With fans around the world waiting to see the clash of cricket titans in the final at Lord’s on Sunday, it’s almost time for curtains on a colourful cricket World Cup 2019. Whether in batting, bowling, fielding or an all-round display, who was the best of them all? Gulf News cricket pundits Chiranjib Sengupta (Assistant Editor), Shyam Krishna (Opinion Editor), Gautam Bhattacharyya (Sports Editor), AKS Satish (Senior Pages Editor) and Balaram Menon (Senior Web Producer) pick their best of World Cup. Feel free to disagree and argue about your favourites!
Shyam: Rohit Sharma (India)
The Indian vice-captain is an automatic choice, having piled a record five centuries and more than 600 runs. Beyond the records, the situations and how they were scored merit attention. The tons against South Africa and England weren’t fluent, but Sharma toughed it out in conditions that were not conducive to batting. Besides that, the rest of them were scored in authority and panache.
Satish: Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
There are many contenders for this award, but my vote goes to New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson (548 runs). The classy right-hander might not be in the top three of run-scorers, but every run he makes counts for the Black Caps. With minimal support from the other batsmen, Williamson has been pulling the Kiwis towards the semi-finals. If Williamson scores the team wins, if he fails…
Gautam: Rohit Sharma (India)
It’s been almost a no-brainer for me to pick up the Indian opener and vice-captain, who is the highest scorer with 647 runs after the league games with five centuries. David Warner of Australia will certainly give him a run for his money, but it’s Sharma’s flair which keeps him head and shoulders above the rest. Mind you, three of his centuries have come against quality attacks of South Africa, Pakistan and England.
Chiranjib: Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Kane Williamson is certainly not the top scorer in this tournament – but his 548 runs have been priceless. Most of them have come for a winning cause. He has mostly been the lone ranger at the top shepherding the team and scoring the runs – Virat Kohli has a Rohit Sharma and Aaron Finch a David Warner to lean back on. And that’s what makes Williamson the best batsman of the tournament.
Balaram: Rohit Sharma (India)
He is the highest run scorer so far in this World Cup with 648 runs. He has broken many records on the way, as he become the only cricketer to score 5 centuries in a single World Cup. He has also become the second Indian batsman after Sachin Tendulkar to score 600 plus runs in a World Cup. He reached the milestone with his fifth century in the showpiece against the group stage match against Sri Lanka.
Gautam: Mitchell Starc (Australia)
It’s not every day that you find a pace bowler – a demanding job that it is - threatening to become the highest wicket-taker for two World Cups in a row at a gap of four years. The tall and athletic left-handed Starc, Man of the Series in Australia’s triumph in 2015, led a formidable pace attack to claim 26 wickets so far, tying with his compatriot Glenn McGrath for highest number of wickets in a single Cup in 2007.
Satish: Mitchell Starc (Australia)
Australian pacer Mitchell Starc is a hands down winner not for the number of wickets he has taken, but the manner in which he has gone about the task. He’s been lethal during his opening spell and whenever a partnership was brewing to alarming levels, skipper Aaron Finch would throw the ball towards the left-armer, who has seldom let his captain down. His 26 wickets in nine matches at an average of 16.61 speaks volumes of his contribution towards team cause.
Chiranjib: Mitchell Starc (Australia)
Just because he was Man of the Tournament in the cricket World Cup 2015 doesn’t mean the Australian pacer has had a sedate tournament this time around. On the contrary! With 26 wickets in nine matches till now, Starc is the leading wicket taker by far – considering that Bangladesh’s Mostafizur Rahman is not in a position to catch up. His back-to-back performances are also a testimony why big boys turn on their best game in big matches.
Shyam: Mitchell Starc (Australia)
The Australian fast bowler is another automatic choice. Starc has been so incisive in spearheading the attack that it always looked as if the Australians could bowl out the opposition irrespective of the score. With the new ball, his pace and movement have been tough to handle, and whenever captain Aaron Finch needed a breakthrough, he always turned to Starc. In the slog overs, the left-armer’s scorching yorkers have stopped the rivals’ final charge in their tracks.
Balaram: Mitchell Starc (Australia)
Man of the tournament in the 2015 edition of the World Cup Mitchell Starc leads the list of highest wicket-takers with 26 from 9 matches so far. With one more wicket, he can break Glenn McGrath’s record of 26 in a single World Cup. Besides, he has two five-wicket hauls in this edition and holds a good economy rate of below par 5.18 with 5 for 26 being his best bowling figures.
Chiranjib: Ben Stokes (England) and Sheldon Cottrell (West Indies)
Stokes’ spectacular one-handed catch against South Africa is easily the best of the tournament. And he is also a genuine all-rounder: a great bowler and an aggressive batman. But Sheldon Cottrell has saved nearly 50 runs at the ropes for the Windies. Cottrell’s brilliance on the field is only matched by his epic salute.
Shyam: Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
The New Zealander’s one-handed catch at short fine-leg, off a full-blooded hook from Steve Smith of Australia, is fresh in my memory. For me, this beats Ben Stoke’s leaping catch at the extra cover fence and Ravindra Jadeja’s sterling work for India. Guptill has always been a fantastic fielder, so this doesn’t come as a surprise.
Gautam: Ben Stokes (England)
Each World Cup leaves behind a few enduring images and from the current one, Stokes’ superhuman effort to pluck off Quinton De Kock’s catch in the opening game of the tournament stays with you. While he has been always a safe catcher, each team has thrown up a super fielder over the past six weeks – be it Glenn Maxwell of Australia, Faf du Plessis of South Africa or even Ravindra Jadeja who stood out with his efforts as a substitute.
Balaram: Ravindra Jadeja
He has not always been an automatic choice in India's playing XI during this World Cup. But whenever got a chance, he has proved his speed and agility in the field. He is one of the best backward point fielders who is capable of taking amazing catches, and his accuracy of hitting the stumps is legendary. He never drops catches whether close in or back in the deep, or even off his own bowling.
Satish: Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
The New Zealand opener was the top-scorer of the World Cup when it was held in Australia-New Zealand in 2015. But the opener is completely out of sorts in this edition, scoring on half-century to his credit. Any player of his calibre would be disoriented and demoralised and would be looking at ways to regain his form, but Guptill on the other hand did not allow these distractions affect his game and has taken eight catches in eight matches so far. If one wonders how New Zealand made it to the semi-finals, Guptill’s fielding and catching is one of the main reasons for their success so far.
Balaram: Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
The Bangladesh all-rounder has scored 606 runs at an average of 86.57 with a 96.03 strike rate, which includes five fifties and two hundreds in the tournament. He has also picked up 11 wickets at 36.27 with an economy rate of well under 5.5, and thus become the first cricketer in the history of the World Cup to score more than 500 runs and take 10 plus wickets in a single edition of the tournament.
Shyam: Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
The Bangladesh No.3 and left-arm spin has been the fulcrum around which his team’s fortunes re-volved. His consistently superb performance with the bat and ball puts him far ahead of his closest ri-val, Ben Stokes of England.
Satish: Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
Wow! What a fabulous time Shakib Al Hasan has had in this World Cup. The rub of the green from the hallowed turfs of the home of cricket must have created a spark from him to fire himself to his own orbit. His batting was a touch of class, which was a huge surprise to everyone, and the consistency with which he scored to notch up 606 runs in eight games proved that he is willing to take the more responsibility on his shoulders as vice-captain. Economical bowling was always his forte, which he did with due diligence while also picking up 11 wickets.
Chiranjib: Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
He has generally been Bangladesh’s most consistent Man With the Plan. And this World Cup, his tactical promotion to the number three slot gave Shakib Al Hasan a fantastic opportunity to display his brilliance. And he did – if 616 runs and 11 wickets are anything to speak of! He can thank this year’s IPL for it: after being mostly overlooked for the Twenty20 league, Shakib used it for extra batting sessions, working on his fitness, losing weight and gaining focus.
Gautam: Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
When Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said they ought to apologise to their star allrounder for ‘letting him down,’ it was an acknowledgement of his contribution in the tournament. A sequence of seven half-centuries (with an aggregate of 606 runs) at the crucial No.3 position, coupled with the tight left-arm spin which yielded him 11 wickets, tells it’s own story. Often heralded as the bad boy by the country’s cricket establishment in the past, it was heartening to see Shakib proving his worth on the world’s biggest stage.
Cricket World Cup 2019: Gulf News picks its Dream XI
When dozens of cricket’s biggest talents fight it out for more than a month, you sometimes wish if the best of the best had only teamed up together instead of playing against each other. So Gulf News pundits got together to select what we thought is the dream team for this World Cup. It certainly wasn’t easy selecting 11 players out of a pool of may be 50 – but in the end we got there without much physical harm and abuse! So here is the list:
2. David Warner
3. Virat Kohli (vice-captain)
4. Kane Williamson (captain)
5. Shakib Al Hassan
6. Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper)
7. Ben Stokes
8. Imran Tahir
9. Mitchell Starc
10. Jasprit Bumrah
11. Shaheen Shah Afridi
Roll of honour
Openers: It’s been a Herculean task to finalise the batsmen as the top three batsmen from most teams have been among the runs, some of them in tons — pardon the pun — to lay a solid foundation for their team’s lower order to go on the offensive towards the end. We had to be apologetic in not selecting the likes of Australian captain Aaron Finch and Jonny Bairstow, both with two centuries. Rohit Sharma and David Warner are topping the table among the batsmen.
Top order batsmen: Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Shakib Al Hassan all play at No. 3, scoring heavily. So we named them in that order between No. 3 to No. 5, leaving out illustrious players like Joe Root and Babar Azam. Nicholas Pooran also lost out in the race, but the future holds bright for the talented West Indian left-hander for many more years to come.
Wicketkeeper-batsman: Jos Buttler, who is in the form of his life, got an edge over Australian Alex Carey. We even discussed fitting Jonny Bairstow in this slot, but the England batsman has not been keeping wickets of late for the hosts.
Spinner: The English conditions have not been highly conducive for the spinners and sadly not many have been able to produce a performance of note. Prominent among them are the South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir, Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hassan, who has been picked already as an all-rounder. Tahir bettered Chahal on better economy rate. Afghanistan mystery spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman too lost the narrowly.
Fast bowlers: It was quite an easy task to select Mitchell Starc and Jasprit Bumrah, the former tops the bowling chart while the latter for being successful despite being miserly in conceding runs. Selecting the third pacer from a whole array of performers, very many of them are left-arm pacers, proved to be another tricky task. Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman, despite being second in the standings but with higher economy rate, Pakistan star Mohammad Amir, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes of England, West Indian Sheldon Cottrell, India’s Mohammad Shami were all discussed. But the final place goes to … young Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi. The 19-year-old left-arm pacer has taken 16 wickets in just five matches and his inclusion made a huge difference in Pakistan’s fortunes towards the end of their campaign.
Captaincy: It was a direct contest between Kohli and Williamson. After a lot of deliberation, talking about the pros and cons, the genial New Zealander finished marginally ahead to Kohli. The Indian captain has been excellent in marshalling his troops during the World Cup, but his excessive appealing against Afghanistan and the fine of 25 per cent of match fee and one demerit point for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct tilted the decision in favour of Williamson.