TELFORD VICE, Melbourne
SIX weeks and a day after it started, the World Cup reaches its climax on Sunday in the final between Australia and New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It has been a tournament of teetering highs and scraping lows, of two double centuries, five scores of 150 or more, 31 lesser centuries, seven bowlers taking five wickets or more in a match – one of them six, another seven – and of England being laughed all the way home after the first round.
In an indication of what we all know already, that bat rules ball in one-day cricket – for the first time since the 1987 World Cup no team was dismissed for fewer than 100 runs. The 1983 tournament is the only other time that has happened. In all, 17 sides have been sent packing in double figures.
But, after everything, cricket is a team game played by individuals. And the best of them who featured in the World Cup are gathered here:
2015 World Cup XI
Martin Guptill (New Zealand) – Because patience is a virtue, even in modern ODIs. And to be able to write headlines like the New Zealand Sunday Star Times did: “Two toes, amazing feat”. That’s right: Guptill has only two toes on one of his feet because of an accident involving a forklift truck.
Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) – Bad Bren. Mad Mac. Or just plain Baz. Gotta have him swinging for the fences. Makes brute force look pretty as a tattoo. Nerves of ice don’t hurt, either. Neither does having the meanest cut jib in cricket.
Steve Smith (Australia) – Hides his magnificence behind a certain sleepiness and the most ordinary name in the game. If the regular strokes don’t fit the bill, he makes his own.
AB de Villiers (SA) – General Electric. Genius. Steve Jobs in pads. Not even AB knows what AB is going to do next.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) – If Julio Iglesias played cricket, this is how he would bat. There’s a rich smoothness to everything Sanga does that does not quite fit into the frenetic world of sport as we have come to know it. Bless him for it.
Michael Clarke (Australia) – Hey, someone (preferably someone strong, sharp and unshutupable), has to captain this bunch. Can bat a bit, too, when he sorts himself out.
MS Dhoni (India) – For the smile. For the shrug. For the unflappability. And for the television audience – got to get an Indian in there somewhere.
Wahab Riaz (Pakistan) – Angry and at ’em.
Mitchell Starc (Australia) – Angry and at ’em and consistent.
Imran Tahir (SA) – Having spent years trying to spin the ball around corners, Tahir has discovered the value of confidence and control.
Trent Boult (New Zealand) – Too fast, too furious, too swingy, too good to leave out of any team. Besides, who needs right-handed quicks when the best bowl with the other arm?