One thousand and fifty-seven: the number of players to have made the starting XIs in all World Cup matches. It’s a much smaller pool to look at when considering an all-time World Cup XI, but there are still plenty of interesting decisions to make when you consider the talent available.
Would you pick only from champion sides? A hundred and one players have been in winning sides in World Cup finals. How about the trio of Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, and Ricky Ponting, all three-time winners? Or Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Andy Roberts, from the trendsetting West Indies team that won the first two titles and missed out on a third? Or Steve Waugh, who won World Cups 12 years apart. Not to forget the other ODI greats who lifted the trophy: Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Joel Garner, Kapil Dev, Muttiah Muralitharan, MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Shane Warne, and Wasim Akram, to name a few.
Wouldn’t picking only from among champions be cruel to those whom many felt should have experienced World Cup glory? Martin Crowe and Lance Klusener stepped up in 1992 and 1999, but their teams lost to the eventual champions in the semi-finals. Or the talented Sri Lankan group of Lasith Malinga (remember his four wickets in four balls), Kumar Sangakkara (hundreds in four consecutive matches), Mahela Jayawardene (a hundred in a World Cup final), and Tillakaratne Dilshan (check out his World Cup record).
Or are you looking at those who stepped up on the big stage? Mohinder Amarnath, Aravinda de Silva, and Warne put in Man-of-the-Match performances in a semi-final and final in the same edition.
Unlike in real situations, where team managements often have to make adjustments to cover for limitations, your restriction is that you have only 11 players to pick. Take the openers, for example. Whom would you pick out of a potential list that includes Dilshan, Gilchrist, Jayasuriya, Mark Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Saeed Anwar and Tendulkar?
And how about balancing the XI? Would you go with five specialist bowlers, or four bowlers and an allrounder? Or would you have two or more allrounders in the XI? Whose leadership would you trust to inspire this team? And would your team be covered for all conditions?
ESPNcricinfo’s staff is already undertaking this exercise, picking their XIs, from which we will derive a composite World Cup team for the ages. We are also looking for a readers’ all-time World Cup XI.
Send in your XIs before April 20th to [email protected] with the subject line “World Cup XI”.
Example of XI format: Player 1, Player 2, Player 3, Player 4, Player 5 (c), Player 6, Player 7 (wk), Player 8, Player 9, Player 10, Player 11. (ESPNCricinfo)