The first World Cup was held in England in 1975 at a time when the limited-overs game was still very much in its developing stages.
Even some top players – Sunil Gavaskar, for example – were pretty much unaware of the tactics involved with the ODI cricket. Nevertheless, the event was a big success, especially with an exciting finish at the Lord’s.
Since then, the World Cup has grown steadily both in size and in stature. Now it’s a truly global event.
My plan here is to form an ODI team, including an 12th man, picking up just one player from each World Cup event. Left-handers are quite prominent in my team, and two of them will form my opening pair.
Mark Greatbatch (New Zealand, 1992)
The 1992 World Cup was a special one in many ways. For the first time BTV, in collaboration with a satellite channel, showed most of the matches live; back in 1987 we only got the semi-finals and the final live.
And the cricket in the middle was quite brilliant, with South Africa making their World Cup debut, Dipak Patel opening the bowling for the Kiwis and Pakistan fighting like cornered tigers – they still needed Australia help to qualify for semis.
But it was the aggressive batting of left-hander Mark Greatbatch that was the biggest highlight of this tournament. Initially there was no plan for him to bat as an opener. He wasn’t even in the team for the opening fixture against Australia. It was the injury to John Wright that gave him the chance against South Africa, and he took the opportunity well.
The Kiwi target was 191. In those days such targets were considered tricky. Often the chasing team would lose early wickets or get bogged down in the middle overs before eventually losing the match. Here there was no drama after the opening pair of Greatbatch and Rod Latham put on 114 in double quick time. Greatbatch’s 68 from 60 balls included nine fours and two sixes. Overall in seven World Cup matches he scored 356 runs at an impressive strike rate of 88.
Given he was among the pioneers of aggressive ODI batting, I am a bit surprised to see his overall ODI batting average of 28.28.
Adam Gilchrist (Australia, 2007) (wicketkeeper)
Here Australia got a chance to revenge their defeat in the 1996 final, and they took it well. Weather intervention at Bridgetown meant that the final was reduced to a 38 over match, and it certainly suited the wicketkeeper-batsman from Australia. Opening the innings, he smashed the Sri Lankan bowling to the all corners of the Kensington Oval for 149 from 104 balls. The Lankan bowling was blown away as ‘Hurricane Gilchrist’ hit the Caribbean Island.
The Matthew Hayden-Gilchrist opening pair put on 172 runs in just 23 overs. Hayden’s contribution was just 38.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand, 2019)
When I formed a combined Test team picking just one player from each Test-playing nation the No. 3 slot gave me the least headache: Don Bradman was the obvious choice. Here I had to think hard before selecting my choice for No 3. Viv Richards (1979) and Ricky Ponting (2003) scored matchwinning hundreds in the finals, Mohinder Amarnath was man of the match in both the semi-final and the final of the 1983 World Cup, and Shakib Al Hasan performed brilliantly in 2019 despite his team finishing only eighth in the ten-team event.
But my vote is for Kane Williamson, the Kiwi captain. He was adjudged the player of the series after scoring 578 runs at an impressive average of 82.57. He hit back-to-back hundreds against South Africa and the West Indies, but it was his captaincy that impressed me most. He accepted the ‘defeat’ in the Lord’s final in a most gracious manner.
An interesting fact about Williamson is that he started his ODI career in 2010 with a couple of ducks in a tri-nation event in Sri Lanka.
Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka, 1996)
The explosive batting of Sanath Jayasuriya was one of the major highlights of the event, but then the left-hander failed in both the semi-final and in the final. Instead it was De Silva, who held the Sri Lankan batting together in these matches.
His unbeaten 107 from 124 balls in the final at Lahore was a measured innings. He knew the target and planned his innings accordingly. He was the obvious choice for man of the match in the final.
But technically his 66 from 47 balls at Eden Gardens was even better. The Lankans lost both their openers in the very first over. Coming to the wicket at one for two, he produced a brilliant counterattack. The wicket wasn’t perfect for batting, as the Indians found later in the match. The best part of his innings was that while he scored at a rapid rate, there was no slogging.
When Anil Kumble bowled him, the score was 4-85, which meant that during his stay at the wicket his team scored 84 runs, of which his own contribution was 66 (78.57 per cent).
Clive Lloyd (West Indies, 1975)
The Windies captain led from the front in the final and played an innings that was way ahead of his time. His 85-ball 102, coming to the wicket at 3-50, was truly a captain’s knock. His effort would look even more impressive if we consider the fact that the Australian bowling outfit was no pushover – it had Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Gary Gilmour and Max Walker. But it was Lloyd’s day, and he showed little respect for the opposition attack.
Collis King (West Indies, 1979)
The second World Cup final at Lord’s was effectively decided mid-afternoon when Viv Richards and Collis King went mercilessly after the England backup bowlers. The King-Richards combination produced 139 runs for the fifth wicket. Viv was eventually named man of the match for his 138 from 157 balls, but initially it was King who dominated the show. His 86 came from just 66 balls with ten fours and three sixes.
It was an Adam Gilchrist-like assault just a few decades earlier. Viv was very much the junior partner in the fifth-wicket partnership – a rare experience for him. King’s batting was the most explosive seen in the whole event.
Lance Klusener (South Africa, 1999)
Well, he was the hero, and he was the villain. His 16-ball 31 – a strike rate of 193.75 – at a time when wickets were falling regularly at the other end should have led to a memorable victory for the Proteas, taking them to their first-ever World Cup final appearance. Instead it was just a set-up for a tragedy.
Until his miscommunication with Allan Donald, he had hardly done anything wrong in this World Cup. He ended it with 281 runs – an average 140.50 boosted by six not-out innings – at a strike rate of 122. He also took 17 wickets at 20.6 apiece. But in the end his brilliant all-round show counted for little following a moment of madness.
Winning the player of the series award was only a small consolation for the Zulu.
Abdul Qadir (Pakistan, 1983)
Qadir is one of a number of players who came for consideration in more than one World Cup. His 1987 performance was brilliant – even Pakistan wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf struggled to pick him properly. But then Pakistan was always a great hunting ground for him. I rate his performance in the 1983 World Cup as more impressive, and it defied the conventional theory of the time.
The West Indie had won the first two tournaments playing four frontline pace bowlers, and most of the teams were trying to copy them. Even India, the traditional hub of spin talent, won the 1983 World Cup with minimal contribution from their spinners.
Even the Pakistan selectors, renowned for maverick selections, were reluctant to use Qadir in ODIs, and he made his ODI debut in the World Cup against New Zealand. He wasted no time in making his mark.
In a cloudy and wet Edgebaston – in fact the reserve day was required to complete the match – he appeared unplayable to the Kiwi middle order, and he ended with figures of 12-4-21-4. On the second day, he contributed an unbeaten 41 with the bat and was adjudged the man of the match despite Pakistan losing the fixture.
His second man-of-the-match effort came against Sri Lanka at Headingley, a venue where seam bowlers normally excel. Needing 236 for victory, the Lankans were well placed at 2-162, but then Qadir took 5-44.
Overall he took 12 in six matches for an average of 22.00 and an economy rate of 3.90.
Mitchell Starc (Australia, 2015)
This World Cup saw some memorable batting displays. Kumar Sangakkara was scoring hundreds every other day, and Martin Guptill, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Glen Maxwell and others produced memorable batting efforts. But the final itself was decided by the Australian left-arm seamers. Starc was simply superb with the new ball, and it was his bowling the Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum that gave Australia an early edge. They never allowed the opposition back in the game.
Starc was the joint top wicket-taker along with Trend Boult, taking 22 wickets at just 10.18 apiece.
Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka, 2003)
In ten matches Vass took 23 wickets at just 14.40 apiece. His 6-25 at Pietermaritzburg completely destroyed the Bangladesh top order. He took four wickets in his first five deliveries, including a hat-trick. As a Tiger fan, it was very painful for me to watch, but Vaas was simply brilliant on the day.
His eight for 19 against Zimbabwe in Colombo at the SSC is still an ODI record.
Craig McDermott (Australia, 1987)
Australia went to the World Cup on the back of five successive ODI losses, and they surprised a lot of people by lifting the cup. Their success was mainly based on their sound game planning.
It was their bowling plans that initially raised the eyebrows. While most of the other teams depended on their spinners – New Zealand even played three spinners against Zimbabwe at Hyderabad – Allan Border’s men mainly relied on their pace attack. McDermott and Bruce Reid were the main wicket-takers, while Steve Waugh and Simon O’Donnell acted as the backups.
McDermott’s selection over Simon Davis, renowned for his excellent economy rate, wasn’t an easy one. In 1986 McDermott had performed poorly in India – in four ODIs he bowled 36 overs to take just one wicket, conceding 197 runs. Roger Binny was the unfortunate victim in Ahmedabad.
But a year later everything clicked for the tall Queenslander. Encouraged by his captain to bowl fast and straight, he took 4-56 in the opening fixture against India. But his biggest success came in the semi-final in Lahore. Chasing 268 for victory, the home side fell behind the required rate, losing early wickets. But then Wasim Akram was promoted to No. 6, and he effortlessly hit two sixes off the spinners. Border brought McDermott back into the attack, and his bowling of Akram effectively settled the issue.
He took a bit of a pasting with the ball in the final, but promoted to bat at No. 4, he played a little cameo of 14 from eight balls.
In a World Cup dominated by the spinners, McDermott emerged as the top wicket-taker, with 18 victims.
Yuvraj Singh (India, 2011) (12th man)
The 2011 World Cup still holds a special place in my memory, though not for the cricket. My beloved dad passed away during this event. It was him who first introduced me to this great game, and quite appropriately our final conversation was related to cricket.
On 27 February India took on England at Bangalore in the 11th match of the event. In the evening, as I went to the hospital to see my dad, he asked me about the Indian score. He died peacefully the next morning, but I wasn’t there at the time.
Needless to say, I didn’t watch much cricket during this World Cup, and hence I had to rely on the stats to pick my choice here. Yuvraj Singh was the player of the series, and here I have selected him as the 12th man.
He started the tournament with three 50s and later added a hundred against the West Indies in Chennai. He accompanied MS Dhoni as India reached their target in the final. With the ball he took 15 wickets with a career-best 5-31 against Ireland in Bangalore.