West Indies' last two World Cup games are shaping up as a valedictory to the captain Brian Lara, who will retire from one-day internationals after the tournament. Lara, who turns 38 on May 2, said: "My day in the sun is over. It's tough playing one-day internationals out there."
Lara, who has appeared in 297 matches scoring 10,354 runs with 19 centuries, will almost certainly finish his career against England at the Kensington Oval on April 21. West Indies can still make the semi-finals but need an unlikely sequence of results to allow them into the last four.
Lara will continue to play in Tests and after the 67-run defeat against South Africa he looked ahead to the tour of England. "We've got to pick ourselves up," he said. "Cricket is going to go on."
Lara is in his third stint as West Indies captain and has been the subject of much criticism for the team's lacklustre performances. He said the campaign had been a major personal disappointment. "It's a situation where you are playing your last few one-dayers and you hope you can end up in a World Cup final or a semi-final," he said.
It is his fifth World Cup but West Indies have only once reached the last four during his career when they were beaten by Australia in Mohali in 1996. Lara denied that contract negotiations, which were still going on when the tournament started, had affected the West Indian performance.
"We've got a players' association and a West Indies Cricket Board," he said. "These matters are handled at that level by people who are astute enough to understand the delicate situation. We are just the players.
"Whatever the situation, when we go on the cricket field we try our best. I know the disappointment of the cricket fans. I am sad that we have disappointed the Caribbean and our supporters around the world.
"We feel it a lot and we know the man in the street is definitely disappointed. When we go to practice and see the people waving on the side of the road, we understand what cricket means to them."
West Indies still have to play against Bangladesh on April 19 and England two days later. "We've got to dig deep," Lara said. "It's tough playing games where you're not really involved in the tournament but you've got to put that aside and show some character and pride."
Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, said it would be sad to see Lara go. "He's been an unbelievable performer for the West Indies," he said. "I hope the team plays for him in his last two games. He's been a credit to the game."