CWC 2019: Lasith Malinga, Imran Tahir and other veterans who bowed out of World Cup in style

Ajit Vijaykumar 16:44 14/07/2019
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The 2019 World Cup was memorable in more ways than one, with the balance between bat and ball allowing for some excellent cricket.

While we have been lucky enough to see what the future has to offer in the form of some fine performances from Shaheen Afridi, Nicholas Pooran and others, it was also the end of the road as far as the 50-over World Cup is concerned for some veterans of the game.

Here we take a look at the performances of five big names who have played their last World Cup. Unless they change their minds a few years down the line.

Lasith Malinga

Sri Lanka cricket was ready to move on from the Malinga chapter. He even spent the 2018 IPL as mentor at the Mumbai Indians franchise.

But Malinga didn’t give up on his World Cup hopes. Drawing every last ounce of strength from his 35-year-old body, Malinga fought his way back to cricketing fitness and roared back into form as a bowler for Mumbai Indians, defending eight runs in the final over to win the IPL title against Chennai Super Kings.

At the World Cup, Malinga delivered three stunning match-winning efforts – against Afghanistan, England and West Indies. It was his four-for against England that truly opened up the World Cup and the cricketing world is glad it got to see the famous Malinga yorker – or at least a mellower version of it – one last time.

Lasith Malinga.

Lasith Malinga.

Chris Gayle

The Universe Boss was definitely going to bid adieu after the 2019 World Cup. But ahead of the India match, Gayle had second thoughts and said he will play ODIs and a Test (that’s right) against India later in the year.

One thing is for sure though – this was Gayle’s last 50-over World Cup and it was unimpressive. A fifty in the opening game against Pakistan and an 87 against New Zealand were his only major contributions, with his strike rate nowhere near it once was.

Gayle did start to bowl again – in Aviators – as wickets started to become more conducive to off-spin. That, unfortunately, provided more smiles than his stays at the crease.

MS Dhoni

Though it hasn’t been said publicly, it is the last World Cup for MS Dhoni with suggestions he might retire altogether after the tournament.

The fastest hands in the game continues to be lightning quick with the gloves but with the bat in hand, the zip was gone. His insistence on starting slow and taking the game into the final two overs resulted in some inexplicably slow knocks – like the 52-ball 28 against Afghanistan that almost cost the game. His failure to seal the deal in the crunch semi-final chase against the Kiwis with Ravindra Jadeja going great guns at the other end reinforced the view.

However, his tactical nous and command over the game have been critical to Virat Kohli’s limited overs gameplan. Indian cricket will miss his cricketing brain more than anything whenever he hangs up his gloves.

Mashrafe Mortaza

The Bangladesh captain has a lot on his plate – he is a member of parliament after all. His hamstrings were basically gone and as the tournament went on, Mashrafe struggled to even bend down, pick up the ball and throw.

But there he was, match after match, bowling his overs and holding one end up – or at least trying to – as Shakib Al Hasan scored a mountain of runs and picked up wickets.

Mortaza admitted his bowlers didn’t perform nearly as well as the batsmen did. But his leadership is what galvanised the Tigers into a fighting, world-class outfit and his solitary wicket from nine games, therefore, should be viewed with a more sympathetic eye.

Tahir is getting better with age.

Tahir is getting better with age.

Imran Tahir

How we will miss those wild wicket celebrations. Tahir entered the tournament in peak form following a remarkable IPL. He made a superb start to the World Cup, getting Jonny Bairstow out for a golden duck. And he maintained his threat level even as other leg spinners struggled – be it Adam Zampa, Shadab Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal or Adil Rashid.

Not only was Tahir the second highest wicket-taker among spinners in the league stage – 11 from nine games – his economy was also among the best among top slow bowlers – 4.92.  And then that celebration. The World Cup will miss him.

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