One last time under spotlight

One last time under spotlight

One last time under spotlight

Some of the biggest names of our generation stand at the final point of an eventful and long journey. Sidney Kiran bids adieu to those titans

Its not surprising at all to see sportspersons plan their careers over four-year cycles. While for athletes, the Olympics is the universe around which their lives revolve, for professional footballers, rugby players and cricketers, it’s the World Cup that matters most. Normally engaged in bilateral series, the World Cup offers cricketers a chance to showcase their brilliance to a much wider audience and compete against teams in venues that are alien to both.

It’s the competition that they work so hard towards, so much so that just making the squad itself is a like a badge of honour upon their sleeves. It’s an event where new heroes are born and where some legends of the game chose to say goodbye. The upcoming World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is not an exception. Let’s take a look at some players for whom there might not be another World Cup in their career.

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka): The very essence of cricket is about partnership. Be it batting or bowling, the sport thrives on harmonious duet. And very few pairs in world cricket have flourished together so beautifully as Jayawardene and Sangakkara.

The duo, greats friends since teenagers and business partners now, have been the pillars of Sri Lankan cricket for nearly 15 years. Together they’ve accomplished many things, but one thing that these two legends lack is an ODI World Cup medal.

They’ve come close to it in the last two editions, reaching the final with Jayawardene scoring an unbeaten century in 2011. However, on both occasions, they had to endure heartbreak. As the two most experienced World Cuppers, both Jayawardene and Sangakkara enter the event hoping to make it third time lucky knowing this would be their last ODI event.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India):  Trust Dhoni for surprises. Be it giving Joginder Sharma the final over in the World T20 final in 2007 or promoting himself above the in-form Yuvraj Singh during the World Cup final in 2011 or departing from Test cricket through a simple BCCI-circulated e-mail, Dhoni always keeps you guessing.

Aged 33 and captaining the team for the second World Cup, it would be fair to assume that this could be his parting quadrennial bash. Known to end matches in style -- the six to win the World Cup is a stuff of legend -- one needs to see what Captain Cool has in his mind.

Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi (Pakistan): They are as different as chalk and cheese. But they are the two most experienced members in their team. While Younis is one of the most determined batsmen in modern day cricket, Afridi is an absolute marauder with his sole intention being smashing the ball. Afridi having featured in four and Younis in three World Cups, it goes without saying on whose shoulders the fortunes of Pakistan rest.

Afridi has stated this would be his final ODI appearance while Younis’ age -- 37 -- gives away all the clues. Australia is where their great captain Imran Khan bowed out in glorious fashion in 1992 with a title and the duo will be eyeing something similar.

Michael Clarke (Australia): Speculations have been flowing thick and fast on whether the captain will be fit for the World Cup. Add the rumours that his team-mates feel more comfortable playing under Steve Smith and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. However, the Pup has been working extremely hard on his fitness and also opened the batting in the warm-up game against UAE. But considering the injuries that have constantly plagued him, Clarke too may be playing in his final World Cup, or even his last ODI event.

Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori (New Zealand): McCullum comes into this World Cup on the back of a rich run of form. Also, under his leadership, the Kiwis have been playing some impressive cricket. His attacking instinct seems to have rubbed onto his team-mates with Kiwis pulling off some wins in the build-up towards the big bash.

Former skipper Vettori actually called time on his ODI career after the 2011 World Cup before being called back for the 2013 Champions Trophy. The taste of competition can be alluring and the canny Vettori staved off competition from young turks to make the cut for the current showpiece event. One thing is certain, this would be his final WC with no more coming back.

Chris Gayle (West Indies): The big Jamaican, one of the most feared hitters, is better known as a ‘bat for hire.’ A vocal critic of how the sport is managed in his part of the world, he was left out of the squad many times. But now he has settled those differences, but still doesn’t bat an eyelid to slam when poor decisions are made by the WICB. At 35, the West Indian too might be appearing in his last World Cup, he would like to add a 50-over cup to his kitty along with the World T20 title that his team won in 2010 in Sri Lanka.

They apart, others like Misbah ul Haq, Tillakaratne Dilshan, James Anderson and Mitchell Johnson too may be playing in their final World Cup. The stage has been set for them for one last charge.

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