As the 2019 World Cup campaign is approaching its peak, perhaps, it is the right time to bring some more spice to it and push for a debate on an all-time Cricket-World-Cup Dream Team.
First up, the rules – only World Cup performances are considered and also a minimum of 15 matches ensuring long-term consistency. Given the World-Cup’s rich legacy, picking the all-time best across eras is a challenging, interesting and controversial task.
For the other opening slot, the following are 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 redefined opening batting in One-Day Internationals.
The other choice becomes difficult.
Sourav Ganguly’s individual brilliance, as well as record at World Cups, is beyond reproach. Scored 3 centuries in 2003 WC alone. But Dada’s real ability was that as a soft-spoken and often outspoken captain, he turned his country into the fighting unit that they are today. 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.
However, my pick for the other opening slot would be imposing Mathew Hayden for his consistency, high strike rate, and above all the winning habit. Not too many sights in cricket were as intimidating as that of Hayden who exemplified a batting style that treated bowlers with utmost disdain.
MIDDLE ORDER BATSMEN
One of the most difficult decisions to pick from among these stalwarts who lit the game at the world stage with their cricketing genius.
The charming and endlessly fascinating Brian Lara could play pace and spin with equal ease. Rahul Dravid was full of grace, grit, and poise, whose aggression was in his eyes, his determination. A class bat. Michael Clarke has been one of the most fearless batsmen, and numbers tell how fantastic he was. But without discounting the abilities of these greats, my three picks for the middle-order slot are:
Ricky Ponting, an exceptionally destructive batsman, his attacking nature, positive intent, always looking to dominate, were some his typical traits. What made Ponting super special, was his ability to keep the team together especially coming in at No. 3 and the outstanding achievement of winning three Cricket World Cups, leading the team in two of them.
The original ‘Master Blaster’ was perhaps the most devastating batsman of all. When the gum-chewing gunslinger, King Richards walked in to bat in his maroon cap on his head, he would own the stadium as his kingdom. A two-time World Cup winner, including a man-of-the-match performance in 1979. 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.
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. Nobody else, who has scored 1,000 runs in the World Cups has averaged 60, except for King Richards. 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 great of cricket. Endowed with unorthodox gifts, Dhoni has honed the mind to deliver when needed most, both with the bat as well as the 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 victorious 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 as Wicket-Keeper also to his name. The stylish left-hander also holds the most consecutive centuries in a single World Cup). No guesses, no arguments for the slot. This one belongs to one of the most sophisticated and classy keeper-batsman of his era, Sangakkara, who, batting at No. 4 gives the middle order both solidity and flamboyance.
One of the key positions in any limited over tournament is of an all-rounder who brings the right balance to a team.
Imran Khan was a brilliant all-rounder 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 with a brilliant batting technique was a genuine pace bowler too. Steve Waugh is a cricketing role model. Waugh will always be remembered for his ice-man image and his steely century against South Africa and 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. 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 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, the genius, whose triumph is of the rarest kind. With substance, style, and drama he was a surgeon with the ball. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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, 1979 and 1983.
S Tendulkar, M Hayden, R Ponting (C), Sangakkara (WK), V Richards, AB de Villiers, Kapil Dev, W Akram, A Roberts, G McGrath, M Muralitharan.
RESERVES: S Jayasuriya, A Gilchrist, J Kallis, and Yuvraj Singh