A late spell from Wahab Riaz couldn’t stop Afghanistan from a surprising win in their World Cup warm-up match.
The 2015 Cricket World Cup was a strange competition. It was a World Cup dominated by aggressive teams, giant, left-armed fast bowlers and Steve Smith.
I will try to gather my thoughts and pick the best XI players. The criteria? The players that best represent the spirit of this cup.
I will always remember this as Maxwell’s World Cup. He really had a ball. Maiden century? Tick. Sharp runouts in the field? Tick. Bamboozle top-order batsmen with straight ones that just don’t turn? Tick.
Convince umpire Kumar Dharmasena to declare LBW a ball which is shown to be missing leg-stump by a huge margin? Tick.
God, is there anything he cannot do?
Maxwell, had a fairytale tournament. If he were a Kiwi, I would have greatly enjoyed it. Since, he is an Aussie, I am trying to forget this as fast as possible.
He was the boss of this Cup. An average of more than 200 in the knock-outs, it is very difficult not to like him. I am genuinely happy for his deserved success.
Definitely the villian-of-the-final. He ruined it for all neutral fans in the three balls he bowled to McCullum, turning the match into one of the most one-sided CWC finals ever.
And to think he started out his cricketing career as a wicketkeeper! Starc is an amazing player and he can only get better.
Boult was the main reason McCullum could afford to bat in the crazy way he did. He really blossomed under McCullum’s aggressive captaincy and always managed to get a wicket in each of his first spells.
Mad-Mac went with the same approach in both semi final and final, and he lived and died by his own sword. He seemed to back himself 100 per cent, irrespective of whatever result occurred. He committed himself to an all-out attack from the first-ball.
But behind that mad-cap approach to batting, there seemed to be a cricketer who was as cool as cucumber. Not fazed a bit by bouncers from Mitch Johnson or sledges from Haddin.
He reminded me, very much of Arjuna Ranatunga of ’96 vintage, in terms of leadership skills. Too bad, his team couldn’t emulate the Sri Lankans of ’96 by winning the Cup.
The complete opposite of McCullum, he would complement McCullum perfectly in the top-of the order. Unlike McCullum who went for all-out attack, Sangakkara has complete trust in his defence. He was the ninth man out in his quarter final against South Africa, but was let down badly by his teammates.
AB De Villiers
If God made the perfect modern day batsman, he would have made him like de Villiers. A genuienly multi-skilled player, his chance to lead his team to a history-making maiden final was ruined by an ill-timed rain-break.
Several years back (1999) Chetan Shah had argued in The Hindu that team batting first must be given at least 10 overs after the last rain break.
Imagine, if South Africa had batted 50 overs in the semi and New Zealand had to chase D/L target in 36 overs.
Then we wouldn’t have to guess how much de Villiers could have plundered Corey Anderson, or, if Corey would have got the better of him.
Unfortunately he had to endure a heart-breaking ending along with his teammates in slippery conditions, with de Villiers himself missing a regulation run-out.
AB is still undoubtedly the best finisher in the modern game.
Morne Morkel, along with Mohammed Irfan and Mitchell Starc, made-up the trio of giant fast bowlers who terrorised batsmen in this Cup. If nothing else, I will always remember this tournament for these three giants.
Although Irfan is the tallest, Morkel gets ahead of him, because being right-handed he brings balance to the attack. His crucial contribution in the semi reversed a match which was fast slipping out of SA’s hands
A wrist spinner with excellent control of the ball, Tahir also managed to deceive accomplished players of spin such as Mahela Jayawardene.
He was de Villiers’ go-to bowler and bowled successfully in all stages of the innings. Tahir is a truly versatile spinner who made a mark in a pace-bowlers tournament.
Displayed amazing composure, skill and talent in rescuing his team again and again from horrible starts. He is also a very astute captain and a proven wicket-keeper.
The last two World Cups have been contested by hosts, and if England wish to qualify for the knock-outs of their own competition in 2019, they better seriously look at poaching Taylor and making him lead their campaign.
Riaz has been among the forefront of one of the brilliant bowling inspired fightback by Pakistan in this World Cup.
Who doesn’t like a bowler-dominated match? My match of the tournament has been Pakistan against Zimbabwe on the world’s best cricketing pitch at Gabba in Brisbane.
The lasting image of this Cup for neutrals was Wahab Riaz clapping to Shane Watson, who had no answer to the barrage he faced.
The final XI in batting order
1. Kumara Sangakkara
2. Brendon McCullum
3. Steve Smith
4. Brendon Taylor
5. AB DeVilliers
6. Glenn Maxwell
7. Mitchell Starc
8. Trent Boult
9. Morne Morkel
10. Imran Tahir
11. Wahab Riaz
The best of the rest
Ravi Ashwin – he was the main reasons for India’s surprise turnaround and consistent bowling performance throughout this tournament
MS Dhoni – He remains a dangerous player at the bottom of the order, but this World Cup in Australian conditions was about the performance of top-three bowlers and top-three batsmen and Dhoni couldn’t make his mark from lower down.
If he intends to play-on until next Cup, it is imperative that he gives up the gloves immediately and plays as a floater between three and give.
Grant Elliott – Unexpected performance from an unheralded player, he will always be remembered more for his sporting gesture after the the South Africa win, rather than two 50s in the last two matches.
Cricket needs more players like him.
James Faulkner – If not for Boult, Faulkner would have made into the first XI, but suspicions remain on how good a player he is outside home conditions.
Will he turn out to be the world’s greatest all-rounder, or another Jade Dernbach?
The official man-of-the-match in the final, in many ways he typifies the Aussie performance in this Cup.
Mitch Johnson – He didn’t have a stand-out performance as befits his stature, but delivered when it mattered in semi and final. Johnson got pipped by the more consistent Wahab Riaz in final XI.