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The World Cup XI of disappointment

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13th July, 2019
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The final of the World Cup is usually a time to celebrate excellence and to recognise the efforts of England and New Zealand as they fight to lift the trophy. However, I’m a contrarian and as such have created a team of the most disappointing players at the 2019 World Cup.

This is not necessarily a list of the poorest players at the tournament; instead it’s a line-up of those batsmen and bowlers who performed significantly below their expected performance.

Mohammad Shahzad
Mohammad Shahzad’s hard-hitting batting has been one of the keys to Afghanistan’s meteoric rise in world cricket, yet he was unable to accomplish much at this year’s tournament. He played only two matches and fell for a duck against Australia before making seven from 11 balls against Sri Lanka. This meant that of all the top-order batsmen who played at least two innings at the World Cup, he had the second-worst batting average of 3.50.

To put the icing on this rather poorly made cake, Shahzad left the tournament with a knee injury only to claim that he was not actually injured, and then threatened to retire from cricket. If you’re going to have a disappointing tournament, you may as well go out in style.

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Fakhar Zaman
Zaman last played in an international tournament in England at the 2017 Champions Trophy. It was at this tournament that he announced his arrival on the global stage and scored an excellent century in a man-of-the-match performance in the final against India. His second tournament in England failed to meet those excellent initial impressions. Zaman only made one half-century in the tournament and left with a batting average of 23.25, far below his career average of 45.70. He made starts in many of his innings but was unable to convert.

Martin Guptill
Guptill started the tournament strongly with an unbeaten 73 against Sri Lanka. Since that first match, however, he scored only 94 runs in eight innings. Guptill’s technique has been found wanting against the moving ball, and he has been unable to establish his innings. The good news for Guptill is that he is the one player in this team who has another chance to play his way out. Even if Guptill struggles with the bat again, he will always have his fantastic run-out of MS Dhoni in the semi-final.

Martin Guptill post-game of the ICC World Cup 2019 semi-final between India and New Zealand.

(Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Kusal Mendis
There is little question of Kusal Mendis’s ability. In both one-dayers and Test matches Mendis has shown the capacity to score well against the best sides. However, in this tournament he failed to score a half-century and averaged a meagre 20 runs. For Sri Lanka’s sake Mendis’s talent needs to be translated into consistent runs.

Shoaib Malik
Malik is one of the many quality cricketers who are retiring from one-day cricket following the World Cup. Malik has had a strong 20-year career as a player who could impact a game with both bat and ball. Unfortunately this jack of all trades truly became a master of none at this tournament. Of all the top-order batsmen who played at least two matches, Malik has the worst batting average of 2.66 after scoring only 11 runs in his three games. Malik’s normally effective off-spin also picked up only a single wicket. His career deserved a fonder farewell, but he can still retire with his head held high.

Marcus Stoinis
An all-rounder is supposed to be able to impact the game with both bat and ball. Stoinis actually bowled reasonably well in the tournament yet was significantly below-par with the bat. The biggest worry with his batting is Stoinis’s struggles to accelerate at the end of the innings. Despite having all the power a batsman could want, Stoinis finshed the tournament with a lowly strike rate of 77 and did not hit a single six.

This has been a worrying trend over Stoinis’s career. At the end of 2018 he had a career batting strike rate of over 100 but has only struck in the 80s over the last year. To be an effective member of Australia’s side Stoinis needs to regain the confidence and freedom he showed with the bat early in his career.

Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis

(Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

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Thishara Perera
Perera was a true all-rounder in the sense that he struggled with both bat and the ball. He could only average ten with the bat and took one wicket across six games for a bowling average of 207. In a tournament where his country performed better than expected, a better effort from Perera could have seen Sri Lanka make a serious bid for the semi-finals.

Rashid Khan
It hurts to include Rashid in this team. Rashid brings a bounciness and liveliness to all games in which he plays and is an absolute magician with the ball. He entered this tournament rated as one of the top-ten ODI bowlers in the world but struggled to live up to that reputation as he only claimed six wickets over the tournament at an average of 69.33.

There are mitigating factors for these figures. Firstly, Afghanistan’s batting has been poor which has meant that opposition batsmen are under less pressure and are able to play far more freely against bowlers like Rashid. In addition, this has been a tough World Cup for leg spinners, with only Imran Tahir finishing the group stage with a bowling average of less than 35.

Ordinarily, even in matches and series where Rashid has not taken many wickets, he has still been an effective bowler due to his control and economy. However, his economy rate of 5.79 over the tournament was the third-worst of Afghanistan’s bowlers and significantly worse than his spin-bowling compatriots, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, who had economy rates of 4.47 and 4.61 respectively.

He feels like he has been around forever, but Rashid is still only 20 years old. So hopefully there is a significant improvement to come and the 2019 World Cup will be seen as a blip on an otherwise great career.

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Mashrafe Mortaza (captain)
Mortaza has been a stalwart of Bangladesh’s bowling and has had an admirable career. His performances in this tournament may have indicated he went one tournament too far. In his nine matches he took only one wicket and finished with an eye-watering bowling average of 361, which was the worst bowling average at the tournament by some distance. Mortaza’s captaincy was also often unimaginative and at-times stymied Bangladesh’s play.

Shannon Gabriel
In Test cricket Gabriel has become the leader of the West Indies attack and was chosen for the World Cup in the expectation that those performances could be translated to the one-day game. Gabriel was given three opportunities during the tournament but could only take two wickets and had an awful economy rate of 8.43. While Gabriel has a ton of ability, it seems as if his premier strength is to bowl a consistent line and length at pace. Though this makes him a handful in Tests, the lack of creativity is relatively easy pickings in the shorter forms of the game.

Hasan Ali
As with his teammate, Fakhar Zaman, Ali had a fantastic 2017 Champions Trophy only to find the 2019 World Cup a far greater challenge. In a worrying sign for Ali, his once-effective set of slower-balls and cutters were easily picked by opposing batsmen, which rendered him a shadow of his former self. Ali ultimately could only take one wicket across four matches for an average of 128 at an economy rate of 7.75.