The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 in India is just a few days away and so are some of the best cricketing performances ever seen. Come the World Cup, every team and player brings his/her A-game with hopes of capturing the gold. Some of cricket’s most impactful, game-changing performances have been witnessed at a World Cup event, highlighting the hunger and preparation of teams and players for the tournament and what a simple golden trophy means to them. A lot of players have immortalised themselves in the history books since the inception of cricket’s marquee event.
There have been just a dozen performances that have stood out among thousands because of their impact and value to the team. They are subject to many debates, YouTube videos, memes and serious cricketing conversations worldwide. Here are some of such individual World Cup performances in tournament history that stand out the most:
Gautam Gambhir (97) and MS Dhoni (91) against Sri Lanka (ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 final)
These two are the knocks that brought the World Cup glory back to India after 28 years. India was down at 31/2 against Sri Lanka. But then, Gautam unleashed a calculated counterattack, scoring 97 in 122 balls with nine fours. After Virat Kohli’s dismissal for 35, skipper Dhoni walked down the ground and had a match-winning 109-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Gautam. Dhoni ended with 91* in 79 balls with eight fours and two sixes. The heartbreak and sorrow associated with the crushing loss to Australia in the 2003 WC final was washed away with the winning six, finishing off things in style, the Mahi way.
Ricky Ponting (140) against India (ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 final)
Indian viewers worldwide had a sigh of relief when the opening century stand between Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden was done away with, reducing Aussies to 125/2. But no one had the idea of the mayhem that was to follow. ‘Punter’ walked down the pavillion and unleashed a heavyweight assault on Indian bowlers, forming a partnership with Damien Martyn (88*). Indian team could take no wickets further, with Ponting walking back at 140* in 121 balls with four boundaries and eight towering sixes. Australia reached 359/2, a total which they defended easily and gave India one of its toughest, hard-to-forget losses in sports’ history. So close, but yet so far and the cause was Ponting’s willow.
Kapil Dev (175*) against Zimbabwe (1983 Cricket World Cup)
The match against Zimbabwe was a must-win for India to keep its semifinal hopes alive, but Peter Rawson and Kevin Curran poured fire over India’s ambitions with some deadly pace bowling, sinking India to 17/5. India starred at an imminent crushing loss, but Kapil was the last hope. The all-rounder proved to be the ultimate crisis man for India, scoring 175* in 138 balls with 16 fours and six sixes, forming partnerships with Roger Binny, Madan Lal and Syed Kirmani to guide India to a remarkable 266/8, a match-winning total. India pulled off one of the sport’s best recoveries and ‘Haryana Hurricane’ single-handedly drove that effort.
Martin Guptill (237) against West Indies (ICC Cricket World Cup 2015)
When Chris Gayle smashed 219 against Zimbabwe in the 2015 WC and became the first non-Indian player to do so, it seemed that Gayle’s knock would not be challenged for years. Just days later, Kiwi opener Martin Guptill produced another masterclass against Gayle’s own team. Guptill smacked every WI bowler mercilessly, scoring 237 in 163 balls with 24 fours and 11 sixes, to this day the highest score in WC history and second-highest score in ODI cricket. NZ reached a match-winning total of 393/6, bundling out Windies for 250.
Yuvraj Singh (113 and 2/18) against West Indies (ICC Cricket World Cup 2011)
The group stage match between India and West Indies was like just another match untill Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh cough up blood on pitch and throw up in the dressing room. Yuvraj was unknowingly fighting the biggest battle of life, against cancer, besides the conditions and equations that a cricket match throws on players. But despite that Yuvraj did not give up, scoring 113 and taking 2/18 to help India win a must-win encounter. This match and performance defined Yuvraj’s 2011 WC campaign, a superhuman effort that saw him fight a life-threatening disease to help India win the WC after 28 years, scoring 362 runs and taking 15 wickets as his contribution.
Lasith Malinga (4/54) against South Africa (ICC Cricket World Cup 2007)
On the surface, Malinga’s spell looks like just another four-wicket haul. But with this, Malinga became the first-ever bowler to take four wickets in four successive balls in international cricket. He caused Proteas to almost justify their “chokers” tag by getting them nine wickets down for 207 in a run-chase of 210 runs untill Robin Peterson hit the winning runs. SA took a non-consequential Super Eight match, but Malinga made history.
Sourav Ganguly (183) against Sri Lanka (ICC Cricket World Cup 1999)
In India’s group stage against Sri Lanka, Ganguly played one of the best knocks played by an Indian in World Cup history. His knock of 183 in 158 balls with 17 fours and seven sixes and a partnership with Rahul Dravid (145) of 318 runs powered India to a match-winning total of 373/6. This knock led to an attacking approach slowly seeping into entire Indian batting, which was visible from subsequent World Cups.
Gary Gilmour (28* and 6/14) against England (Cricket World Cup 1975 semifinal)
Playing at home, England was overwhelmingly favourites against Australia in the semis of the 1975 WC. But pacer Gary Gilmour unleashed a carnage that reduced England to 37/7 at one point and bundled it out for 93. Later in the chase of 94, Gilmour hit a patient 28* with five fours after Australia had sunk to 39/6 to drive them to the final.
Chaminda Vaas (6/25) against Bangladesh (ICC Cricket World Cup 2003)
This group stage match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka saw pacer Vaas reduce his opponents to 0/3 after the first three balls of the innings, completing one of the most devastating hat-tricks in cricket’s history. He ended with 6/25 in 9.1 overs, which helped bundle out Bangladesh for 124 runs, which SL chased down with 10 wickets in hand.
Eoin Morgan (148) against Afghanistan (ICC Cricket World Cup 2019)
During a group stage match between England and Afghans, skipper Eoin Morgan unleashed a brutal assault on Afghanistan bowlers, particularly spinner Rashid Khan. No one was spared as Morgan left no corner of the ground untouched, smashing 148* in 71 balls with four boundaries and 17 sixes, the highest-ever in an ODI innings. England reached a match-winning total of 397 and T20 sensation Rashid was reduced to a mere club bowler, conceding a massive 110 runs in nine overs.
Honourable mention: AB de Villiers (162*) against West Indies (ICC Cricket World Cup 2015)
In this match against West Indies in the group stage, West Indies bowlers were reduced to mere spectators of AB’s superhuman shot-making abilities and 360-degree strokes. He smashed 162* in just 66 balls, with 17 fours and eight sixes. He reached his century in just 52 balls and made the rest of 66 runs in the next 14 balls. SA made a match-winning total of 408, bundling out WI for 151.
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