CHRISTHCURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Sri Lanka veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will likely be embarking on their last major international campaign when the Cricket World Cup begins in Christchurch on Saturday, and no two players at the tournament more clearly underscore the value of experience to a Cup contender.
Jayawardene has already retired from test cricket and has indicated the World Cup will mark the end of an 18-year international career. Saturday’s Cup opener against New Zealand will be his 442nd one-day international.
Sangakkara, for whom Saturday’s match will be ODI No. 398, has also intimated that this will be his last one-day series and, while he has been more equivocal about his test future, many expect he will follow Jayawardene into international retirement.
Along with Tillakaratne Dilshan, now 38 and the veteran of 307 one-day internationals, they make up a corps of veterans in the top order who will be critical to Sri Lanka’s World Cup chances.
The bowling attack is raw by comparison, but 31-year-old Lasith Malinga does lend some experience, with 177 ODI games.
Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene were members of Sri Lanka teams which have won a World Cup and reached the past two finals
While Angelo Mathews is the captain, he will use their knowhow to best effect.
“The amount of service that they have rendered to our team has been invaluable,” Mathews said. “They’ve contributed so much to this team and it will be a fitting farewell if we can (win) it for them.
“It matters a lot that we’ve got so many experienced guys who have played three to four World Cups. Experience counts for a lot when it comes to World Cups and these guys have been there, they’ve done it before, they’ve been through all the emotions and feelings and they can add a lot to the team.”
New Zealand, on paper, is a less experienced but it has recourse to players such as Daniel Vettori, who surpassed Stephen Fleming as New Zealand’s most-capped player in one-day internationals during the recent series against Sri Lanka.
He is playing in his fifth World Cup while captain Brendon McCullum is in his fourth.
“Sometimes the youth can bring the experienced guys on a bit in terms of bringing the enthusiasm out of them,” McCullum said. “And the experienced guys can sometimes paint the way forward for the younger guys. So it’s a nice mix and a team which I’m really comfortable taking into a World Cup.”