For the first four editions of the World Cup, there was no official award for the Player of the Series. Even if it were, it would be hard to go against Clive Lloyd (in 1975), Vivian Richards (1979), Kapil Dev (1983) and Craig McDermott (1987) – the highest impact players, respectively, of the four editions.

For the remaining six World Cups, the highest impact player has coincided with the Player of the Series Award three times – Lance Klusener (1999), Sachin Tendulkar (2003) and Yuvraj Singh (2011).

But more interestingly, Mushtaq Ahmed (1992), Aravinda de Silva (1996) and Matthew Hayden (2007) were highest impact players in the respective editions despite not being the official Player of the Series.

1975: Clive Lloyd

Clive Lloyd led by example and inspired the West Indies to victory in the inaugural World Cup in England. He was the highest impact player and batsman of the tournament, scoring tough runs in crunch situations. His ability to absorb pressure (of falling wickets) was second to none in the tournament.

Coming in to bat at 36 for 3, chasing 267 against Pakistan, he scored 53 in 58 deliveries inspiring the lower-middle order to pull off a remarkable one-wicket win with just two balls to spare.

His tournament-defining performance came in the final against Australia when, batting first, he rescued the West Indies from a precarious 50 for 3 and smashed a breathtaking 102 in just 85 deliveries to lift them to 291. Lloyd was also the most restrictive bowler of the match conceding just 38 runs off his 12 overs.

This victory gave rise to a new order in world cricket – West Indies dominated the next decade and a half.

Note: Gary Gilmour was the highest impact bowler and player of the 1975 World Cup if we restrict the number of matches to 2. He rocked the England batting line-up in the semi-final at Leeds with a devastating spell of fast bowling – 6-14 off 12 overs before hitting a match-winning run-a-ball 28 coming in to bat at 39 for 6 chasing 93. He picked up another fifer (5-48 off 12 overs) against the West Indies in the final.

1979: Vivian Richards

Vivian Richards rose to the occasion and delivered in the big-matches. In the semi-final against Pakistan, he notched up 42 off 62 balls helping West Indies amass 293. He, then picked up three wickets in quick succession to reduce Pakistan (from 220 for 5) to 228 for 8. West Indies won by 43 runs.

In the final against England at Lord’s, coming in to bat at 22 for 1 (which soon became 36 for 2, then 55 for 3, then 99 for 4) he smashed an unbeaten match-winning 138 off just 157 deliveries and put together a smashing 139-run fifth wicket stand with Collis King helping his team to 286. West Indies won by 92 runs and Richards registered a tournament-defining performance .

1983: Kapil Dev

Kapil Dev, the highest impact all-rounder in the 1983 World Cup, was brilliantly consistent, not failing even once in the 8 matches he played in the tournament.

His ability to score runs at a strike rate above the match norm coming down the order in pressure situations came to fore in the tournament – no better example of which was his 175 in just 138 deliveries against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells (the second-highest impact batting performance for India after Rohit Sharma’s 264). Kapil came in at 9 for 4 (which soon became 17 for 5) and in partnership with the lower-order took India to 266.

He was equally impressive with the ball and was India’s most restrictive bowler in the tournament (and fourth overall).

He ended on a high earning a tournament-defining performance in the final – 15 off 8 balls, 1-21 in 11 overs and 2 catches, including the one to dismiss Vivian Richards, the highest impact batsman of the tournament, who threatened to take the match away from India – it was the turning point of the match leading India to a memorable victory over a much fancied opponent and changed Indian cricket history forever.

Clive Lloyd: Absorbed pressure (of falling wickets) better than anyone else in the 1975 World Cup.
Clive Lloyd: Absorbed pressure (of falling wickets) better than anyone else in the 1975 World Cup.

1987: Craig McDermott

For the first time in four editions of the World Cup a bowler (who was not an all-rounder) was the highest impact player of the tournament – and that too in sub-continental conditions.

Craig McDermott had the knack of picking up the big wickets making inroads in the opposition top and middle order. He did not fail even once in the 8 matches he played in the tournament.

He ran through the Indian middle-order in Chennai reducing India who were chasing 271, from a winning position (207 for 2) to 246 for 6. Australia won a thriller by one run.

He gave a tournament-defining performance against Pakistan in the semi-final picking up 5 wickets conceding 44 runs in his 10 overs (this included the final three wickets to wrap the match for Australia).

1992: Mushtaq Ahmed

Mushtaq Ahmed overshadowed the performances of his more noticeable teammates (Inzamam, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram) to emerge as the highest impact player of the tournament.

His ability to create pressure by picking up crucial top and middle order opposition wickets stood out in the tournament. Coupled with this was his remarkable consistency – he failed just once in the 8 matches he bowled in.

He got rid of Azharuddin, Kambli and Manjrekar against India (in a losing cause) in Sydney before breaking the backbone of the Australian middle-order in Perth (3-41 in 10 overs).

In the semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland, he accounted for the wickets of John Wright and Andrew Jones (2-40 in 10 overs).

Mushtaq gave a tournament-defining performance in the final (3-41 in 10 overs) against England in Melbourne. He got the wickets of Hick and Gooch in quick succession putting England under pressure in their pursuit of Pakistan’s 249.

1996: Aravinda de Silva

No batsman has dominated a World Cup more than Aravinda de Silva did in 1996 – he is the highest impact batsman and player in any single edition of the ten World Cups for his exploits in 1996.

91 in 86 balls against Zimbabwe (from 23 for 2), 145 in 115 against Kenya, 66 in just 47 deliveries against India in the semi-finals at the Eden Gardens (from 1 for 2 which became 35 for 3) changing the momentum of the match and finally the scintillating performance in the final against Australia where, after picking up 3 crucial wickets conceding just 42 runs in his 9 overs (restricting Australia to 241), de Silva notched up a match-winning unbeaten 107 off 124 deliveries (coming in to bat at 23 for 2 with Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana back in the pavilion) – Aravinda topped all the batting parameters and was phenomenally consistent, not failing even once in the tournament.

1999: Lance Klusener

The most interesting name in this piece is of Lance Klusener for he is the only one to emerge as the highest impact player in a World Cup without his team having made it to the final (South Africa bowed out in the semi-final).

In fact he does not even have a big performance in the semi-final but makes up for that handsomely with his tremendous and consistent all-round display with the bat and ball.

Klusener had this unique quality of scoring big runs under pressure at a tremendous rate – something he showcased time and again in the tournament, not failing even once in the nine matches he played. It made him the third-highest impact batsman in the tournament. As a bowler, he failed just once in nine innings, and was the second-most consistent bowler in the tournament.

52 not out in 45 balls (from 115 for 7) and 3-21 in 5.2 overs in a low-scoring match against Sri Lanka, 48 not out in 40 (from 146 for 5) and 1-16 in 6 overs against England, 52 not out in 58 deliveries (from 106 for 7) in a losing cause against Zimbabwe, a match-winning unbeaten 46 in 41 balls (from 135 for 6) chasing 221 against Pakistan and finally a heart-breaking unbeaten 31 in 16 deliveries against South Africa in the semi-final – such was Klusener’s impact and consistency that he outshone even those players who had TDs to their credit in the tournament.

Lance Klusener: Scored tough runs under pressure at an excellent rate
Lance Klusener: Scored tough runs under pressure at an excellent rate

2003: Sachin Tendulkar

Andrew Symonds was the highest impact batsman and gave a tournament-defining performance , yet Sachin Tendulkar had a higher overall impact as the latter scored big runs at a good rate opening the innings for India consistently in the tournament.

50 in 52 balls against England, 98 in 75 balls in a successful chase of 273 against Pakistan (highest scorer for India), 97 in 120 balls against Sri Lanka (again highest scorer for India) and finally 83 in 101 balls and 2-28 in 6 overs against Kenya in the semi-final – Tendulkar was by far the leading run-scorer of the tournament (673 runs in 11 innings at an average of 61).

India only lost twice in the tournament – both times to Australia – once in the group-stage and then in the final. Tendulkar gave one of his lowest impact performances in one of these matches and failed in the other. It is not difficult to see then, that India’s fortunes depended heavily on his performances in the tournament.

2007: Matthew Hayden

Matthew Hayden had an intimidating and demoralizing effect on the opposition bowlers opening the innings for Australia and emerged as not only the highest impact batsman but also the highest impact player of the tournament.

His ability to score big runs at an excellent rate opening the innings for Australia set him apart in the tournament. Coupled with this was his exceptional consistency – he failed just once in the 10 matches he batted.

101 in 68 balls against South Africa helping Australia to 377, 158 in 143 against the West Indies, setting the base for a comfortable seven-wicket chase against England (41 in 50 balls), 103 in 100 balls against New Zealand, 41 in 60 against South Africa in the semi-final (chasing 149 losing Gilchrist and Ponting early) – earning himself a TD in the process and finally ending the tournament with a 38 off 55 deliveries putting together 172 for the opening-wicket with a rampaging Adam Gilchrist – a partnership that broke the soul and spirit of Sri Lanka in the final – Hayden was simply outstanding in the tournament.

Matthew Hayden: Consistently scored big at the top of the order
Matthew Hayden: Consistently scored big at the top of the order

2011: Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj Singh’s stupendous all-round performance played a pivotal role in India’s 2011 victorious campaign at home. Yuvraj scored runs in crunch situations and gave India vital breakthroughs changing the complexion of a match.

Yuvraj’s ability to score runs in the middle-order, stringing match-winning partnerships (especially while chasing) stood out in the tournament.

With the ball, he was able to create pressure by picking up key opposition wickets in quick succession at critical moments in a match. Interestingly, his consistency with the ball was better as compared to his consistency with the bat. In fact, he was India’s second-highest impact bowler (after Zaheer Khan) in the tournament.

58 in 50 balls in the tied match against England in Bangalore, 5-31 in 10 overs and 50 not out in 75 balls (from 87 for 3) chasing 207 against Ireland, 113 in 123 balls (from 51 for 2) and 2-18 in 4 overs against the West Indies, a tournament-defining performance in the Quarter-Final against Australia – 2-44 in 10 overs before scoring an unbeaten match-winning 57 in just 65 balls (from 143 for 3 which became 168 for 4 and further worsened to 187 for 5) taking India into the semi-finals, the wickets of Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan in successive overs reducing Pakistan from 103 for 2 to 106 for 4 (chasing 260) in the semi-final and finally 2-49 in 10 overs (the wickets of Sangakkara and Samaraweera) and an unbeaten 21 in 24 balls to see India through in the final – Yuvraj was India’s trump card and seldom let his captain and team down, failing in just 2 of the 9 matches he played.

Note: The minimum number of matches considered for a particular World Cup are taken as half of the maximum number of matches played by any player in that edition of the World Cup. Thus we consider a minimum of 3 matches for 1975, 1979 and 1996, a minimum of 4 matches for 1983 and 1987 and a minimum of 5 matches for 1992, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 for our analysis.


Nikhil Narain
Caricatures- Vasim Maner