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ICC World Cup 2019: Top 10 Players who could be

playing their last World Cup

26.02.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

2019 is the year of the ICC Cricket World Cup with the world's best teams coming together to compete for the big trophy. Usually, after every World Cup, there are some legends of the game who bid farewell to the game. Even this time around, some top players will make a last effort to be part of a World Cup winning team.

Some players would wish to prolong their careers until the 50 over World Cup to be part of history. Some other players, while confident of continuing after the World Cup , most certainly would not be around for the next World Cup in 4 years time. For them too, it is one final hope to be triumphant .

While some players like Virat Kohli, Ravi Chandran Ashwin, and Adam Gilchrist were fortunate enough to win the cup in their very first appearance, someone like the legendary Sachin Tendulkar had to wait for six World Cups before attaining glory in his final appearance.

Indian legends like Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, and VVS Laxman were never part of a World Cup winning squad. It is surely a great regret for these players to not have won a World Cup in their distinguished careers.

Similar to every World Cup, some of the legends of the game are expected to hang their boots after this year's World Cup in England. Some other players are too old to last till the next World Cup in 2023. Here is a look 10 such top cricketers who would be playing their last World Cup.

# 10 Hashim Amla (South Africa) - Age - 35

Matches - 174, Inns - 171, Runs - 7910, Avg - 50, 100s - 27, 50s -37

Hashim Amla has been the pillar of South Africa's batting over the last 15 years. Though Amla made his Test debut as early as in 2004, he made his ODI debut only in 2008. He was originally considered as a technically perfect batsman best suited for Test cricket.

With the presence of stroke makers like Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers in their batting line up, South Africa needed a steady batsman like Amla at Number three to anchor the innings. Since his ODI debut in 2008, Amla has been a consistent performer over the years and has been a regular member of the South African team in all formats of the game.

In his 12 year ODI career, Amla has managed to score over 800 runs in 5 calendar years. While he looks like a grinder of runs, he still has a decent strike rate of 89 which is at par with many other great ODI batsmen.

In the two World Cups that Amla has played so far in 2011 and 2015, he has managed to score more than 300 runs in each event.

#9 Shoaib Malik ( Pakistan) - Age - 37

Matches - 279, Inns - 250, Runs - 7379, 100s - 9, 50s - 43, wkts - 156

Shoaib Malik is one of the senior most cricketers in the current lot of players who are still playing. He made his ODI debut way back in 1999. He came into the side as an off-spinner who could bat decently. It was his bowling that kept him in the side for the first four years of his career. One interesting fact about Malik's ODI record is that he has taken more than 150 wickets in his career which is a decent record even for a regular bowler.

Shoaib Malik's transformation as a genuine batsman came in the year 2003. After that, he scored more than 600 runs in every calendar year for the next six years. Another dubious record in Malik's career is that he was not part of Pakistan's World Cup squad in 2003, 2011 and 2015. The only time he played in a World Cup was in 2007 when Pakistan made an early exit from the tournament.

Malik would look forward to set his record straight in his last World Cup appearance this year.

#8 Mashrafe Mortaza (Bangladesh)- Age 35

Matches - 205, Wkts - 259, Economy - 4.80 Runs scored - 1752

Bangladesh Captain Mashrafe Mortaza is another player, who is in the last leg of his career. Though he made his ODI debut in 2001, he had a stop-start career because of fitness issues. However, he has shown a lot of guts to come back after every injury.

Mortaza has had to cut down his pace after every mishap. In the later stages of his career, he has mainly become a new ball bowler who could bowl an extended spell of 7 or 8 overs at the start.

Indian fans will remember him for his fiery spell of 4 for 38 in the World Cup match in 2007 at Port-of-Spain, which knocked India out of that World Cup. Though plagued by injuries, Mortaza took 26 wickets in 2018.

As the captain of Bangladesh, Mortaza showed tremendous fighting spirits to compete against top teams in the world. In the Asia Cup in 2018, Bangladesh reached the finals ahead of the other Asian giants like Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The 35-year old is forcing his body to co-operate until the World Cup. This World Cup could very well be his final international appearance.

# 7 Dale Steyn (South Africa) - Age - 35

Matches - 124, Wkts - 195 Economy - 4.88

The last World Cup match that Dale Steyn played ended in a nightmare for him and his team. In the semi-final of 2015 World Cup against New Zealand at Auckland, He had to defend 10 runs in the last over against Grant Elliott. With five runs needed from the last two balls, Elliot picked Steyn's length delivery over long on and left the legendary pacer crestfallen.

The heartbreak in the last World Cup would still be fresh in Dale Steyn's memory. Not long everyone thought his career was finished after yet another injury. However, he came back to Test cricket and surpassed Shaun Pollock's record of 421 Test wickets and become the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in Test matches. Steyn will look to vent out the frustrations of his last World Cup debacle this time around.

#6 Shaun Marsh ( Australia) - Age - 35

Matches - 63, Inns - 62, Runs - 2536, 100s - 7, 50s - 13

Despite scoring more than 10,000 first-class runs in his career, Shaun Marsh has never had the same success in International cricket playing for Australia. He came into reckoning by impressing the Australian selectors with his performances in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008. Playing for Kings XI Punjab, Marsh scored 616 runs at an average of 68 and strike rate of 140. That performance brought him into the Australian ODI team.

Though he started his ODI career as an opener, he has moved down to the middle-order after the retirement of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, and Mike Hussey. In his first 10 ODI innings, Shaun Marsh managed to score 5 fifties. His first ODI hundred came against India at Hyderabad in a winning cause.

After playing 29 ODIs in his first 3 years, Marsh could only play in 24 matches only in the next 6 years owing to form and fitness. However, in the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith in 2018, Marsh took responsibility and scored 416 runs in a mere seven matches. In this run, he averages 59 and has a strike rate of 102 including three centuries

For a player who made his debut in 2008, Shaun Marsh is yet to feature in a World Cup match. This year's World Cup is a wonderful opportunity for him to make an impact if he remains fit.

Marsh would certainly continue to play international cricket after the World Cup in England. But he is unlikely to be around for the next World Cup

# 5 Lasith Malinga ( Sri Lanka) Age - 35

Matches - 213, Wickets - 318,Economy - 5.34, 5 wkt haul - 8

Lasith Malinga is a yorker specialist from Sri Lanka who has been around the scene since 2004. He is someone been a consistent success in the World Cup. He first played in the tournament in 2007 and took 12 wickets in 6 wickets. In the 2011 campaign at home, he took 13 wickets. Malinga was instrumental in Sri Lanka reaching the final of both World Cups.

Malinga finished the 2015 World Cup with 12 wickets. In the recent ODI series against New Zealand, Malinga came back to form with 7 wickets in 3 matches. Malinga has now got the additional responsibility of being the captain of the Sri Lankan ODI team.

Malinga knows his time is almost over but he will have one last crack at the World Cup trophy. Having played in two World Cup finals, he would wish to be on the right side of the rope this time around.

# 4 Faf du Plessis ( South Africa) - Age 34

Matches - 129, inns - 123, Runs - 4848, AVG - 46, 100s - 10, 50s - 31

Faf du Plessis made his debut against India at Cape Town in 2011. Though he started his international career with a pleasing 60, he averaged less than 30 in his first 3 years of ODI cricket. His career took off in the triangular series in Zimbabwe in 2014 where he scored a century each against Australia and Zimbabwe. He finished off the tournament with a 96 in the final against Australia that enabled South Africa to lift the trophy.

Since 2014, Faf averages 50 in the in shorter format in every the calendar year. Along with AB de Villiers and David Miller, he has become the backbone of South Africa's middle-order. Due to De Villiers retirement, Faf has to shoulder tremendous responsibility as a batsman and as a leader in this year's World Cup.

Faf du Plessis has a lot of cricket left in him even after the World Cup. But he had his fitness issues in the past including surgery on his right shoulder in 2017. He is 34 now and it's unlikely he will around to play the next edition.

#3 Ross Taylor ( New Zealand) - Age 34

Matches - 218, Inns - 203, Runs - 8026, AVg - 48, 100s - 20 50s - 47

Ross Taylor is New Zealand's highest run-scorer in ODI cricket. He achieved that distinction in the recently concluded ODI series against Bangladesh after going past Stephen Fleming's aggregate of 8007 ODI runs.

Since his debut against the West Indies in 2006, Taylor has been a consistent performer for New Zealand. He has occupied the crucial number four position in the batting order for his country for a long time. The New Zealand batting revolved around Taylor's presence in the middle order.

The oppositions have to always strive hard to dismiss him if they are to entertain any hopes of winning as the Kiwis are always in with a chance as long as Taylor is at the wicket. England found that out to their dismay last year at Dunedin when Taylor made 181 not out and took New Zealand home in a chase of 336. Even in the recent series between India and New Zealand, a big factor behind the away side's win was that he was kept under check.

Like Faf du Plessis, Taylor will continue to play after the World Cup but unlikely for too long. In all probability, this should be his last World Cup.

#2 Chris Gayle (West Indies) - Age 39

Mat - 285, Inns - 280, Runs - 9862, 100s - 24, 50s - 49 Wkts - 165

The "Universe Boss" Chris Gayle has already announced his retirement after the World Cup. Gayle is the most destructive modern day batsman. But of late, we are witnessing the Gayle 2.O version where he takes his time to settle down and tears into the attack later.

He has shown his new versatile in the recent one-day against England at Barbados when he struggled to reach 11 off 35 balls. He suddenly took off from there to reach his 24th ODI hundred off as many balls. The latest version of Gayle is the most dangerous as he can always make up for the lost time with his big hitting abilities. If Gayle makes us his mind to value his wicket, it will be trouble for bowlers in this World Cup.

Though Gayle was part of West Indies team in their two T20I World Cup triumphs, he would very much love to finish his international career on a high by winning the 50 over World Cup for his country.

#1 MS Dhoni (India) - Age - 37

Matches - 338, Inns - 286, Runs - 10,415, Avg - 51, 100s - 10, 50s - 70, Catches - 311, Stumpings - 119

MS Dhoni is the odd man out in this list not only because he is the fittest of the lot but due to the fact that is the only player among this list who has already won a World Cup. While a neutral fan would pray for any one of the other nine players to attain glory in their final appearance, Indian fans would love to see Dhoni leave the stage on a high with one more World Cup win under his belt.

Dhoni has contributed a lot to Indian cricket as a batsman, finisher, wicket-keeper, and a leader. His true value to the team cannot be measured in quantitative terms. He is a true inspiration to the youngsters, both as a cricketer and a person.

One cannot imagine an Indian team without Dhoni once the World Cup is over. He will forever be missed. But one felt the same when Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar bid goodbye. For the Indian fans, life should go on even after Dhoni's retirement.

The Indian fans would only be praying for Dhoni to finish off this year's World Cup too in majestic style by depositing the last ball of the tournament into the Thames river.

Being professional sportsmen, the above 10 cricketers are aware when their time is up. They would love to retire on a high when people ask why instead of why not. They would all be keen on leaving the hall when the music is good.