The Sri Lankan trio of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan are three of the most experienced players in one-day international (ODI) cricket. They are also among the top 15 run-getters in this format.

With his wicketkeeping skills and leadership qualities, Sangakkara, number two on the all-time list of highest run-scorers in ODIs, is most likely to feature in any dream XI. He led his team to the 2011 World Cup final.

Mahela Jayawardene. Photo: HT
Mahela Jayawardene. Photo: HT

There is another player in the Sri Lankan team of the same pedigree, in the same predicament—Lasith Malinga. No bowler started the 2015 World Cup with more wickets in the world cups than Malinga (31 wickets at an economy rate of 5.17). The Lankan speedster played a magnificent role in his team’s back-to-back appearance in World Cup finals, in 2007 and 2011; yet, both times, the team failed to go that last, all-important, step further.

Can Sri Lanka do it this time? Or will four of the best ODI players of their generation have to retire without a World Cup in their name?

A full playing XI can be made of great ODI players who have never won a World Cup but are playing right now in Australia and New Zealand in what will be their last appearance at cricket’s biggest tournament. Along with the Lankan quartet, they are Chris Gayle, Michael Clarke, A.B. de Villiers, Shahid Afridi, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills and James Anderson.

Among current players, only the three Lankan batsmen mentioned above have scored more ODI runs than the devastating West Indian opener Gayle. But Gayle has failed to dazzle in the three previous World Cups (1999 to 2007) he has played in. His chances look slim again; the West Indies have had a terrible build-up to the World Cup, losing 8 of the 10 ODIs they have played since October last year. They also lost their opening World Cup match to Ireland.

Tillakaratne Dilshan. Photo: Reuters

Australia’s captain Clarke and his team have no such blocks: Australia has won more world cups than anyone else, lifting the trophy a record four times. But Clarke, who has more than 7,000 runs in ODI cricket, is struggling with an injury, though he is slated to make a comeback in Australia’s next game.

Lasith Malinga. Photo: Reuters

But the Pakistan team is in shambles, and unlikely to make much headway in the tournament; and England have never won a World Cup despite reaching the final thrice.

New Zealand’s Vettori and Mills are among the top 5 wicket-takers in ODIs among the players featuring in this World Cup, and for Vettori, this is the fourth appearance at a World Cup. For both of them, this is the best chance to lift the trophy. New Zealand has never won the cup but they are playing in home conditions, and they are often unbeatable on their own turf.