We produce below the highest impact World XI possible from all ten editions of the World Cup, based on Impact Index.

It is strictly based on performances within the ten tournaments, from 1975 to 2011. Reputation and career numbers outside the World Cup play no part in this selection.

Big match performances and tournament-defining performances are also taken into account. The minimum number of matches considered is eight (based on maximum number of matches in each edition).

The top six in the team has been picked on batting order. So, we only consider the highest impact batsman in that position in World Cup history. Thereafter, we consider the highest impact wicketkeeper, all-rounder, one specialist spinner (as there are three part-time spinners to together be the fifth bowler) and two specialist pacers.

Interestingly, six of the players in the first XI are Australians, then there are two West Indians, two Indians and one Pakistani, though perhaps not the one you would expect.

In batting order then…

1) Matthew Hayden

He was below par in his first World Cup (the 2003 edition) as he had a 36% failure rate and no major noticeable performance. But in the 2007 edition, he made amends spectacularly by becoming the highest impact batsman and player in that tournament as Australia gave a dominating performance to win the title. Overall, his batting failure rate in World Cup history is 24%, which is not bad at all.

Matthew Hayden: Dominating and intimidating - highest impact batsman and player in 2007.
Matthew Hayden: Dominating and intimidating – highest impact batsman and player in 2007.

2) Sachin Tendulkar

He has the highest run aggregate in World Cup history (2278 at an average of 57) and topped the batting charts (inadequately considering only runs tallies) in 1996 and 2003. But the impact story takes it a little forward – he was the highest impact player in 2003 and the highest impact batsman in 2011. And the highest impact batsman for India in 1996, 2003 and 2011. In 2011, his 85 against Pakistan in the semi-final gave him a tournament-defining performance .

Sachin Tendulkar: Highest impact Indian batsman in 1996, 2003 and 2011.
Sachin Tendulkar: Highest impact Indian batsman in 1996, 2003 and 2011.

3) Vivian Richards  

The highest impact player in the 1979 World Cup and the highest impact batsman in the 1983 edition had the highest Runs Tally Impact and Strike Rate Impact for West Indies in the later tournament, meaning he scored the highest proportion of runs for West Indies at the fastest pace. His tournament-defining performance in the 1979 final was just one of his many big match high impact turns that gives him the pre-eminent position in this format – he is the highest impact ODI player ever of all time.

Vivian Richards: Highest impact ODI player of all time.
Vivian Richards: Highest impact ODI player of all time.

4) Michael Clarke

The first surprise on this list. He is the third-highest impact Australian batsman in World Cup history (after Hayden and Bevan), primarily for his performances in 2007, where he got a tournament-defining performance for his unbeaten 60 in the semi-final. Notably, he has the highest Chasing Impact for Australia in all World Cups and is the fourth-most consistent Australian batsman ever in this tournament, with a batting failure rate of just 29%. The only other batsman who competed with him for this spot (as minimum matches have to be 8) was Aravinda de Silva, whose tremendous impact in 1996 is considerably diluted by his poor consistency in all the other World Cups he played in 1987, 1992, 1999 and 2003 – he has a massive 62% batting failure rate overall in World Cups, which is quite  inexplicable.

5) Steve Waugh

Australia’s savior in 1999 – for his back-to-back performances in the 1999 World Cup against South Africa, first to get Australia into the semi-final and then into the final – the second getting him a tournament-defining performance . He also has the second-highest Chasing Impact for Australia in World Cup history. Not many would remember now that Steve Waugh also performed very creditably in Australia’s triumphant 1987 campaign, though more with the ball.

Steve Waugh: Australia's saviour when the chips were down in the big-matches.
Steve Waugh: Australia’s saviour when the chips were down in the big-matches.

6) Michael Bevan

In keeping with his reputation, Bevan has the highest Pressure Impact (of falling wickets) in the history of World Cup cricket. He produced a big match performance against West Indies in the semi-final in 1996 and a tournament-defining performance against South Africa in 1999.

7) Adam Gilchrist (Wicketkeeper)

This is where we depart from batting order impact. Gilchrist opened for Australia but just misses being amongst the highest impact openers in World Cup history. Given that he is easily the highest impact Wicketkeeper in the tournament’s history, it is impossible to not pick him. He is the only other player besides Glenn McGrath to get two TDS in the finals of 1999 and more famously in 2007. Besides being Australia’s highest Strike Rate Impact batsman, Gilchrist remains the only player in World Cup history to play three tournaments and see his team win the title each time.

Adam Gilchrist: One of the only two players in World Cup history to give two TDs.
Adam Gilchrist: One of the only two players in World Cup history to give two TDs.

8) Kapil Dev (Captain)

The most consistent all-round player bar none in World Cup history. He failed just once in the 25 matches he played. Only Michael Holding who did not fail even once in his 11 matches was more consistent statistically, but in less than half the matches. Kapil Dev was the highest impact player in the 1983 World Cup and India’s highest impact player in three consecutive World Cups, from 1983 to 1992. In World Cup history, he also has the third-highest Strike Rate Impact ever, after Lance Klusener and Sandeep Patil (but, again, maintaining this through many more matches). He also gets picked as captain, as he has the highest Captaincy Impact amongst all players selected; India won in 1983 and was semi-finalist in 1987 when he was captain.

Kapil Dev: The most consistent all-round player bar none in World Cup history.
Kapil Dev: The most consistent all-round player bar none in World Cup history.

9) Mushtaq Ahmed

Mushtaq’s is the most surprising name on this list because of whom he marginally displaces. Shane Warne was a more restrictive bowler than him but Mushtaq was more consistent – as his failure rate of 21% over Warne’s 25% suggests. Mushtaq also picked up a higher proportion of top/middle-order wickets than Warne did. Mushtaq’s TD-tournament in 1992 was higher impact than Warne’s 1999, so much so that even Warne’s higher impact in 1996 (where both bowled very well) does not cover the difference. In the end, Mushtaq is the highest impact spinner in World Cup history and the second-highest impact bowler ever.

Mushtaq Ahmed: The highest impact spinner in World Cup history.
Mushtaq Ahmed: The highest impact spinner in World Cup history.

10) Joel Garner

He is the second-highest impact fast bowler in World Cup history primarily because of his TD in the 1979 World Cup final, and for not failing even once in the 1983 edition. Despite having some of the greatest bowlers in history playing alongside him (which made him share impact), he remains West Indies’ highest Pressure Building bowler (taking quick wickets in succession) till date in World Cups.

11) Glenn McGrath

The highest impact bowler in World Cup history registered two tournament-defining performances , first in 1999 against Pakistan and then against South Africa in the semi-final in 2007 (when he was also the tournament’s highest impact bowler). His low bowling failure rate of just 21% is creditable for someone who played 38 games.

So, in the above team, four of the ten World Cups are not represented – 1975, 1987, 1996 and 2003. The reason is straightforward for 1987 and 2003 – in both cases, all-round team efforts ensured that impact was shared and no individuals had significantly high impact. The 1975 West Indian winners are not represented primarily because very few of them played 8 or more World Cup matches, and the ones who did ended up sharing impact with other players. 1996 is not represented because its superstar, Aravinda de Silva, was terribly inconsistent in the other editions of the tournament he played in, in other conditions.

Meanwhile, based on pure averages and not accounting for opposition strength and big matches, this is the team we get:

All-Time World Cup XI (conventional stats – averages)

Minimum number of matches: 8

1) Glenn Turner
2) Tillakaratne Dilshan
3) Sourav Ganguly
4) Michael Clarke
5) Rahul Dravid – wicketkeeper
6) Yuvraj Singh
7) Kapil Dev
8) Lance Klusener
9) Andy Bichel
10) Chris Old
11) Brad Hogg

Michael Clarke and Kapil Dev still make this side, which is interesting. Otherwise, despite some interesting names (like Klusener and Yuvraj), the typical skews of one or two very big performances camouflaging lack of consistency are present here too.

This side wouldn’t really have a chance against the Impact side, would it? This is as romantic as we allow ourselves to get.

 

Jaideep Varma/ Nikhil Narain
Caricatures- Vasim Maner and Rajni Kanth