After finishing bottom of the Indian Premier League as the captain of Kings XI Punjab, Kumar Sangakkara now faces the grim prospect of returning home from the World Twenty20 after just two games if Sri Lanka falter against Zimbabwe tonight. Sri Lanka, who reached the final of the last T20 World Cup without losing a game before coming up short against Pakistan, were stunned in their opener this time around when Nathan McCullum's last-over heroics gave New Zealand a tense two-wicket win. Their survival in the tournament now rests on the match against Zimbabwe, a team without a rich pedigree in T20 cricket but riding high after wins over Australia and Pakistan in warm-up matches.
"We need to pick up our standards in the field quite a bit come Monday," said Sangakkara at the pre-match press conference in Guyana. "The basics are looking OK, but we just need to make sure that we convert good starts into good totals." To add to Sri Lanka's woes, Muttiah Muralitharan, their spin wizard, has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after suffering a groin strain during the match against the Black Caps.
Murali is expected to be out of action for two to three weeks and his absence on the slow, low pitches in the West Indies will hurt Sri Lanka's chances should they make the second round. With Test cricket's greatest wicket-taker absent, Lasith Malinga and his fellow bowlers will have to improve on their performance against New Zealand. With wins over two formidable teams and Elton Chigumbura, Craig Ervine, Charles Coventry and Hamilton Masakadza - three of their main batsmen - scoring important runs, Zimbabwe will be looking to cause the first real upset of this tournament as the Africans seek to convince world cricket chiefs that they merit Test status once more.
* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi, with agencies Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, 5.30pm, on CricOne