Australia match.
"I think batsmen go through certain phases. The most important thing at all times in high-performance situations is to maintain equilibrium, make sure that your emotions remain the same at all times."
"Dilshan has been our best performer over the last few years. He has won us so many games so we just want him to go out and we want him to be focused and keep his aggression," he said.
The skipper said he was surprised at his team’s World Cup schedule but insisted playing New Zealand in India would not be a problem.
"You can’t change things beyond your control. It was a surprise that that was the only game we are playing outside our country being the host.
"Usually, the host nation plays at home, but that’s the way the game goes."
Sri Lanka are likely to bring in paceman Dilhara Fernando for his first match in the World Cup.
Zimbabwe, smarting from their ten-wicket defeat against New Zealand, hope Vusimuzi Sibanda, a replacement for the injured Sean Williams, bolsters the batting line-up.
Captain Elton Chigumbura said the side needed to eradicate batting errors.
"It is always hard against a bigger team. The way we started with our batting (against New Zealand) — it is always hard to come back from losing three to four quick wickets in the first 15 overs.
"It is more about the technical errors, so we need to overcome those errors and be up to the challenge."
Zimbabwe, with two points from three matches, need a win to maintain a realistic chance of reaching the quarter-finals.