Even though limited-overs cricket is perceived to be a batsman's game, teams with balanced bowling attacks have been the ones to taste sustained success at the highest level. The presence of bowlers, who are capable of picking wickets at different stages of the innings, lend massive potency to any ODI lineup.
The most scrutinized decision of any cricketer's career surrounds his retirement. While quite a few modern greats have had legacies tarnished by delaying their exits, there have also been numerous long-serving players who gracefully walked away before becoming a burden on their respective teams.
In reverse chronological order of their retirements, here are five bowling greats who bid adieu despite being on the verge of important career milestones.
#5 Daniel Vettori - 305 wickets from 295 ODIs
To go alongside his 13,430 runs, Sanath Jayasuriya holds the record for the most number of wickets taken by a left-arm spinner in ODIs. The Sri Lankan legend picked 323 scalps from 445 matches. The record came under significant threat as New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori moved past the 300-wicket mark.
However, Vettori bid adieu to the game following New Zealand's defeat against Australia in the 2015 World Cup final at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. From 295 ODIs, the bespectacled spinner picked 305 wickets at an average of 31.71 and economy-rate of 4.12. Nineteen more wickets would have enabled him to overhaul Jayasuriya's record.
#4 Shahid Afridi - 395 wickets from 398 ODIs
When he began his career, Shahid Afridi largely played under the shadows of several world-class cricketers in the Pakistan team of the late 1990s. As the years went by, the hard-hitting all-rounder grew in stature and established himself as one of the most popular cricketers of his generation. During the latter part of his career, he also gained an infamous reputation of frequently announcing his retirement and then returning back into action.
By the time he was finally done with ODIs at the end of Pakistan's campaign in the 2015 World Cup, Afridi had played 398 matches and picked 395 wickets at a respectable average of 34.51. Considering the fact that he had also scored 8064 runs, the leg-spinner came the closest to becoming the first all-rounder to complete the double of 8000 runs and 400 wickets in the 50-over format.
#3 Brett Lee - 380 wickets
Possessing the capacity to clock serious speeds, Brett Lee's aggressive style of bowling was perfectly suited to the evolving nature of ODI cricket at the turn of the millennium. After making his ODI debut against Pakistan at Brisbane in January 2000, the right-arm pacer represented Australia with distinction over a 12-year career.
Lee, who was an integral part of Australia's World Cup winning team in 2003, played 221 matches and picked 380 wickets at an impressive average of 23.36. Just a couple more scalps would have seen him eclipse Glenn McGrath's tally and become the all-time leading wicket-taker for Australia in ODIs.
#2 Shaun Pollock - 393 wickets
Hailing from a family of revered cricketers, Shaun Pollock did not take too long to carve a niche for himself in South African cricket. After forming a productive seam partnership with Allan Donald, the all-rounder raised the bar to become the emblem of consistency across multiple departments of the game.
With 421 Test scalps and 393 ODI wickets, Pollock is South Africa's leading wicket-taker of all-time. While his tally of Test wickets is under imminent threat from the irresistible Dale Steyn, the metronome's ODI mark is likely to remain a national record in the foreseeable future. Not the one to fuss over personal milestones, Pollock played his last ODI in 2008 despite being just seven scalps away from breaching the 400-wicket mark.
#1 Shane Warne - 293 wickets
While his Test journey was an epic saga comprising countless magical moments, Shane Warne's white-balI legacy largely revolves around his mesmerizing spells in the 1999 World Cup. Although he debuted in the 50-over format in 1993 itself, the maverick leg-spinner featured in just 194 ODIs and collected 293 wickets.
Ahead of the 2003 World Cup, Warne announced his intention to quit ODIs in order to extend his Test career. However, a one-year suspension induced by a doping offence prevented him from participating in the tournament held across Africa.
When he returned from the ban, Warne channelled his energy solely towards Test cricket. He came out of ODI retirement during January 2005 for a fundraising match between World XI and Asian XI. If only he had resumed his ODI career too after emerging from the suspension in 2004, the star wrist-spinner would have become the first Australian bowler to go past 300 wickets in the limited-overs format.