With the World Cup less than a month away, I thought of putting together a World Cup XI. Obviously it is comprised of players who have done well in World Cups over the years, and their performances outside World Cups are not considered. I took stats into account, but was not the deciding factor. Similar importance was given to other factors such as were they World Cup winners, have they performed well over many world cups, or if they have defining innings or crucial bowling performances, captaincy or even the mere presence in some players’ case. So, here’s my All Time World Cup XI.
Adam Gilchrist (WK)
Imran Khan (C)
One of the easier and more obvious decisions. Between them, they have four World Cup titles, one Runner-Up and another Semi-Final to go with it. One guy took the 96 World Cup with a storm, made a few guys look for other jobs, was the most valuable player in the tournament, fourth highest run getter in World Cup history and usually made bowlers wish they were batsmen. The other is not any different; 149 in little over 100 balls against the top bowling unit in 2007 tournament, fifth highest run getter in World Cup history and all that while being the wicket keeper. Not to mention the fear he induced. These two should be enough to make the opposition bowlers’ nights sleepless pretty easy.
Sachin Tendulkar is only one of the two players in the lineup who does not have a World Cup title under his belt despite playing in five editions of the tournament. But the sheer weight of his runs is enough to get the man in the team. Highest run getter in the World Cup history, a staggering 1796 runs at 57.93 with a strike rate of 88, four centuries, 13 fifties. The man also has one Runner-Up and one Semi-Final, so he is deserved his spot. Indeed he batted as opener in most of the games, but when there is Sanath and Gilly to open the innings even great Tendulkar has to drop down the order. Ricky Ponting grabs one of the more obvious spots. You can’t not have a man with 3 World Cup titles and a Runner-UP in an all time World Cup XI. Oh and there is also the small matter of 1537 runs at 57.93 with 4 hundreds, one of which was in a World Cup final. Vivian Richards; three World Cup finals, two titles. A 100 in one of the, 3 run outs when he could not score a 100 in the other. Overall, over 1000 runs at the phenomenal average of 63. Leave all that aside, I would have the man in my lineup just for his swagger; he was The King after all.
This was the hardest decision. Both Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting captained their teams to 2 titles each, but none of them were my preferences. The three I would go with are Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga and Steve Waugh. Steve for his brilliant captaincy skills, but the dude had one of the most formidable lines in all of cricket’s history. On the other hand both Imran and Arjuna captained their teams to the title against huge odds, without them either of the teams would not have made much further. It was not their performance, but the presence that made the difference. Pakistan, a team in tatters, was united and lead by the inspirational Imran, while Arjuna led Sri Lanka to perhaps the biggest fairy-tale victory in all of sports; no true sporting underdog has ever won a tournament with the conviction Arjuna’s boys did in 96. I finally decided to go for Imran, but another day I could easily have gone for Arjuna as well. He deserves the place as much as Imran does. Maybe I’d call it a tie.
In editions either side of 99 World Cup, Lance Klusner was nowhere to be found. But boy didn’t he make 99 his own. 281 runs at 140 (granted, inflated by a lot of not outs, but still) with a strike rate of 122! Oh and 17 wickets at 20.58 to go with it as well. But it was not the runs or the wickets, the manner in which he got them was so breathtaking. He got South Africa out of huge trouble more than once with his crisp hitting, out of impossible situations no less. If it wasn’t for the sheer stupidity of Allan Donald, he might very well have won a World Cup for South Africa, and got rid of that embarrassing ‘chokers’ tag once and for all, even. Now wouldn’t that have been something!
The bowlers were pretty obvious choices. Between Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas they have 5 World Cup titles and 3 Runner-Up titles. The stats are phenomenal too; they are the four highest wickets takers in the tournament with 71, 55, 53 and 49 wickets respectively. Highest average among them is just 23, highest economy rate is 4.04 and the highest strike rate is 35.4. When those stats are combined with the above said victories, theirs is a case hard to argue against.
So, what’s your XI?