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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Russel Arnold's column
Sri Lanka's Russel Arnold
By Russel Arnold
Sri Lanka World Cup cricketer

We are only a few days away from a World Cup semi-final and this is what cricketers play the game for - the big matches.

We will go into that game on Tuesday in Jamaica in great heart despite a mixed week for us as a team.

Australia beat us convincingly on Monday and there was a lot of talk about our decision to rest Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, and the psychological impact the defeat would have on us for the rest of the tournament.

As a team we are keen to move on quickly because we have more important games coming up and we have to pick ourselves up.

I can promise you and the Australians that we will be a much stronger team if we meet again.

Russel Arnold
Arnold took the wicket of Gilchrist but Australia still beat them
Of course, we would have liked to beat the defending champions, or at least get close to them and put pressure on them.

There is no point dwelling on what has happened, this team prefers to look forward and our focus is totally on what the next week has in store for us.

That was the way we were thinking after our victory over Ireland, which was much easier than we expected it to be.

Ireland have impressed everyone with their work ethic and battling spirit but we approached the game correctly and just about everything went to plan.

Now we can really think about the semi-finals. Before we left Sri Lanka, to get to that stage was our first target but now we want to kick on.

New Zealand are likely to be our opponents at Sabina Park in Jamaica and we are expecting nothing less than a fiercely competitive game.

They are a good team but we will concentrate on getting the basics right and if we can do that we know we have the talent and the potential to pull off something truly special.

Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori are world-class bowlers: Bond is a phenomenal competitor and Vettori a canny operator. However, we believe we are more than capable of countering anything they launch at us.

It would be fitting for a great batsman like Sanath Jayasuriya and fantastic bowlers like Vaas and Muralitharan to play in the final

Russel Arnold
Some observers have mentioned Vaas' quite amazing record against Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming - he's dismissed him for a duck the last four times they have come up against each other.

If that happens again it will be nice but past records will count for nothing and we know it's all about what happens on 24 March.

The next few days will be critical in the sporting lives of some of our squad, for whom this is probably the last World Cup.

It would be fitting for a great batsman like Sanath Jayasuriya and fantastic bowlers like Vaas and Muralitharan to play in the final.

This team is gelling at the perfect time and things are looking positive. We trust each other and are playing for each other.

We all remember the bitter disappointment we experienced in 2003 when we lost to Australia in the semi-finals and we don't want to go through that again. We have an opportunity to exorcise the ghosts of that day and put it behind us.

People back home are talking about the triumph in 1996 and that victory in Lahore did change the face of cricket in Sri Lanka.

It brought self-belief to us as a nation and the sport has not looked back since.

For me, after years of playing the game, I have a simple motivation: to emulate what the likes of Aravinda da Silva and Arjuna Ranatanga did that day.

This team has been playing great cricket over the past year, has put in a lot of hard work and is very hungry for success.

If we can repeat what happened 11 years ago it would be a great achievement and the crowning glory for outstanding cricketers like Sanath, Murali and Vaas.

SEE ALSO
Russel Arnold's column
03 Apr 07 |  Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka victory shatters India
23 Mar 07 |  Cricket
Sri Lankans overpower Bangladesh
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20 Jul 05 |  Cricket


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