Rickey Ponting, Jack Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar

 

By David Green

 

Come the end of the World Cup, a number of leading players are likely to announce their retirement from ODIs. The following names, with one notable exception, make quite an XI – good enough perhaps to win the tournament if they could participate as an Invitation XI:

 

1. Sachin Tendulkar (37) The greatest ODI batsman of all-time, along with Viv Richards. Having severely curtailed the number of ODIs he participated in during 2010, the Little Master is likely to bow out of the format after the World Cup. Will he retire having led India to glory in the final in Mumbai? And will he score the three centuries he needs to reach 100 international hundreds?

 

2. Andrew Strauss (few days away from 34th birthday) The England captain is 34 and has never looked entirely at ease in this format despite the attacking approach he has adopted since returning to the side in the Caribbean in 2009. The end of the tournament could be a good time to bow out, handing the reins to Alastair Cook and enabling Strauss to concentrate on the task of making England the number one Test side in the World.

 

3. Ricky Ponting (36) The Australian captain’s gradual decline with the bat gathered spun out of control during the Ashes and this World Cup could well prove to be his last appearance in the Australian canary yellow shirt. If he manages to lead his side to an unlikely fourth successive triumph (and the third for Ponting as skipper) then he will have repaired some of the damage to his reputation caused by his woeful performances in the Ashes.

 

4. Jacques Kallis (35) Kallis is a big unit and despite his new head of hair, the years are catching up with him and injuries are becoming more frequent. Like the three illustrious names above him in this XI, Kallis too may decide that giving up the 50 over format will help prolong his Test career, whilst also helping him earn the IPL megabucks.

 

5. Paul Collingwood (34) His poor return with the bat during the Ashes precipitated a premature retirement from Test cricket and unless he can recapture his form during the World Cup, England’s Ginger Ninja may decide to hang up his ODI cap after the competition too. Durham may be seeing even more of its favourite son in the forthcoming season.

 

6. Shahid Afridi (31 in a few days time) With the unpredictable Afridi anything is possible. So don’t rule out “Boom Boom” dropping a bombshell after the tournament and announcing his retirement from all cricket to take up a slot on Strictly Come Dancing. He is fond of a pirouette after all.

 

7. Kamran Akmal (29) If the butter-fingered keeper continues to spill chances behind the stumps and disappoint with the bat, he is likely to be ‘retired’ by an irate Ijaz Butt. That would be one life ban that no Pakistani supporter would complain about.

 

8. Brett Lee (34) It would come as no great surprise if Lee’s body gave up the ghost at the end of the competition. One wonders if he is in India just to promote his fledgling singing career. Could yet become the new James Blunt – as if we needed another one.

 

9. Shoaib Akhtar (35) A bowler who looks knackered after bowling just two overs on the spin, can’t last much longer, surely? A career in Bollywood awaits providing that the genital warts don’t return of course.

 

10. Zaheer Khan (32) It is a miracle that Zaheer has managed to come into this tournament fit and surely he will choose to concentrate on Test cricket and IPL riches after the World Cup. India should wrap him up in cotton wool, because without him the Test attack looks threadbare to say the least.

 

11. Muttiah Muralitharan (39 in April) We know for certain that this will be the last time we see Murali in international cricket. Can he inspire Sri Lanka to repeat the glory of 1996?

 

(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)