Monday, January 26, 2015

Those on their Last Attempt at World Cup Glory

With every ICC World Cup, one witnesses high profile retirements with big names leaving the game. World Cup glory is one of the most prestigious honours for a cricketer so with those who are nearing retirement age choose to play one last mega event before hanging up their boots.

Post the World Cup in 1992, we witnessed stalwarts and the best allrounders of their time, Imran Khan, Ian Botham, and Kapil Dev end their careers; while 1996 was the swansong for one of the best batsmen of his time, Javed Miandad.

The World Cup in 1999 saw Sri Lanka's long standing captain and vice captain Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva appear in their last World Cup in the hope to defend the title they had won in 1996.

In 2003 we witnessed the mass exodus of Pakistani greats Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Saeed Anwar; 2007 was the swansong for Aussie greats Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath; and 2011 was the Sachin Tendulkar's 6th and final attempt at World Cup glory, the only prize that had eluded him during his 24 year cricket career.

The upcoming ICC World Cup 2015 is no different and will also see some high profile cricketers leave the game for good. While a few have already announced their retirements following the World Cup, there are various others who I believe are on their final attempts at World Cup glory. What a delight it would be to watch these stalwarts in action for one final time!

Australia: Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin

All four of them were part of the 2007 squad that won the ICC World Cup; and 8 years later they are part of what will probably be their last attempt at World Cup glory. Clarke, Watson, and Johnson will be 37, while Haddin will be 41, by the time the next edition comes around in 2019.

With Clarke already battling injuries, and Smith emerging as a capable replacement as Australia's captain, it looks highly doubtful that Clarke will be part of another World Cup campaign. Watson has also been injury prone and with the emergence of young allrounders in Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, and James Faulkner, Watson's days as an international cricketer are numbered. Johnson has been Australia's spearhead for the past few years and will remain so for another couple of years surely; but another World Cup seems too far off for him to remain at the top of his game.

As for Haddin, this might be his last year an international cricketer.

None of them have said it but it is very likely that all these four Aussies will be playing their last ICC World Cup.

India: MS Dhoni

He is the only surviving captain from the 2011 World Cup and will be defending the title that he and his team won for Sachin Tendulkar in 2011.

He is 33 and has recently retired from Test Cricket. Though there has been no indication on how much longer he will play ODIs, I highly doubt that he will be around playing ODIs for India 4 years down the road.

I believe this will be Dhoni's last appearance in an ICC World Cup and in 2019 he will most likely only be a franchise T20 player.

New Zealand: The McCullum Brothers, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills

Vettori has already announced that this World Cup will be his swansong. He left test cricket some time ago and had been saving himself for a last attempt at World Cup glory.

New Zealand captain, Brendon McCullum is 33 and at the top of his game in both tests and ODIs. He will surely continue to lead New Zealand for another couple of years, but it is quite unlikely that he will be leading the Kiwis at another World Cup campaign four years from now.

His brother, Nathan, is 34, and is also likely to retire before the next World Cup in 2019. While veteran pacer Kyle Mills, who is 35, is probably on his swansong as well.

Pakistan: Misbah Ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Mohammad Hafeez

Pakistan captain Misbah, and Vice Captain Afridi have both announced their retirements from ODIs following the World Cup. Misbah will continue to lead Pakistan in tests; while Afridi will be doing the same in T20Is; but neither will appear in any more ODIs after this World Cup campaign.

While Younis Khan has questioned why people are thinking that this his last World Cup, I highly doubt that at 41 he will be around in Pakistan colours in England in 2019. He has already gone past his welcome within the ODI squad and I find it very hard to see him a part of Pakistan's ODI plans after this World Cup.

Mohammad Hafeez, at 34, is also likely to be playing his last World Cup. He will be 38 by the time the next edition comes around and unless he can defy age the way Misbah and Younis have, I don't see him being a part of Pakistan's plans four years from now.

Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tilekaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath

Jayawardene and Sangakkara have announced their retirements from ODIs and this World Cup will be their swansong and their final attempt at World Cup glory. Both of them are quite determined to leave the game with Sri Lanka at the top, especially after their respective failed attempts as captains in 2007 and 2011; both times Sri Lanka finished as runners up.

Dilshan and Herath will both be well past 40 in 2019 and even though they haven't announced their ODI retirements, they probably will before 2019.

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It is every cricketer's dream to win the World Cup but not everyone gets to live that dream. Jacques Kallis had a distinguished career but never saw his team win a World Cup. He was desperate to be a part of South Africa's World Cup plans this year and over the past two years took all measures that he could to be fit and ready, but it was just not meant to be as he announced his retirement 8 months before the mega event in the larger interest of the team.

Besides the Australians and the Indian mentioned above, no one on this list has ever won the World Cup and with this being their final attempt, they will surely be extra motivated to do so. Misbah, Afridi, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, and Vettori; all of whom have announced their retirements have left it no secret that they want to end their career by winning the World Cup.

Not all of them will get to live that dream.

But what a story it would be for those who do!

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