WELLINGTON - New Zealand and Sri Lanka begin fine-tuning their World Cup preparations in Christchurch on Sunday with the first of seven one-day internationals. The first game will also serve as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup opener to be played between the same two teams on the same ground on February 14. With two ODIs against Pakistan early next month as well, New Zealand have adopted a player rotation policy to manage their workload.

Senior players Tim Southee and Ross Taylor will sit out the first game and Kyle Mills has not been considered as he continues to recover from injury. "It's important we give all squad members an opportunity to perform and certainly there will be players who will be performing a role in these matches that they'll be expected to do at World Cup time," batting coach Craig McMillan said.

New Zealand, with their tails up after beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in the recent Test series, have moved captain Brendon McCullum from the middle order to open with Martin Guptill. Sri Lanka have been reinforced by the addition of Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lasith Malinga who were absent from the Tests. Malinga, like Mills, is still recovering from injury and is unlikely to feature until the tail end of the series.

New Zealand spinner and former captain Daniel Vettori, who is heading to his fifth World Cup, said the Black Caps needed an overwhelming series win against Sri Lanka to be regarded as a force to be reckoned with. "Everyone's starting to talk about the New Zealand team and if we can put up a winning series here, and a dominant series, that will only bode well for the World Cup," Vettori said Saturday. "It's something the guys really want to focus on. Rather than stumbling into the World Cup like we've probably done in the past, we want to go in with all our bases covered and everyone firing." A focal point will be the continuing battle between Kumar Sangakkara and Trent Boult who dismissed the master Sri Lankan batsman cheaply in three of his four innings during the recent Test series.

 Sri Lanka will be counting on their batting strength with Sangakkara and Dilshan both ranked among the World's top 10 ODI batsmen, ahead of New Zealand's leading batsman Kane Williamson. Sangakkara and Jayawardene are also two of the most prolific ODI batsmen in the history of the game, sitting fourth and fifth on the all-time list, and Sri Lankan coach Marvan Atapattu said their success was vital. "Over the years, the older guys have maintained high standards, and the youngsters looking at them will be lifted because of that," he said.