It’s a common belief that victory brings fame and riches. People would argue that history only reserves space for performances that fetch laurels, and rightly so. Putting his weight behind this thought, the great American football coach Vince Lombardi had famously said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”, thus setting an unshakable standard for generations to come.
The greats of international cricket would interpret his word no differently and stretch every muscle to put their names on the winners list.
World Cup, the greatest showpiece in world cricket has been witness to some of the most memorable acts the game had to offer. The majestic performances of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Kapil Dev, Inzamam, De Silva, Ponting, Yuvraj etc helped their teams not only put both hands on the trophy, but also add shine to it.
But then there are the few who worked their hearts out, but somehow success and luck refused to favour them. Here is a look at World Cups 5 captivating individual performances that failed to win games.
1-Martin Crowe, New Zealand 1992
Semi-Final against Pakistan, 83 ball 91 runs.
The 1992 Cup was a time to restructure the game. Cricket was coming to innovative Australasia and the Kerry Packer touch was impacting to revolutionize the game on big stage. The traditional red ball and white screens were replaced with white and black respectively. Multicolored kits and games under flood lights gave cricket and viewers a fresh experience.
Led by the maverick Martin Crowe, NZ were the team to beat in 92. Crowe was enjoying the form of his life leading his team to the semis with 7 straight wins against one defeat. With all his weapons and tactics syncing together, Crowe was eyeing to be part of Kiwi folklore.
Coming in to bat at 39/2, Crowe dominated the spirited Pakistani attack and with 7 fours and 3 sixes set EdenPark on fire. Lifting the total to a nerve soothing 262, Martin had changed into shorts and was already planning strategies for the final.
But sadly, few things didn’t go his way, the weather report that had forecasted huge downpour resisted till the last ball, while batting he pulled a hamstring, his decision not to take the field and letting his deputy John Wright take charge and finally little known BIG-INZI hitting a match winning 37 ball 60. His was the World Cup’s sparkling performance that fell to some ill-planning, thus ending in a national heartbreak.
2- Javagal Srinath, India 1996
Semi-Final against Sri Lanka, 3 for 34.
Don’t be puzzled by Jaggu Dadas figures, for those who knew the mindset and lethality of the Sri Lankan batting line of those days, it was equivalent of walking barefooted on burning charcoals. Under Dav Whatmore, the Lankans had set a new meaning for early over slogs. Where 60 in first 15 were considered a healthy score, Little Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya made a mockery of bowling lines by smashing 100’s off 10’s.
With this slaughtering attitude, Sri Lankans came to face India at EdenGarden, the cricketing Heart of the nation. To win their nations heart, Azharuddin’s men had to put a courageous display. The Mysore Express did exactly that when he penned the unthinkable script, removing both openers in the first over with just ONE run on the board. For the 90 thousand plus fanatic Indian fans, it was enough to lay their hearts on Srinaths feet.
The Mysore Express then puffed more steam to remove Asanka Gurusinha, Sri Lanka were bleeding 3 for 35. The dream of a billion was about to see light but Aravinda De Silvas fighting fifty and a dramatic Indian batting collapse shattered that dream. The riots that followed would be remembered as the most humiliating day in Indian Cricket.
3- Lance Klusener – The Choke of the Century.
1999 Semi-final against Australia, 16 ball 31 runs
By 1999 the Proteas were the leading force in World cricket and arguably the most lethal unit in the Cup. They were creating havocs in opponent ranks thanks to one of the most swashbuckling hitters of all time. Lance Klusener had the natural ability to tear apart even the most balanced and orchestrated bowling attack.
The man they call Zulu was in magical form, scoring 250 in 8 innings and also pocketing 17 important wickets. But his fairytale run had to come to a sorry end, in the most dramatic fashion, against the most worthy opponents, in one of the most thrilling matches ever contested.
In a fluctuating match that never seemed to have a clear winner, Klusener walked in with South Africa needing 39 runs in 5 over’s, Steve Waugh’s men were smelling victory, but to tease their nostrils Zulu was the last man standing.
What seemed like a daunting task, Klusener make it look like a walk in the park. With 9 required from the last over, the hero of 96 semis Damien Fleming was trusted to deliver once again. Klusener on the other hand showed no respect and hammered the first 2 balls for consecutive boundaries. With the scores level only one was required off 4 balls. That’s where the panic happened and the term “Chokers” gained substance. Klusener pushed the ball to mid-off for the winning run, but he and his partner Allan Donald blundered with the basic principle of running between the wickets. Australia moved to the finals while Klusener would be remembered for this infamous comic, tragic and chock run out.
4- Wahab Riaz – Viki’s biggest yet saddest day
2011 Semi-final against India, 5 for 46
30th March was a big day for 2011 World Cup, yet it turned out to be a day Wahab Riaz would remember for his topsy turvy fortunes. Called in to replace knee nursing Shoaib Akhtar, the lively Mohali pitch was ready for Wahab to bang in hard. Having spent three sleepless nights cooking his strategy against Dhoni’s men, both Wahab and his luck were itching to shine.
While the more experienced Umar Gul received hammering, Wahab dried runs and kept picking big names. The highlight was dismissing India’s darling Yuvi on the first ball full toss, a ball enough to make Shoaib himself jump in the dressing room. Wahab would then ignition the airplane celebration, a trade mark registered by Shoaib himself. Wahab’s first 5 wicket haul would restrict India to a challenging 260 to defend, a job only to be made easy by yet another Pakistani batting collapse.
5- Mahela Jayawardene – The Big Match Performer
2011 World Cup final against India, 88 ball 103
Mahela Jayawardene’s high-classic 100 at Wankhede did not deserve to be the only one of six in World Cup finals to not have been good enough to earn the maker’s side the trophy. Majestic Mahela had played the 2007 final as a captain and this time he was Sangakkara’s main hope.
Coming in at 2 for 60, The Islanders needed a partnership going to get the cup. It was time for Mahela to bring out his years of experience and construct an empire brick by brick. In-font of an incredibly hostile Mumbaians, his signature strokes not only imposed a graveyard silence but reverted the pressure right back on the Indian bowlers.
Like a true spirited fighter, he helped build up a healthy 62 runs partnership with Sanga and made sure he survived the full 50 over’s to see his team to a commanding 274. But the prayers of a billion crept in and Dhoni played the innings of his life to deprive Mahela of cricketing immortality.