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World Cup 2019: Best XI made up of  unsung heroes


26.07.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

Some of the players in the recently concluded World Cup 2019 were not regular picks in their team, while some others were preferred only in the latter part of the tournament. A few of these were also established players who weren't consistent apart from one or two cameos. Still others were silent performers, and the cricket world was not even cognizant of the fact that their contributions were invaluable to their respective teams.

These players were not expected to be match-winners. But they ended up being unsung heroes who could have changed the fortunes of their teams had they been given an early initiation and a long run in the tournament.

On that note, let us take a look at the best XI from the World Cup made up entirely of unsung heroes.

#Openers

Kusal Perera (wk) and Liton Das

Kusal Perera came into this World Cup with the reputation of being a big-hitter and the heir apparent to Sanath Jayasuriya. Perera is looked at as a different player after his Test innings of 153 against South Africa.

In this World Cup, after scoring a solid 78 against Afghanistan, Perera played a cameo against Australia when he slammed 52 off 36 balls. He made 64 off 51 balls against West Indies too.

Perera finished the World Cup with a strike rate of 111. He is the opening batsman and the wicket-keeper in this team.

Liton Das was not considered by the Bangladesh team for the first four matches. But he made an immediate impact in his very first match as he scored a swashbuckling 94 off 69 balls against West Indies.

Das’s innings combined with Shakib Al Hasan’s hundred made sure that Bangladesh could successfully chase down a record score of 322. They managed to reach that massive target with 8 overs to spare. 

In the 5 matches that he played in the World Cup, Das scored 186 runs at an average of 46 and strike rate of 110.

#Middle-order

Avishka Fernando, Haris Sohail, Rassie van der Dussen

The Sri Lankans tried Lahiru Thirimanne at the No. 3 position in the first few matches. After his repeated failures, Avishka Fernando was slotted in at No. 3 in Sri Lanka’s must-win game against England.

Sri Lanka were in early trouble in that match as they lost both the openers for just 3 runs on the board. But Fernando, playing in his first World Cup match, was not overawed by the situation as he smacked England’s fastest bowler Jofra Archer for two fours and one six in the same over.

Fernando reached 49 off 39 balls in no time, with 6 fours and 2 sixes. His innings was crucial in Sri Lanka beating England and thereby setting the World Cup ablaze.

Fernando followed that up with a run-a-ball century against West Indies.

Haris Sohail played in Pakistan’s first match against West Indies and failed, along with all other Pakistan batsmen. He was dropped after that match and the more experienced Shoaib Malik was brought in his place.

After the team’s and Malik’s successive failures, Pakistan went back to Sohail in their must-win match against South Africa.

Sohail walked in to bat with just 20 overs to go and blasted 89 off 59 balls at a strike rate of 150. That innings took the match and the tournament away from South Africa.

In Pakistan’s tough run chase against New Zealand, the Pakistan left-hander was involved in a century partnership with Babar Azam. He rounded off his hat-trick of contributions with a patient innings in the match against Afghanistan.

Pakistan certainly missed Sohail in their first few matches, which turned out to be their undoing.

Rassie van der Dussen made his ODI debut for South Africa only in January 2019. He was the only consistent middle-order batsman for South Africa in the World Cup with scores of 50, 41, 22, 67 not out, 36 and 95.

Van der Dussen's hurricane innings of 95 off 97 balls against Australia derailed Australia’s chances of finishing at the top of the points table. He will be the No. 5 batsman in this team.

#All-rounders

Carlos Brathwaite, Imad Wasim, Ravindra Jadeja

Carlos Brathwaite's maiden ODI century against New Zealand was probably the innings of the World Cup, although it came in a losing cause. The match situation in which Brathwaite scored his hundred was worth remembering.

Needing 128 runs to win with just 3 wickets in hand, Carlos “remember the name” Brathwaite went after the New Zealand bowling with total abandon. In the end, West Indies finished just a single hit away from winning the match. 

Brathwaite took 9 wickets in the tournament and he is the fast-bowling all-rounder in this team.

Imad Wasim showed his aggressive intent with the bat against India by scoring a belligerent 46 off 39 balls. However, his efforts came too late in the day to cause any upset and rewrite history.

Still, that innings boosted his confidence massively and prepared him to play two crucial cameos against Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

In two back-to-back must-win games, Wasim scored 49 and 43 to keep Pakistan’s hopes alive till the very end. His bowling economy of 4.82 means he will play as an all-rounder in this team.

It is a pity that Ravindra Jadeja got an opportunity to play in the World Cup only in India’s last league match against Sri Lanka. The team management was so obsessed with the strategy of playing two wrist-spinners that they failed to recognize the other facets that Jadeja could bring to the table.

But even before making it to the playing XI, Jadeja made a huge contribution on the field as a substitute fielder.

When he finally got his opportunity, Jadeja finished with bowling figures of 10-0-40-1. But his major contribution with both bat and ball came in the semi-final against New Zealand.

Bowling first, Jadeja came up with economical figures of 1 for 34 in 10 overs. And while batting, Jadeja and Dhoni very nearly pulled off a miracle for India after the collapse at the top.

Coming in at a hopeless situation at 92 for 6, Jadeja hit his way out of trouble with an incredible 77 off 59 balls. While none of the top order batsmen from either side managed a strike rate of above 80 on a slow wicket, Jadeja galloped at an astonishing strike rate of 130.

Jadeja is the third all-rounder in the team.

#Bowlers

Mohammed Shami, Shaheen Afridi, Liam Plunkett

Like Jadeja, Mohammed Shami was also not given adequate opportunities despite his terrific performances in the limited opportunities that he got. Shami made it to the playing XI in India’s fifth league match due to the injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

In his very first match, Shami saved the blushes for India with a hat-trick against Afghanistan. He followed that up with figures of 4 for 16 and 5 for 69 against West Indies and England respectively.

In just four matches, Shami reached the 12th position in the list of highest wicket-takers in the tournament. His strike rate of 15 balls for every wicket is the best among all bowlers. From India, only Jasprit Bumrah took more wickets than him. 

Shami achieved all this while playing a mere four matches. In spite of his best efforts, Shami found himself out of the playing XI in the crucial semi-final match. But he is an automatic choice in this team.

Shaheen Afridi went for plenty in his first two matches against Australia and South Africa. But he recovered well in his next three matches to claim 13 wickets.

His best effort came against Bangladesh where he took 6 for 35. His wickets in this World Cup included that of David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmadullah.

Afridi finished the tournament with 16 wickets in five matches at a strike rate of 18, the second-best in the tournament after Shami. He will be the opening bowling partner for Shami.

Liam Plunkett was the silent performer for England in the World Cup. His efficient bowling performance was sandwiched between the high-profile performances of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, not to forget Chris Woakes. But it was Plunkett who gave England the crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs.

The beauty of Plunkett’s performance was that none of his 11 wickets were that of tailenders. His wickets were always of big guns like Chris Gayle, Hashim Amla or Virat Kohli.

In the final as well, when New Zealand were comfortably placed at 100 for 1, Plunkett came on to bowl and he removed the two well-set batsmen, Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls, to cause a middle-order collapse.

In this World Cup, Plunkett took 11 wickets in 7 matches at an economy of 4.86. He is the first change bowler in this team.