A calendar decade is about to come to an end, which makes all of us wonder how quickly time has flown by. We saw three different World champions in this decade (50 over World Cups) – MS Dhoni’s India in 2011, Michael Clarke’s Australia in 2015 and Eoin Morgan’s England in 2019. Each triumph had its share of emotions, ones that made up tales worth remembering forever.
The 50-over World Cups faced still competition from the World T20, but the former reigned supreme, as one would expect, in every aspect. It drew more attention, more passion and most importantly, it had more intensity and raw desire to win from the players. All of that summed up beautifully to give us three memorable World Cups.
Celebrating these three amazing World Cups, let’s take a look at the best XI among the World Cup-winning teams from 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Best XI from the World Cup-winning teams:
1. Sachin Tendulkar
The 2011 World Cup meant more to the Master Blaster than anyone else. It was going to be his sixth and last attempt to win the trophy and he did live up to the cliche “Fight every day like it’s your last”. It really was the last and there was no dearth of inspiration for the great man to give his all in what was going to be his final attempt.
Every time Sachin Tendulkar came out to bat, the hunger was palpable and he clearly looked like the ominous force he once was, especially in the late 90s. After centuries against England and South Africa in the group stages, he chipped in with a crucial half-century against Australia in the quarterfinal and Pakistan in the semifinal.
He started on a positive note in the final, but the brilliance of Lasith Malinga ended his day abruptly. Nevertheless, India went on to win the World Cup and the 482 runs which came from Sachin Tendulkar’s bat turned out to be pivotal. As Kohli rightfully said, it was time to carry him on the country’s shoulders as a mark of respect for burdening so many expectations for so long.
2. David Warner
Aaron Finch, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell kick-started the 2015 World Cup with a bang, giving their side a humongous total batting first against the arch-rivals. David Warner got a good start in this game and also in the games against New Zealand, but failed to convert it into anything significant.
He needed a big knock to get going and he got that against Afghanistan, smashing their bowlers apart for a 133-ball 178. That knock included 19 fours and 5 sixes and a point to be noted was, Warner was dismissed with more than 10 overs remaining to bat. Perhaps, Rohit Sharma’s 264 was briefly in danger.
That didn’t happen though and Warner continued to contribute whenever possible to the side with the bat. He registered 345 runs in 8 knocks, at an average of 49.29. What he did in the 2019 World Cup was beyond outrageous, but unfortunately wasn’t good enough to go all the way.
3. Gautam Gambhir
One of the cult heroes of the 2011 World Cup, people will forever remember Gautam Gambhir in that mud-stained shirt which he wore on April 2nd at the Wankhede. The 97 he pulled off in 122 deliveries was immeasurably precious for the Indian side and it is important to remember he walked in right after the fall of a wicket in the very first over.
But prior to the final, Gambhir had chipped in with crucial contributions in other games as well. His tournament kickstarted when he scored a fifty against England and soon got another big score against South Africa. His third half-century of the tournament came against Australia in the quarterfinals and if not for a misunderstanding with Yuvraj Singh which led to his runout, he would’ve gone on to score even big that day.
He scored 393 runs in the tournament coming predominantly at number 3 and had an average just in excess of 43. Only Jonathan Trott had more half-centuries than him in the tournament (5) while he remained on level terms with Yuvraj Singh and Brad Haddin.
4. Steve Smith
Perhaps for the first time in international cricket, Steve Smith showed what he is capable of donning the coloured jerseys. One of the most decorated cricketers of this generation, Smith exerted a level of dominance during the knockout stages of the tournament that surprised a lot of fans.
He was coming into the tournament on the back of his most memorable performance in Test cricket till date against India (2014-15). His first major contribution came in the game against Sri Lanka, where he smashed an 88-ball 72. His real exploits began in the knockout stages, where he got a 50+ individual score in every game.
Smith scored a fifty in the quarterfinals against Pakistan, a hundred in the semifinals against India and another fifty in the final against New Zealand. It was befitting that after all his efforts, he scored the winning runs for Australia in the final. He finished as the sixth-highest run-scorer that edition, with 402 runs at an average closing in on 70.
5. Yuvraj Singh
The world of cricket has witnessed various iconic performances in the last decade, but none match up to the brilliance of Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 World Cup. A few months prior to the tournament, there were many experts who doubted if the all-rounder could make it to the tournament, as he wasn’t in the best of form.
His tournament started in the second game against England, where he registered a crucial half-century and stitched a fabulous partnership with Sachin Tendulkar. He followed it up with a double of five-fer and a fifty against Ireland, a half-century against the Netherlands. In very adverse conditions at the Chepauk, he scored arguably the finest hundred of his career and steered his side into the quarterfinals.
Under immense pressure, he pulled off another breathtaking performance, scoring a fifty and getting the winning runs against Australia in the quarterfinals. He scored 362 runs with the bat, at an average in excess of 90 and picked up 15 wickets with the ball. For a contribution whose magnitude was immeasurable, perhaps the man of the tournament award was just a consolation.
6. MS Dhoni (C & WK)
Until the final of the tournament, MS Dhoni had very little to do with the bat. The likes of Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh had done enough to ensure the batsmen under them didn’t have to work a lot. Although he had a few chances to make his mark, the Indian captain saved his best for the last.
But besides the outstanding 79-ball 91, MS Dhoni ensured his presence was felt in the game either with his super-swift hands behind the wickets or with his bowling changes. He was smart with the choices he made and he was always at the thick of things, making him the most potent captain choice among the other two World Cup-winning captains for this decade.
He took a gamble by promoting himself up the order in the final at Wankhede, but as it turned out, that was the turning point. Under his leadership, they once again reached the semifinals in 2015, but lost out horrendously to the eventual champions Australia.
7. Ben Stokes
A few months before the 2019 World Cup, perhaps more than 12 months prior to it, Ben Stokes was involved in a controversy that first got him suspended and he had to head to the courts a lot of times. The biggest thing was, it impacted his game quite significantly and was far from the player we know he can be. The English skipper kept suggesting Stokes is a huge member of the English squad and they will keep trusting him.
In the very first game of the tournament against South Africa, he produced a man of the match performance, which includes one of the catches of the decade as well at mid-wicket. He didn’t do much in the next three games but nearly took England out of trouble against Sri Lanka single-handedly, before he ran out of partners and remained unbeaten on 82.
He tried his best to dish out a memorable performance against Australia and nearly got his side over the line, but Mitchell Starc’s bamboozling yorker killed his aspirations and smashed another 79 against India. No one can forget what he did in the final, keeping England in the hunt till the very end and hit a crucial boundary in the super-over as well. He scored 465 runs, most of them coming under immense pressure.
8. Mitchell Starc
What we saw come out from Mitchell Starc‘s run-ups were not mere balls, they were bullets thrown at the batsmen which scared them to the core. In what turned out to be one of the finest bowling performances of all time in a World Cup, Starc steered his team to the title and ended up winning the player of the tournament award.
The first time they noticed him breathe fire was against New Zealand, where he nearly provided the comeback of the century in ODIs. His 6-fer kept the Kiwis on the edge of their seat, struggling to chase just 152 runs. His legend continued to grow and the lethal blockholes kept mesmerizing the fans.
His best moment perhaps would be the Brendon McCullum’s wicket, which according to many was the moment Australia won their fifth title. With 22 wickets to his name at an average just over 10, Starc finished as the joint-highest wicket-taker in the World Cup with Trent Boult.
9. Harbhajan Singh
In all of the World Cups mentioned, there haven’t been many memorable performances coming from the tournament winning-squads. But one has to mention how amazing Harbhajan Singh was throughout the tournament, although he was unfortunate to not get enough wickets.
He was strict with his lengths and areas, barely gave runs away. He registered figures of 1/41 in his first game and conceded 58 runs against England in a game where over 750 runs were scored, picking up one wicket. He gave just 29 runs in 9 overs against Ireland, 31 runs in 10 overs against the Netherlands, an important 3-fer against South Africa and finished group stages with a 1/35 in 9 overs against West Indies.
He went wicket-less in the quarterfinal against Australia, but came back strongly with a 2/43 in the semifinal, picking up important wickets of Shahid Afridi and who can forget that outrageous doosra to dismiss Umar Akmal. Bhajji picked another couple in the final, capping 9 wickets in the tournament but most importantly, he was extremely tidy even when Indians were conceding runs for fun.
10. Jofra Archer
There was so much pressure on the board while they had to make a final call between David Willey and Jofra Archer for a place in the World Cup squad. Willey was harshly kept aside, but everyone knew it was for the team’s benefit as Archer brought in an X-Factor to the side. Indeed, that was the match-winner for England.
Archer bowled the super-over in the final and did the job for his side, despite conceding a six and taking things a wee bit too close. But throughout the tournament, Archer kept making headlines with his deadly bouncers, reminiscing people of the great bowlers from the 80s.
He ended up picking 20 wickets in the tournament at an average of 23.05 and some of those include wickets which turned the complexion of the game on its head. He couldn’t have asked for a better start to his international career and showed his exploits even in the Ashes that followed.
11. Zaheer Khan
Talk about legendary bowling performances in a World Cup, we should be talking about Zaheer Khan‘s exploits in the 2011 World Cup in the same breathe as any other iconic performance there has ever been. The iconic left-handed pacer led the Indian bowling attack in the World Cup and produced some memorable spells with the new ball.
He had a mixed outing in the death overs, whilst he picked up some important wickets in crunch situations against England in the group stages, he was smacked apart in the game against Sri Lanka in the final. But with the new ball, there were barely one or two batsmen who could live up to his exploits.
Zaheer ended up picking 21 wickets in the tournament, finishing on level terms with Shahid Afridi. He took a couple of crucial wickets early on in the final and was always at the heart of things. Maybe it was his quality that India missed in the other two World Cups.
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