Sydney - Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan pleaded on Monday for key spinner Ranjana Herath to be kept on ice for the Cricket World Cup quarter-finals after suffering a nasty injury to his finger.
The 36-year-old Herath needed four stitches in the spinning finger of his left hand after he tried to stop a full-blooded drive from England's Jos Buttler in Wellington on Sunday.
Sri Lanka won the match by nine wickets and with the 1996 champions almost assured of a quarter-final spot, record wicket-taker Muralitharan believes Herath can safely be rested for the remaining pool games against Australia in Sydney next Sunday and with Scotland in Hobart three days later.
"He has been Sri Lanka's steadiest and most reliable bowler so far in the tournament," wrote Muralitharan in his International Cricket Council (ICC) column.
Should Herath be ruled out, as is likely, the main spinning duties will pass to Sachithra Senanayake who was included in the squad after his bowling action was cleared by the ICC.
"I would not try to rush Herath back, either for the match with Australia or for the clash with Scotland," added Muralitharan.
"An injury like the one he has picked up to his spinning finger needs time to heal so I would allow him the maximum time to recover."