Finally, India began their 2019 World Cup campaign against South Africa and won it comfortably bringing the missing spark to the tournament. To bring some more spice to it, perhaps it is the right time to explore, identify and pick an all-time Cricket-World-Cup Dream Team, who has lit the world stage with their cricketing genius.
First up, the rules – only World Cup performances are considered and also a minimum of 15 matches ensuring long-term consistency. The attempt is to pick an ideal team; but given World-Cup’s rich legacy, picking the all-time best across eras is a challenging, yet interesting task.
For the other opening slot, these four openers were considered:
The very first pick was not a very difficult choice to make. A class above all and consistently special with the most number of runs, centuries, Sachin Tendulkar is all-time leading run-getter of World Cups, amassing and most runs in a single edition (673 in 2003). Sachin Tendulkar redefined opening batting in One-Day Internationals.
Among other options, the choice becomes difficult. Jayasuriya will forever be a pioneer. His daring and power in 1996 revolutionized opening batting, shocked opponents and drove Sri Lanka to their only World Cup triumph. He was the first top batsman to achieve a strike-rate above 90 and was a valuable, flat, containing left-arm spinner too.
But my pick for the other opening slot would be imposing Mathew Hayden for his consistency, high 90+ strike rate, and above all the winning habit. Hayden has played only 2 World Cups and been victorious in both. Not too many sights in cricket were as intimidating as that of Matthew Hayden who exemplified a batting style that treated bowlers with utmost disdain. Hayden became one of only two players to amass more than 600 runs in a single World Cup.
One of the most difficult decisions to pick from among the giants of the cricketing world.
Without discounting the batting abilities of the greats like Lara, Dravid, and Clarke, my three picks for the middle-order slot are:
Ricky Ponting, an exceptionally destructive batsman, came out of that very typical Australian mold of batsmen in style and approach. His attacking nature, positive intent, always looking to dominate, was some of the typical Ponting characteristics. What made Ponting super special, was his ability to keep the team together especially coming in at No. 3. Ponting has won three Cricket World Cups, an outstanding achievement. In two of them – 2003 and 2007 – he was the captain of the team as well.
The original ‘Master Blaster’ was perhaps the most devastating batsman of all. When King Richards walked in to bat in his maroon cap on his head and chewing gum in his mouth, he would own the stadium as his kingdom. In World Cups, King Richards averaged 63.
A two-time World Cup winner, including a man-of-the-match performance in 1979 final that saw West Indies lift the trophy for the second time in a row after beating England. The final saw Richard’s heroics left the English side demoralized scoring an unbeaten 138. Even in the 1983 finals, it was only when he got out that India realized they could win.
Nobody else than AB de Villiers, who has scored 1,000 runs in the World Cups has averaged 60, except for King Richards. My third pick for the middle-order slot is AB de Villiers both for the x-factor that he brings to the side with his mesmerizing fielding as well as 360-degree batting skill. AB’s tremendous record in World Cup both for his consistency as well as impressively high strike rate is second to none.
Now, this is going to be seriously controversial.
India’s World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni, is a certified modern greats of cricket. Endowed with unorthodox gifts, Dhoni has honed the mind to deliver when needed most, while tailoring his abilities to suit the demands of the time. Dhoni has received as much acclaim for his captaincy, as for his batting and glove-work.
Australian legend Adam Gilchrist is considered to be one of, if not, the most destructive batsmen of all time. Gilchrist played in three World Cups, being part of the victorious Australian side all three times. He powered Australia with his breath-taking hitting with the bat and skillful mastery behind the wickets.
One of the highest run-getters in World Cup history, Kumar Sangakkara, has the highest dismissals also to his name. The stylish left-hander not only holds the fastest century by a Sri Lankan but also the most consecutive centuries in a single World Cup (4). No guesses, no arguments for the slot. This one belongs to one of the most sophisticated and classy keeper-batsman of his era, Sangakkara, whose inclusion in the team gives the middle order both solidity and flamboyance.
Kill me for not going with Gilchrist. But hope you understand my problem. Where would Gilchrist play, if not opening? Then dropping Hayden would be a crime and Sangakkara would be the No. 4 anyway.
One of the key positions in any limited over tournament is of an all-rounder who brings the right balance to a team. Some of the names that stand out with their great overall skill are:
Imran Khan was a brilliant all-rounder and the most successful captain of Pakistan’s cricket history, who at the age of 39, led his men to the World-Cup glory in 1992 with sheer grit. Jacques Kallis was arguably the best all-rounder of his generation. Kallis had a brilliant batting technique that enabled him to excel irrespective of the formats. Many underestimated his bowling abilities but Kallis was a genuine pace bowler too. Steve Waugh was a cricketing role model. Waugh will always be remembered for his ice-man image and his steely century against South Africa in 1999 which put Australia back on track. Waugh led his team to glory in the 1999 World Cup. Yuvraj Singh, The man of the series in India,s 2011 World Cup triumph, one of the most elegant, effortless hitter of the cricket ball, a very intelligent bowler and one of the best fielders of all time.
However, my pick for the slot would be Kapil Dev. One of the finest right arm swing bowlers, Kapil was one of the best natural hitters of the cricket ball during his time. In World Cups, Kapil has one of the best economy rates with the ball and one of the best strike rates with the bat.
Against all odds, he led India to glory in the 1983 Cricket World Cup in England against the mighty West Indies. Kapil’s magical 175* against Zimbabwe after India were down at 17/5 and his 40-yards-sprint catch of Richards, single-handedly turned the 1983 World Cup in India’s favor.
The two names come to mind instantly.
Shane Warne was a genius. The triumph of Warne is of the rarest kind, of both substance, style, and drama who was a clinician with the ball. But the fact that he was sent home from the 2007 World-Cup cup in embarrassing circumstances, after a positive drug test, he won’t be remembered for his WC triumphs. Warne took 32 Wickets in 17 matches at an economy of 3.83 and strike rate of 31.
M Muralitharan is the natural pick for the slot. Deadly Murali in his 40 match stint took a whopping 68 wickets (second highest in WC) with an economy of 3.9 and four 4-wicket hauls.
Another difficult task to pick from an array of devastating fast bowlers:
Chaminda Vaas was Sri Lanka’s most successful fast bowler. He was penetrative and has excelled especially in the World Cups with a fantastic strike rate. He used to swing and seam the ball with a flawless bowling action. Allan Donald was a classical action and top-drawer pace, that would have won him a place in any side in his prime, who could shape the ball away with lethal pace. But when it comes to World Cups, the legend is more remembered for the 1 run loss tragedy in the 1999 finals. Zaheer Khan is the most successful Indian fast bowler at the World Cups with all the traits that made left-arm fast bowlers a phenomenon. He could swing the new ball and reversed the old. Of Zaheer’s 44 wickets, 21 came during the 2011 World Cup in which he spearheaded the bowling attack to help India win the title.
But my pick for the available slot of 3 pacers would be filled by the following three:
Glen McGrath is the highest World Cup wicket-taker of all time. Bowling with the utmost parsimony, finding movement and bounce, he racked up his most in 2007 when he took 26 wickets. This pick needs no explaining really.
At his best Wasim Akram played like most of us would wish to. England had such depth of batting in 1992 finals they would have won against good bowlers, but Akram was extraordinary. A young Akram ran through an experienced England batting line-up and announced himself on the big stage. Once again Akram led Pakistan to the World Cup final in 1999. Without doubts the best left-arm fast bowler ever.
Andy Roberts is my final pick for being deadpan and deadly. Roberts was an intelligent cricketer with a fertile brain who varied his pace, often setting batsmen up with a slower one and then knock them down when they were late on the quickie. Roberts was one of the most crucial components of the Clive Lloyds World Cup-winning team in 1975 and 1979 and also in the 1983 campaign that they lost to the underdogs, India.
Sanath Jayasuriya, Adam Gilchrist, Jaques Kallis, and Zaheer Khan
THE FINAL LINE-UP:
Sachin Tendulkar, Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (C), Kumar Sangakkara (WC), Vivian Richards, AB de Villiers, Kapil Dev, Wasim Akram, Andy Roberts, Glenn McGrath, M Muralitharan.