Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..12. Lance Klusener : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh



Lance Klusener

Irresistible allrounder on his day

Born 04.09.1971

BATTING (World Cups 1999 & 2003)
Matches.....14      
Innings.....11     
Not Out.....8   
Highest Score.....57      
Runs.....372     
Average.....124.00      
Strike-rate.....121.17    
50s.....3   
Catches.....2

BOWLING (World Cups 1999 & 2003)
Balls.....605      
Maidens.....7     
Runs.....487   
Wickets.....22      
Average.....22.13      
Best.....5/21    
Runs Per Over.....4.82



Lance Klusener had, in 1999, a World Cup that schoolboys dream of. Not surprisingly, he was man-of-the-tournament in his first appearance in the showpiece event. A swashbuckling left-handed lower middle-order batsman, and open-chested right-arm medium pacer who bowls from wide of the crease, Klusener was in prime form with both bat and ball throughout the tournament. He won four man-of-the-match awards, three of them consecutively, in the nine matches. He almost carried South Africa to the final off his own blade - his would have been the winning hit had Allan Donald not been run out. It would have been his party but for that incident. Even so, no man has dominated a single World Cup the way Klusener did in 1999.

Scyld Berry, writing in The Telegraph, described Klusener thus: “A pace bowler who hits the deck hard. A batsman who hits the ball harder still with the heaviest bludgeon around.” Apt. And Klusener’s bat weighed 3lb 2oz (about 1.5 kg), heavier than the willow Clive Lloyd wielded.

In the first match Klusener made a vital breakthrough, inducing Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar to edge the ball to Mark Boucher. He broke a century partnership between Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, castling the latter. Finally, he had skipper Mohammad Azharuddin caught by Nicky Boje. Klusener finished with three for 66 off 10 overs. As the match got tense towards the end, Klusener blasted three boundaries off the four deliveries that he faced to seal the win.

By the time South Africa took on Sri Lanka, Klusener was in prime form. The defending champions felt the full weight of his bludgeoning blade just when it seemed that they had the Proteas on their knees. Klusener walked in at 115 for seven, and lost Daryll Cullinan at 122. The bounce as well as movement in the air, and off the wicket, had all the batsmen in trouble, but Klusener was in awesome touch. He took his chances, as he usually did, and hammered the ball all over the ground. He added 77 for the last two wickets with tailenders Steve Elworthy and Allan Donald. Chaminda Vaas, who along with Muttiah Muralitharan had hounded every batsman, was hit for 22 runs in the 50th over by Klusener, including sixes off the last two deliveries. Klusener hit 5 fours besides the 2 sixes in his unbeaten 52 off just 45 deliveries.

The Sri Lankan wickets fell like nine pins. This time Klusener came on to complete the last rites. He dismissed Upul Chandana, Vaas and Pramodaya Wickremasinghe in quick succession to ensure that there was no rearguard action by the tail. Klusener’s three wickets cost 21 runs in 5.2 overs. There was no other contender for the man-of-the-match award.

The next encounter was with hosts, England. Promoted two places to no.7, Klusener blasted the bowlers once again. He put on an unbroken 57 for the eighth wicket with Mark Boucher. Klusener’s unbeaten 48 came off 40 balls with a six and 3 fours. With the ball, he dismissed Robert Croft, finishing with one for 16 in 6 overs. He was again man-of-the-match.

The part-timers from Kenya had no clue to the swinging deliveries of Klusener. After Elworthy and Donald had done the early damage, Klusener ran through the lower half. He first dismissed star batsman Steve Tikolo, having him caught by skipper Hansie Cronje. Next ball, he trapped Thomas Odoyo leg-before. Kenyan captain Asif Karim came in to face the hat-trick delivery. It was a yorker, which Karim managed to dig out. Soon, Klusener induced Alpesh Vadher to hit a shoulder-high return catch to his right. Klusener went on to wind up the Kenyan innings, knocking back the stumps of Mohammad Sheikh and Joseph Angara. Klusener bagged five for 21 off 8.3 overs, for which he was bestowed with his third successive man-of-the-match award.

Thus far it was smooth sailing for South Africa. But they suffered an unexpected reverse at the hands of Zimbabwe. Klusener took the wicket of Murray Goodwin, but when he came in to bat South Africa were a miserable 106 for seven, chasing a target of 234. He tried to retrieve the situation in the company of Shaun Pollock who departed at 149. Elworthy fell a run later. With the overs running out, Klusener made a last-ditch effort with last man Donald for company. Klusener farmed the bowling, and at the same time played characteristically belligerent strokes. But the task was too great. With 16 deliveries remaining and 49 runs still to get, Donald succumbed to Henry Olonga. Klusener was left stranded on 52 which he scored off 58 balls – slow by his standards – with 2 sixes and 3 fours.

In this tournament it was felt that Klusener was being sent in to bat far too late. This match was a case in point. Had he batted higher he may have pulled off a win, at least he might not have run out of partners.

The first super-six match presented a big test as Pakistan were one of the favourites. Klusener took the wicket of Ijaz Ahmed as Pakistan posted 220 for seven in 50 overs. This time Klusener walked in at 135 for six. Jacques Kallis helped him add 41. Mark Boucher stepped into the breach. South Africa needed 44 off five overs. They used only four of these as Klusener waded into the bowling, which comprised the experienced Wasim Akram, speedster Shoaib Akhtar – who had struck deadly blows at the start of the innings – and the wily Saqlain Mushtaq. Klusener returned triumphant with 46 off 41 balls with 3 sixes and 3 fours. There was yet another man-of-the-match prize in his bag, the fourth in five matches. Skipper Hansie Cronje acknowledged his invaluable contribution: “The more trouble we get ourselves in, the more he seems to be prepared to pull us out.”

Klusener registered his first failure with the bat when he was sent in at no.3 against New Zealand. Perhaps the critics were wrong after all. Klusener was bowled by the naggingly accurate Gavin Larsen for 4. But he picked up the vital wickets of the belligerent Chris Cairns and Roger Twose as South Africa won easily. Even as ‘Zulu’ Klusener disappointed with the bat in this match, he posted a new record in Limited-overs Internationals for the highest number of runs in a sequence before being dismissed. He was out for the first time in 10 innings after scoring 400 runs between
2 February 1999 and 10 June 1999. His run of scores was 103 not out, 35 not out, 13 not out, 35 not out, 12 not out, 52 not out, 48 not out, 52 not out, 46 not out and 4. The previous record was held by Javed Miandad who scored 398 runs before being dismissed after 7 innings between 20 September 1982 and 9 June 1983 This was Klusener’s first dismissal in the World Cup after playing 6 innings during which he rattled up 214 runs.

In the crucial last super-six match, South Africa seemed to have scored enough runs, not the least due to Klusener’s blitzkrieg. They, however, did not reckon with a resolute Australian skipper Steve Waugh and a gift of a dropped catch that had already been taken by Herschelle Gibbs. The bowler ........ Klusener.  Nevertheless, Cronje seemed to have got it just right by sending Klusener at no.6. He thrashed the ball around in his inimitable style. Forty-nine runs came in the last 5 overs. Klusener hit 36 off 21 balls with a six and 4 fours before holing out in the last over. He lifted South Africa from 219 for four in the 45th over to 271 for seven at the end of the 50th over. Klusener later broke the 126-run fourth-wicket partnership between Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh, but that was not enough to pull off a win.

The two teams met again in that nail-biting tied semi-final. This time Australia batted first and posted a moderate total of 213. Klusener was again inexplicably demoted to no.8. He came in with South Africa gasping for breath at 175 for six. Pollock departed at 183. Thirty runs were needed off the last four overs. Klusener set about the bowling. He lost Boucher and Elworthy too. When last man Donald walked in, there were still 16 runs to get off 8 deliveries. Klusener hammered seven off Glenn McGrath's last two deliveries.

At the beginning of the last over, nine runs remained. Klusener smashed the first two deliveries from Damien Fleming for boundaries. The scores were level. Donald was nearly run out off the third delivery. He decided to stay put off the next as Klusener played towards Mark Waugh and took off. There was utter confusion that ended with Donald’s run out. Klusener had taken South Africa to the brink of victory, and their first World Cup final, but destiny willed otherwise. It was Australia who advanced jubilantly to the final, having won their previous encounter. The hero of the tournament had to return crestfallen. There was not to be a happy ending to the fairy tale. Such is the cruel twist to fate sometimes. 

In his eight innings, Lance Klusener scored 281 runs with two fifties at an average of 140.5 and a strike-rate of 122.17 or 7.33 runs per over. He took 17 wickets in 9 matches at an average of 20.58 and an economy rate of 4.61 runs per over with a best of five wickets for 21 runs. These are fabulous figures, but what they do not fully reveal is his awesome hitting throughout the tournament. It would be hard to match sustained aggression over a long period such as this. His wicket-taking ability was a huge bonus to a team rich in pace bowling resources. Teammate Jacques Kallis paid tribute to the brilliant allrounder: “He is a kind of guy you would like to take to war with you.” One match away from having a dream tournament, Klusener left no doubt in anyone’s mind about who was the real star of the 1999 World Cup.

Even though South Africa fared disastrously in the World Cup they hosted in 2003, Klusener’s own love affair with the event continued during the limited opportunities that he got. Injuries had forced him to cut down his run-up, drastically reducing his speed, but he could still bowl the odd incisive spell. In the couple of innings that he batted, he almost reproduced his form of 1999. His personal efforts could not be faulted in the midst of all the gloom.

The opening day produced a shocker. South Africa, one of the favourities, were beaten by a resurgent West Indies side in a thriller. Docked an over for a slow over-rate, the Proteas needed a mammoth 279 to win. Klusener, playing his 150th One-day International in a seven-year career, joined Boucher at 160 for six. They battled on but when Boucher was dismissed, another 75 were needed off 49 balls. Boje was an admirable foil and as the innings progressed, it seemed that the two left-handers might snatch an exciting win. There were 9 runs required off the last over, then 8 off four deliveries. Klusener, who had already hit five huge sixes on the on-side, pulled again. This time his skier was taken by Carl Hooper. He was gone for 57 off 48 balls. South Africa could not pull it off, losing by 3 runs.     

That really was the story of the South Africans in a tournament they had toiled so hard to stage, failing by a whisker when it mattered. They did make amends as they took on Kenya next, racing to a ten-wicket win. This time Klusener shone with the ball, coming on in the latter part of the innings. Before that he ran out top-scorer Ravindu Shah as the Kenyans lost half the side for less than a hundred. Klusener had Maurice Odumbe caught by Herschelle Gibbs, and trapped Collins Obuya leg-before first ball. Soon he sent back Martin Suji, also for a duck. As Peter Ongondo tried to use the long handle, Klusener dismissed him too. Klusener finished with four for 16 off his 8 overs and took home his fifth man-of-the-match prize of the World Cup.

South Africa seemed to have got their act together, hitting up 306 off the New Zealand attack. Klusener bludgeoned an unbeaten 33 off 21 deliveries with four boundaries and a six. Sadly, a sterling rain-interrupted century by Stephen Fleming ruined the party once again. The Proteas were not destined to triumph on their own turf. It was also the end of Klusener’s heroics. Coincidentally, he was at the crease at the end of both tied matches in World Cup history, and on each occasion South Africa were knocked out of the premier tournament.  

Klusener will have bitter-sweet memories of the World Cup. One of its most brilliant allrounders, he saw his team faltering at crucial times. He might have been inconsistent in later years, but it seemed cruel to drop him from the side after the 2003 tournament, and he did not adorn the event in the Caribbean four years hence. The followers of the game were deprived prematurely of the pleasure of watching one of the most awesome hitters of the modern era. His batting average of 124 and strike-rate of 121.17 runs per 100 balls are by far best among batsmen who have scored at least 300 runs in the World Cup.


(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..11. Glenn McGrath : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh



Glenn McGrath

Unrelenting accuracy

Born 09.02.1970

BOWLING (World Cups 1996 -2007)
Balls.....1955      
Maidens.....42     
Runs.....1292   
Wickets.....71      
Average.....18.19      
Best.....7/15    
Runs Per Over.....3.96
Catches…..5

If you were looking for precision and reliability, rather than raw speed and flamboyance, Glenn McGrath was the man. Perhaps the modern-day Brian Statham, McGrath was trusted paceman for a succession of Australian captains from Allan Border to Ricky Ponting. He bowled wicket-to-wicket, not just from close to the stumps but from almost in front of them. Keeping a steady line on or around the off-stump, bringing the ball in or moving it away just enough - and late - he kept the batsman guessing all the time. He could bowl a sizzling bouncer too, as readily as he could give a mouthful to the batsman. McGrath was a mean character with the ball.


Wickets in the sub-continent in 1996 were obviously not to his liking. He struggled generally, but rose to the occasion when it really mattered. The Zimbabweans found him difficult to get away. He dismissed opener Grant Flower early and conceded just 12 runs off 8 overs. In the high-scoring quarter-final, he had Stephen Fleming caught by Steve Waugh, as the New Zealand top-order struggled. Then after skipper Lee Germon and Chris Harris had put on a splendid 168 for the fourth wicket, McGrath returned to dismiss the former.


It was in the semi-final under lights at Mohali that McGrath made vital breakthroughs when the West Indies seemed to be running away with the match. With Shivnaraine Chanderpaul and captain Richie Richardson in charge, the West Indies were 165 for two, needing just 208 to win. McGrath got a cramping Chanderpaul to hole out to Damien Fleming. Soon thereafter he trapped Roger Harper leg-before. The West Indies were pushed on the back foot, setting the stage for Shane Warne to strike his winning blows. McGrath finished with two for 30 off 10 overs.


He was unable to similarly lift his team in the final as Sri Lanka registered a glorious win. McGrath was not really in his elements in the 1996 World Cup.


Conditions were just right for McGrath’s bowling in 1999 and he revelled in them, though not initially. He was unusually innocuous in the round-robin matches, only causing an early flutter in the Bangladesh camp. That was until the last league game in which it was vital to defeat the West Indies.

McGrath struck like a whirlwind, crippling the top-order and ensuring that the innings did not take wing. On a seaming track he had Sherwin Campbell edging, to be taken brilliantly by Mark Waugh at second slip. Next ball he trapped Jimmy Adams leg-before, not offering a stroke. It was 7 for two. Brian Lara tried to battle it out but McGrath hit his off stump. The West Indies never recovered from these blows. He returned later to knock off the tail in tandem with Shane Warne. McGrath captured five for 14 off 8.4 overs and took away the man-of-the-match prize.

In order to wrest the title, Australia still had to win virtually every match. McGrath halted India’s super-six chase right at the start. He drew Sachin Tendulkar forward and induced an edge into Gilchrist’s gloves. The maestro returned for a duck in the first over. McGrath exclaimed later: “I have always enjoyed bowling to Sachin and getting his wicket is always special.” McGrath duplicated the effort with India’s most successful batsman of the tournament, Rahul Dravid. Damien Fleming dismissed Sourav Ganguly. Soon after, McGrath had skipper Mohammad Azharuddin playing with the leading edge into the hands of Steve Waugh. McGrath had taken three of the four wickets to fall for 17. The target of 283 became a distant mirage for India. McGrath secured his second man-of-the-match award in succession, having bagged three for 34 off 10 overs.

With eight wickets in two crucial successive wins, McGrath had put the Australian campaign back on track. He had a quiet time in the other two super-six matches and the nail-biting semi-final, taking a wicket apiece in each of these games.

In the one-sided final, he removed Wajahatullah Wasti early, and then came back to dismiss Saqlain Mushtaq, rounding off the Pakistan innings. McGrath finished with two for 13 off 9 overs. His bag of 18 wickets in the tournament was second behind Shane Warne and Geoff Allott, both of whom took 20.  

McGrath relished the South African tracks in 2003. Economical rather than penetrative in the early matches, he tore through the amateur line-up from Namibia. The newest African entrants to the international stage found, to their acute discomfiture, how difficult it is at the highest level. After Australia had rattled up more than 300, McGrath reduced the Namibian batting to shambles. He had Andries Jan-Berry Burger caught by Ricky Ponting in the first over. After Brett Lee accounted for the other opener Stephen Swanepoel in the same manner, McGrath took six wickets in a flurry. He had Morne Karg, Daniel Keulder, Louis Burger and skipper Deon Kotze snapped up behind the stumps by Adam Gilchrist, trapped Bryan Murgatroyd leg-before and castled Bjorn Kotze.

McGrath finished with an analysis of 7-4-15-7, the best-ever in the World Cup, and second after Chaminda Vaas’ eight for 19 in all One-day Internationals. Gilchrist took two more catches off Andy Bichel, his six dismissals being a record in the premier event, also equalling the best in One-day history. Namibia crashed to 45 all out in 14 overs, and McGrath was man-of-the-match.

Kiwi speedster Shane Bond shook up the kangaroos. McGrath, on his part, began the New Zealand slide, having makeshift opener Daniel Vettori caught by Gilchrist. He dismissed Nathan Astle for a duck, taken by Ponting, and had Scott Styris leg-before. The compliment repaid, McGrath had pushed the Antipodean rivals on the back foot at 33 for three. Lee returned to decimate the lower half in a matter of 25 deliveries. McGrath finished with three for 29 off 6 overs.

The final had been won even before India batted, courtesy Ponting’s blitzkrieg. Sachin Tendulkar tried desperate methods in a lost cause, slamming McGrath for a boundary and then giving a steepling return catch in the very first over. McGrath sent back Mohammad Kaif for a blob, and later wound up the match, dismissing Zaheer Khan. He took 21 wickets in this tournament, second-highest for Australia behind Lee’s 22 in a single World Cup. Only Chaminda Vaas, with 23 scalps, bagged more.

The innocents from Scotland could hardly decipher his nagging deliveries in 2007. McGrath came on first change and took wickets in quick succession. The Scots slumped to 42 for five and were finally dismissed for 131 runs. McGrath took three for 14 in 6 overs as Australia sailed to a 203-run win. The Dutch part-timers too were unable to fathom the Australian bowling. McGrath bagged two wickets in the middle, giving away 33 runs off 8 overs. South Africa did make a valiant effort to chase a huge target, and McGrath managed to pick up a solitary wicket, conceding 62 runs in 9 overs.

Hosts West Indies were chasing a score well in excess of 300 in the super-eight. McGrath dropped his second delivery short and Chris Gayle top-edged the pull shot into the hands of Shane Watson at mid-on. In his next over Marlon Samuels tried to give him the charge and only succeeded in holing out to Andrew Symonds in the covers. The scoreboard read 20 for three in the 10th over. McGrath returned later to the bowling crease and Dwayne Bravo too tried something fancy over cover, hitting the ball straight into the hands of Ponting. This time McGrath took three for 31 off 8 overs.  

McGrath took the new ball against surprise qualifiers Bangladesh. He effected dismissals off three consecutive overs. He yorked opener Shahriar Nafees in his second over to equal Wasim Akram’s record haul of 55 wickets in the World Cup. In his next over Aftab Ahmed attempted to drive him over mid-off only to see Nathan Bracken take a well-judged catch. McGrath now became the highest wicket-taker in the premier event. Mohammad Ashraful tried to attack but skied the ball to Ponting. Bangladesh were now 37 for four, and were able to score just 104 for six in the 22-over innings. McGrath’s analysis was three for 16 off 5 overs, good enough for him to secure the man-of-the-match prize.

Up against England he was back at first change. He broke the 140-run third-wicket stand as Ian Bell, who had clattered McGrath for a few boundaries, holed out to Michael Hussey in the covers. Wicketkeeper Paul Nixon lofted him over long-on for a six, and then trying to repeat the shot hit it straight into the hands of Brad Hodge in the same direction. Three deliveries later, last-man James Anderson was completely flummoxed and plumb leg-before-wicket. England were dismissed for 247 and McGrath returned with a bag of three for 62 off 9.5 overs.

No-hopers Ireland found themselves in a pitiable state as McGrath sent down the opening over. Off the last delivery he clipped left-handed opener Jeremy Bray’s off-stump. While speedster Shaun Tait took two wickets in the fourth over, McGrath had Eoin Morgan edging to Matthew Hayden in the slips in the next. Later Andrew White was foxed by a slower one and Brad Hogg took a brilliant catch behind the bowler. Ireland were 32 for five in the 11th over and collapsed to 91 all out in 30 overs. McGrath returned with three for 17 in 7 overs. He was man-of-the-match for the second time in the tournament.

Once again back to first change as they took on Sri Lanka, McGrath struck a mortal blow, trapping Kumar Sangakkara leg-before for a duck. He took a late wicket to finish with two for 48 off 9 overs. New Zealand too found themselves in a hopeless situation. McGrath banged his first delivery short, and Ross Taylor pulled it straight into the hands of Michael Hussey at mid-wicket. Later Scott Styris tried desperate measures, but hit a simple catch to Hayden at short mid-wicket. McGrath’s return was two for 25 off 4 overs.

In the semi-final McGrath again shared the new ball with Bracken. He yorked Kallis early. In his fifth over, he angled one wide of the left-handed Ashwell Prince who chased it only to tickle it to Gilchrist and was gone for a duck. McGrath had now taken the highest number of wickets in a single World Cup, beating Chaminda Vaas’ record of 23 in the previous tournament. Mark Boucher edged the very next delivery to Hayden at first slip to complete the celebrations. The Proteas were now 27 for five in the 10th over, and finally capsized for a mere 149 runs. McGrath not only bagged three for 18 off 8 overs but also his third man-of-the-match award of this event.

As the Sri Lankan challenge petered out in the final, McGrath picked up a wicket. He had not gone wicketless in any of the 11 matches. It was a tremendous tournament for him: 26 wickets at an average of 13.73 and an economy-rate of 4.41. He was steady throughout, taking vital wickets without running through line-ups. There was no need to with the balanced attack at the disposal of the Aussies. Shaun Tait, Brad Hogg and Nathan Bracken were also prolific wicket-takers, with the spoils being shared.

What a colossus Glenn McGrath has been in the World Cup too! He has the best analysis of seven for 15 against Namibia in 2003, the highest wickets with 26 scalps in a single tournament in 2007, and the highest wickets ever, 71 at an average of 18.19 and an economy-rate of 3.96. He has the most appearances of 39 in the World Cup, along with Ponting, and has represented Cup-winning teams a record three times along with Ponting and Gilchrist. With five man-of-the-match awards McGrath is joint second along with four others, behind the inimitable Tendulkar who has eight. It will be hard to emulate McGrath.

Along with Warne, McGrath formed a lethal combination that the opposition found impossible to annihilate. One of the finest pacemen in the world, with accuracy and movement his hallmark, Glenn McGrath posed a constant threat. Lean and lanky, his measured run-up and delivery from right beside the stumps presented a sight quite distinct from other fast bowlers. He was indeed a vital element in the unprecedented success of Australian sides since the mid-1990s. Invariably, when his team needed a special effort, McGrath struck to pave the way for yet more triumphs in that long-running saga.


(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..10. Shane Warne : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh



Shane Warne

Extending the frontiers of leg-spin bowling

Born 13.09.1969

BOWLING (World Cups 1996 & 1999)
Balls.....977      
Maidens.....16     
Runs.....624   
Wickets.....32      
Average.....19.50      
Best.....4/29    
Runs Per Over.....3.83
Catches…..2

One of the most charismatic spinners of all time, the name Shane Warne spells magic. At his best he turned the ball phenomenally, exercised great control - something not usually associated with leg-spinners - and had a flipper that struck like a cobra. Though time and shoulder injuries took their toll, Warne remained an inspirational character who could turn the tide any day.

Having undergone a shoulder operation in 1998, Warne injured it again when he fell heavily in December 2002. It seemed doubtful that he would recuperate in time for the 2003 World Cup. He made a rapid recovery, but there was mayhem on the eve of Australia's opening World Cup tie. It was revealed that Warne had tested positive for the drugs hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride in a test carried out by the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA). He returned home, his dream of another glorious World Cup campaign in ruins. This was yet another twist in Warne's great career. Even so, he returned to the fray after a one-year ban and continued to weave his magic spell. Sadly, he was not destined to play another World Cup.

Warne embodied the revival of spin bowling in the nineties and displayed that spinners - and leg-spinners in particular - could be match-winners even in One-day cricket. Australia were runners-up and then champions in the two World Cups that he has played. He was man-of-the-match in two semi-finals and a final. He was the highest wicket-taker - jointly with Kiwi Geoff Allott - in a single World Cup with 20 wickets in 1999, until Chaminda Vaas, Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath surpassed the mark in 2003. Among spinners he was the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup with 32 wickets at a superlative average of 19.50 and economy rate of 3.83. These are his achievements in pure statistics. In terms of intangibles, the positive impact that he had on Australian and world cricket is awesome.

When he played his first World Cup in 1996, Warne was already hailed as one of the greatest. Though economical in the early matches, he came into his own when he destroyed the Zimbabwean line-up. He beat Andy Flower in the air and had him stumped by Ian Healy.  He then had Craig Evans caught behind just as the dashing batsman was beginning to repair the damage in the company of opener Andrew Waller. Finally, he snapped up the last two wickets, having Stephen Peall caught once again by Healy, and then rattling the timber behind Charlie Lock. Warne finished with four for 34 off 9.3 overs. This brought him his first man-of-the-match award of the World Cup.

Warne took two wickets in the high-scoring quarter-final win over New Zealand. He dismissed centurion Chris Harris, and Adam Parore. Warne also played his part as pinch hitter at no.4, smashing 24 runs off only 14 deliveries with 2 sixes and a four.

It was in the semi-final that Warne struck decisive blows to carry his side to an unlikely victory. He caught opener Courtney Browne off his own bowling with his very first delivery. But the West Indies began cruising at 93 for one, and then 165 for two, needing just 208 to win. Suddenly they went into a slump and Warne was the catalyst. Otis Gibson was foxed by a Warne delivery, edging it to Healy. Warne then got his flipper working to deadly effect. Jimmy Adams and Ian Bishop had no clue, both trapped plumb in front of the stumps. Suddenly, the West Indies were 194 for eight. They capsized soon after. Australia snatched victory by five runs, and Warne took away the man-of-the-match trophy for his four for 36 in 9 overs.

It was a disappointing final for the Australians as the inspired Sri Lankans lifted the Cup.

The opening tie in 1999 hardly posed any problem as the Scots were brushed aside. Not surprisingly, they found Warne too mesmeric and he took three for 39 off his 10 overs. Australia then ran into trouble with two successive defeats, and Warne was unable to lift them. There was respite against Bangladesh who found Warne difficult to score off.

It was vital to defeat the West Indies, and Warne gave splendid support to Glenn McGrath. After the paceman had knocked off the top of the Caribbean line-up on a seaming wicket, Warne turned his attention to the later batsmen. He bowled Shivnaraine Chanderpaul and, as he has done so often courtesy his flipper, trapped Curtly Ambrose and Reon King leg-before. Warne returned with figures of 10-4-11-3 as the West Indies crashed to 110 all out in 46.4 overs.

Australia qualified for the super-six stage, but Warne took a back seat in the first two matches. In the closely fought last game he broke a 95-run second-wicket stand between South Africans Herschelle Gibbs and Daryll Cullinan, knocking off the bails of the latter. Immediately after, he dismissed captain Hansie Cronje leg-before in trademark fashion, repelling the Proteas charge. Warne continued to be thrifty in his 10-over stint of two for 33.

This was just the warm-up. Shane Warne, the champion leg-spinner, came alive as the tournament built up to a climax. He showed what it actually means to rise to the occasion, and what really separates the greats from the also-rans. He provided a splendid study on how to will oneself on to lofty peaks and to motivate one’s team to exhilarating heights. "Warne is a fast bowler in a spinner’s body", Michael Slater once remarked.

The South African openers made a nonchalant beginning, chasing Australia’s 213 in the semi-final. At 48, Warne deceived Gibbs in the air and clean bowled him. Visibly pumped up now, he soon bowled the left-handed Gary Kirsten behind his legs. Two balls later, Warne had Cronje caught by Mark Waugh at slip, though television replays suggested that the ball had gone off the unfortunate batsman’s boot. Cullinan was run out. Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes set about repairing the damage. After Rhodes fell, Kallis carried on in the company of Shaun Pollock.

Warne had figures of 9-4-14-3 when he came on for his last over. Kallis was dropped at long-off, and Warne was hit for 15 runs off the first five balls. But off the last delivery he had Kallis caught in the covers by skipper Steve Waugh. It was now 175 for six. Warne finished with four for 29. The drama continued to unfold, leading to the heart-stopping tie in the 50th over. Australia advanced to the final. Warne was man-of-the-match, having inspired his side to edge out an accomplished and resolute adversary in a match that was balanced on a razor’s edge till the last moment. Ian Chappell wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “Not since the days of Dennis Lillee have I seen an Australian bowler inspire his team from a seemingly hopeless situation.”

The Pakistan innings never took off in the final, and Warne scythed through the middle. He bowled Ijaz Ahmed through the gate, and had Moin Khan caught behind playing a lazy stroke for once. The feisty Shahid Afridi was plumb leg-before, while skipper Wasim Akram holed out to his opposite number Steve Waugh. Warne had figures of four for 33 off 9 overs as Pakistan tumbled to 132 all out in 39 overs. After the Australian batsmen cantered to the meagre target, a jubilant Warne stepped forward on the Lord’s balcony to accept yet another man-of-the-match award.

This was one of the high watermarks of his illustrious career. Warne has been the pin-up boy of Australian cricket for several years, an honour usually reserved for fast bowlers and dashing batsmen. He has given a new lease of life to the art of leg-spin bowling, in the process becoming the first bowler to capture a mind-boggling 700 wickets in Test cricket. Often in the news for the wrong reasons, there can be no denying the matchless skills that he is bestowed with nor the fighting qualities that he has cultivated. Oozing with talent and inspirational beyond compare, Shane Warne was forever re-inventing himself. Just when he was written off, the podgy trickster reappeared in a new incarnation. There was a lot of guile left beneath that naughty face.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.


Friday, November 7, 2014

The Cricket World Cup - Dream Team…..9. Wasim Akram : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh


Wasim Akram



Arguably the greatest left-arm paceman in history



Born 03.06.1966



BATTING (World Cups 1987-2003)

Matches.....38      

Innings.....30     

Not Out.....8   

Highest Score.....43      

Runs.....426     

Average.....19.36      

Strike-rate.....100.70    

Catches.....8



BOWLING (World Cups 1987-2003)

Balls.....1947      

Maidens.....17     

Runs.....1311   

Wickets.....55      

Average.....23.83      

Best.....5/28    

Runs Per Over.....4.04





Many saw Wasim Akram as a left-handed version of Imran Khan. The problem with drawing such parallels is that one is expected to be virtually a clone of the other. Certainly both have been great cricketers in their own right, one more of an allrounder than the other, but as different to each other as any two human beings can be. The most striking thing about Akram was that he has been as brilliant a fast bowler in One-day Internationals as in Test matches. Even more commendable, he was an attacking bowler in One-day cricket as well. Therein lies Wasim Akram’s true greatness, and it is hardly surprising that he became the first bowler to capture 400 wickets at the highest level in both versions of the game.


Has anyone seen Akram bowl defensively? How could he when he was doing so many different things – slanting the ball away and then bringing it in, bowling fast, short deliveries and slower ones, bouncing them one minute and pushing through yorkers the next, and well directed most of the time. Without doubt, he was one of the most exciting bowlers to watch. There was action all the way since the time this big man started on his short, straight run-up, and then delivered with his quick arm action, sending the ball on its unpredictable course. In Akram’s bowling there was energy and vitality, an electricity that was almost visible to the discerning eye.



By 1987 Akram was beginning to vie with the ageing Imran as the no.1 bowler, though the charismatic Khan was still something special and Wasim a young colt on the learning curve. Imran was nearly 35, and Akram just 21. They had similar figures in the opening match against Sri Lanka at the Niaz Stadium, Hyderabad (Sind). Imran took two for 42 off 10 overs, while Akram bagged two for 41 in 9.2 overs. Thereafter the seasoned pro stole a march over the rising star. Akram’s day would come, surely.



He took two for 45 off 10 overs in the thrilling win over the West Indies. Though wicketless in the next two matches, he swung his bat merrily at the Sri Lankan bowling, having been given the opportunity to bat at no.5. He slammed 39 off 40 balls with 2 sixes and 2 fours, and figured in a whirlwind partnership of 60 for the fourth wicket with Salim Malik.



Akram bowled splendidly in the last league encounter even though the West Indies handed Pakistan their first defeat in the competition. He went through the defence of Phil Simmons early in the innings, and also knocked back the stumps of the great Vivian Richards in his last innings in the World Cup. Richards (67) had put on 137 for the third wicket with Richie Richardson. Akram also castled Roger Harper to finish with three for 45 off his 10 overs.



Contrary to expectations, the semi-final against Australia at Lahore was not a happy one for Pakistan, nor for Akram. He ended up without a wicket and it was apparent that he had still some way to go before he matured into a top-class bowler, particularly on lifeless wickets. Sent in at no.6 to perk up the scoring-rate, he smashed 2 sixes in his hurricane 20 off 13 balls, but that was not enough.



In 1992 Wasim Akram was close to his peak, and the wickets too were more suitable. Imran returned for one last crack at the title but now, a few months short of 40, he was more of a batsman, and Akram the leading bowler. Pakistan, though, did not get off to a good start in this tournament, going down to the West Indies by 10 wickets. The next match against Zimbabwe posed fewer problems with Imran returning after injury. Akram was in irresistible form dismissing the two Andys, Flower and Pycroft, to send the Zimbabweans reeling at 14 for two. He came back later to remove the third Andy, Waller, and snuff out the last vestiges of resistance. Akram finished with three for 21, in the process completing 150 wickets in One-day Internationals, only the second Pakistani to achieve the feat after the peerless Imran.



In the abandoned match against England at Adelaide, Akram had time only to have Graham Gooch caught behind before the rain came down. Next was a humiliating defeat in Sydney at the hands of India, with Akram off-colour. The South Africans also beat Pakistan but Akram picked up two wickets for 42 in his 10 overs.



The Pakistani recovery began in Perth with a fine win over hosts Australia. Akram bagged two for 28 off 7.2 overs to seal the victory. Sri Lanka were duly brushed aside with Akram picking up the wicket of opener Roshan Mahanama.



Pakistan’s final league match in Christchurch against the unconquered New Zealanders was crucial if they were to make it to the semi-finals. They rose to the occasion and Akram, the champion bowler, was devastating. He trapped Andrew Jones leg-before, and then struck a deathblow, having skipper Martin Crowe caught by Aamir Sohail. New Zealand slumped to 96 for seven, and then 106 for eight. They recovered somewhat to reach 150 but Akram, in a final burst, consumed the last two wickets to leave his side a modest 167 for a win. Akram’s final figures were four for 32 off 9.2 overs. Pakistan achieved the target easily to set up a semi-final clash again with New Zealand at Auckland.



The penultimate round saw a closely contested match in which Pakistan pipped the Kiwis. Akram took two for 40 in 10 overs as his side entered the final for the first time.



Came the big test, the first final under lights, at the imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground. The old war-horses Imran Khan and Javed Miandad steadied Pakistan after early reverses. Akram was sent in at no.6 to boost the run-rate. And how well he carried out his brief! He belted 33 off just 19 deliveries with four boundaries, adding 52 in a flash with Inzaman-ul-Haq and helping Pakistan reach 249.



Akram had not finished yet. With the big prize now in sight, he was like a man possessed. He quickly rocked the English boat by having Ian Botham caught behind for a duck. Later, the fifth-wicket pair of Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb dug in with a stand of 72 to carry England to 141 for four. The game was still in the balance. It was then that Imran brought Akram back into the attack. He struck a stunning blow by clean bowling Lamb. Then off the very next ball he shattered Chris Lewis’ stumps to create a sensation around the stadium. Akram had suddenly turned the match decisively in Pakistan’s favour. After that the chase was never really on. Akram finished with three for 49. Pakistan lifted the Cup and their real hero was Wasim Akram. His allround histrionics had won them the biggest prize in One-day cricket. Without a shadow of doubt the man-of-the-match was Akram. Pakistan cricket’s proudest hour was one of Akram’s finest.



There is some kind of a hoodoo about the hosts never winning the World Cup. In 1996 it was Pakistan’s turn to stage the final and they were keen to break the jinx, with Akram now at the helm. They brushed aside the United Arab Republic, winners of the ICC Trophy for the associate members. Akram took two for 25 in 7 overs, though opener Saleem Raza took some runs off him including a big six over square-leg. Their second match was also against a lightweight outfit, Holland, and Pakistan won in a canter.



Pakistan stumbled at the first hurdle as South Africa trounced them. Akram showed flashes of his brilliance as a batsman with some big hitting. He scored a rapid-fire unbeaten 32 off just 25 balls with three fours. But he fared poorly with the ball. The South Africans cruised to a comfortable win.



Akram’s side put its act together to decimate England. There was another comfortable win over New Zealand in the last group match, and Akram gave one more rare glimpse of his prowess with the willow. He joined Salim Malik at 200 for five with less than 10 overs left. They launched a tremendous assault, belting 80 runs before the close of the innings. Akram hit 28 not out off 26 deliveries, but while making one of his big hits he strained his side and was unable to bowl.



The injury prevented Akram from playing in the high-voltage quarter-final against India. All hell broke loose when Pakistan lost. All kinds of allegations were made, including insinuations that Akram had faked his injury in order to avoid playing this match. Akram and his team mates had to keep a low profile till public fury abated. It was a sad way for the defending champions to exit from the tournament.



Not surprisingly for Pakistan cricket, Akram was captain again in 1999. The side was in strife at a dismal 135 for six as it took on the West Indies. Akram hit a whirlwind 43 off just 29 balls with 2 sixes and 4 fours to bail out the team. It was the top score of the innings. His 74-run seventh-wicket partnership with Azhar Mahmood swung the match Pakistan’s way.



The next sojourn against rookies Scotland should have been comfortable but Pakistan slumped to 92 for five before Yousuf Youhana and Moin Khan staged a recovery. Akram walked in at 195 for six and was in his elements again, smashing an unbeaten 37 off 19 deliveries with 2 sixes and 2 fours. He allied with young Youhana as they blazed away in an unbroken partnership of 66. Akram then rattled the Scottish batsmen in tandem with Shoaib Akhtar, reducing them to 19 for five. He finally finished with three for 23 off 7.5 overs as Pakistan wrapped up their second victory.



The first big test came against Australia. Akram helped boost his side’s total to 275 with a quickfire 13 off 12 balls. He was then devastating with the ball. He scattered Adam Gilchrist’s stumps for a duck in the first over. He returned later to make a huge breakthrough, having Michael Bevan caught by Ijaz Ahmed. ‘Terminator’ Bevan, who scored 61, was taking the game away from Pakistan, having put on 113 for the fifth wicket with skipper Steve Waugh. In the tense last over, with Australia requiring 11 runs off 4 deliveries, Akram smashed through Damien Martyn’s defence, and repeated the dose two balls later on last man Glenn McGrath. Pakistan scraped through by 10 runs in a high-scoring match, and Akram finished with four for 40 in 9.5 overs.



With his team riding a crest, Akram had a quiet time in an easy win over New Zealand. But if Pakistan felt they were in the comfort zone, they were in for a rude shock. The gritty Bangladeshis, playing their first World Cup, scored a respectable 223 for nine. Pakistan ran into trouble straightaway, literally, with their poor running between wickets. Medium-pacer Khaled Mahmud did just as much damage. In between, Akram tried to shore up the innings with a 55-run sixth-wicket stand with Azhar Mahmood.  But his side collapsed for 161 in one of the most stunning upsets in World Cup history. Some months later, when the match-fixing scandal broke out, this game was one of those cited as being tanked by Pakistan. Whatever the truth, suddenly alarm bells began to ring for Akram.



He hardly made his presence felt as his team went down to South Africa in their first super-six match. He then committed a gaffe by terming the upcoming encounter against India as a ‘practice match’, prompting television commentator Geoffrey Boycott to exclaim in his inimitable style: “Practice match! But they haven’t reached the semi-final yet”. Some practice match it was, for Pakistan slumped to a 47-run defeat, extending the dubious distinction of not ever having been able to beat India in the World Cup. Akram bowled tidily to pick up the wickets of Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin. He finished with two for 27 off his 10 overs but his batsmen faltered. This match too was to be labelled as fixed.



By now Pakistan, one of the favourites, who had won their first four matches on the trot, were facing the prospect of being eliminated from the tournament. They, however, rose to the occasion and annihilated surprise-qualifiers Zimbabwe, even as Akram played a peripheral role.



Pakistan had an easy ride in the semi-final against New Zealand with Akram picking up two for 45. But on the day of reckoning at Lord’s, Pakistan choked. Akram had to rest content with the runners-up prize as Australia ran away easy victors. There was to be no repeat for Akram of that glorious triumph of 1992.



The 2003 World Cup was his swansong. He shook up the invincible Aussies. Revelling in cloudy weather, and a still-moist wicket, he had Adam Gilchrist snapped up by skipper Waqar Younis for 1. Matthew Hayden tried to attack but edged one on to the stumps. The next ball came in sharply to the right-handed Damien Martyn who barely managed a nick before it castled him. The reigning champions were reeling at 52 for three. A stupendous knock by Andrew Symonds bailed them out. Akram finished with three for 64. The Pakistani batsmen never measured up to the task of chasing a 300-plus score. Joining Rashid Latif at 147 for seven, Akram played a typically belligerent knock. He swung his bat around for 33 off 31 balls, slamming 4 fours and a six. The pair added 54 runs before the inevitable.



This was really the final flicker, for henceforth Akram shone only against the minnows. The greenhorns from Namibia were mesmerised by his brilliance. Enjoying himself briefly once again with the willow, he smashed an unbeaten 20 off 14 deliveries with 3 boundaries. Then in tandem with Shoaib Akhtar he reduced the new entrants from Africa to 42 for nine, before the last pair doubled the score. Akram grabbed five for 28 off 9 overs, becoming the first bowler to capture 50 wickets in the World Cup. He also took away his second man-of-the-match award of the showpiece event.



Between two demoralising defeats at the hands of England and India, in which Akram was below par, Pakistan trounced Holland. The great left-armer created history by taking his 500th wicket in One-day Internationals, setting up a new benchmark for others to emulate. He dismissed three Dutch batsmen for 24 in one final display of incisiveness. Rain curtailed the last fixture with Zimbabwe. Pakistan were not destined to go beyond the first round this time.



Even so, Wasim Akram, the top wicket-taker in the World Cup, has carved out a niche for himself. Controversy has needlessly marred his career, but each time he came back firing on all cylinders. Maybe if such unpleasant and frequent diversions did not hamper his path, forcing him to remind his detractors time and again of the matchless skills at his command, Akram would have been an even more astounding cricketer. What makes his achievements even more remarkable is that he has been dogged by diabetes over the last few years.



There are also those who say that he did not realise his full batting potential. They are perhaps right, for his failure to score even a single half-century in five World Cups, during which he played 30 innings, does not do justice to his reputation as an exciting allrounder. But it is not easy to come up with big scores for one who batted at no.6 and 7 in One-day games. At the same time it has to be said that Akram did not cash in on the opportunities that came his way. His strike-rate of 100.70 runs per 100 balls makes him one in just five in the World Cup who have scored at a run-a-ball among batsmen who have faced at least 250 balls. Some players are referred to as batsmen who bowl occasionally. Akram was a great bowler who batted in a sensational manner occasionally.



(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com).



The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011



ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3



Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.



Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.