World Cup Last Hurrahs: Part Two
While the Cricket World Cup always throws up a couple of young, breakout stars, it’s also a sad time as a handful of bona fide legends of the game bid their ODI farewells.
In Part One we looked at Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan’s departing greats, this time it’s the rest.
By the time the tournament ends, eight of Sri Lanka’s squad will be over 30. Of those, Lasith Malinga and Sachithra Senanayake may well be seen again, while Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekera and Jeevan Mendis probably won't. However, there are three titans of Sri Lankan cricket sure to be playing their last World Cup.
The eldest of the three amigos, TM Dilshan, has played in two World Cups and lost in two finals. Having batted in the middle-order in 2007, when Tharanga and Jayasuriya opened, he was promoted to his now familiar top-order role in 2011 and finished as the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 500 (not to mention a bowling analysis of 31-2-126-8). His slashing, scooping style is inordinately reliant on a good eye, which aren't failing him as yet, and if, on quick pitches and angular grounds, he unfurls the full range of tricks then it might be third time lucky.
Mahela Jayawardene made his World Cup bow in the glamorous surrounds of Wantage Road, Northampton, way back in 1999, when the holders failed, along with hosts England, to make it out of the group. Four years later, he recorded scores of 1, 5, 9, 1, 0, 0 and 5. As skipper in the Caribbean in 2007, only Matty Hayden made more runs, as he carried his team to within a Gilchrist of glory. Last time out he made an 84-ball hundred in the final as the Lankans again fell short at the final hurdle. He'll be the second most capped ODI player of all-time by the tournament’s end
Splitting those two in the order is the phenomenal Kumar Sangakkara (averaging 41 from 397 ODIs), a player whose run-scoring feats through 2014 suggest he could probably carry on indefinitely, so thoroughly does he know his game, so expertly does he problem-solve, so scientifically does he orchestrate run-chases, going up and down the gears to order. The added responsibility of the keeping gloves means that us viewers get to hear the hard-edged trash-talker who inhabits the same body as the high-minded statesman. Enjoy him one last time.
Talking of high-minded, the West Indies selectors have decided to omit in-demand T20 icons Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from their squad, bizarrely suggesting that this tournament is about preparing for the next (four-year cycles evidently too big a rush), all of which has prompted a rare outburst from Chris Gayle. And it was a very welcome outburst of passion, too, given that he spends most of his life as though in a 24/7 MTV docusoap: insouciant, inscrutable, and a bit too kool for skool.
Being miffed at his swansong becoming a near-certain clusterf**k might yet spur Gayle to recreate some of the phenomenal boundary-clearing deeds of his T20 travels, although the betting man would guess that bouncier decks than the IPL, plus having to look like he’s bothered, might all be a bit too much.
With 188 appearances, Jimmy Anderson is his country’s second most capped ODI player of all-time, the low number symptomatic of the regard in which ODI cricket is held in England. Perhaps that’s because, by and large, England have been awful at it, typically three years behind the curve and innately conservative. If they are to stand a chance here then the old warhorse will have to deliver prize top-order wickets at key times, just as he managed a dozen years ago in South Africa, when he won two MoMs in his first three games, including memorably removing Inzamam and Yousuf for golden ducks in Cape Town (the last time he took more than 2-fer, 16 CWC games ago).
With Jacques Kallis having followed Graeme Smith into international retirement, realizing he didn't have what was needed to get through another year to give himself one last shot at an ICC trophy, South Africa has a young squad this time round, with only Imran Tahir (who performed well in 2011) certain to be playing his last World Cup. That said, it might also be the final curtain for Dale Steyn.
He'll be nearing 36 next time round and might think it better to save himself for inflating already phenomenal Test numbers and earning T20 bucks. Surprisingly, he’s played less than 100 ODIs, with a 5-50 against eventual champions India his main impact in 2011, but on quicker Aussie pitches you expect him to crank things up and go pole-hunting. His success or otherwise might decide the Proteas’ fate.
For Afghanistan, Scotland, UAE and Ireland it may be a last hurrah for the entire lot of them, given the ICC’s decision to make the tournament a better televisual spectacle for companies hoping to sell consumer goods to Indians. The same may be true for Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, too, should they (a) deign to play the Associates, and (b) lose. So, you may have to say adios to Hamilton Masakadza, too.
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