Ignoring for a moment the controversy about the ICC's quite outrageous decision to exclude the minnows from the 2015 World Cup, here is a team of the tournament.
An inevitable pick. Tendulkar batted as well as he did in the 1996 World Cup, when he was top scorer. He was 18 runs off being so in 2011, and his centuries against England and South Africa were both magisterial, showing how devastating orthodox batting can still be in ODIs. It’s unlikely he will play in 2015 – but not completely preposterous either.
Though there was barely a Dilscoop in sight, Dilshan consistently got Sri Lanka off to brilliant starts, scoring two centuries and a disciplined 73 in the semi-final. No one scored more runs than his 500, and there were also eight wickets with his canny offspin, including a spectacular caught-and-bowled in the final.
Certainly not a fashionable selection, but Trott was simply the most consistent batsman in the tournament. In six of his seven innings he managed at least 47, unobtrusively accumulating at the formidable average of 60. To those who deride him for being too slow, it’s worth pointing out that Trott’s strike rate was 80, eight more than those of Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis.
Sangakkara averaged 93 with the bat; always a model of calm at the crease, his off-drive is one of the finest sights in cricket today. He also kept well and captained intelligently, utilising his spinners to suffocate England and New Zealand in the quarter and semi-finals, and would have hugely deserved to be a World Cup winner.
AB de Villiers
It was de Villiers’ run out in the quarter-final that had everyone mentioning South Africa’s history of chokes. He batted so serenely all tournament, able to change tempo at will, that all looked well with him at the crease. De Villiers hit two centuries and a 39-ball 52 in the win against India, combining finesse with six-hitting ability, as well as fielding with his trademark vivacity and athleticism.
It’s remarkable to think he was dropped less than a year ago, seen as unfit and unfocused. Yuvraj was deservedly named man of the tournament. With the bat, he was explosive yet possessed a calm it has often lacked, as a tournament average of 90 proved. As India’s fifth bowler, he was terrific, bowling his left-arm spin with control to claim 15 wickets.
MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper, captain)
Dhoni’s nerveless 91* was one of the greatest innings ever seen in a World Cup final. While he played big shots, these were done with selectivity and an absence of risk. Winning the man of the match award in the final was reward for leading India superbly throughout, shuffling his bowling intelligently and being more willing than most skippers to keep slips in during the middle overs.s
No one knows quite was happened to the batting but as a pure spin-bowler Afridi was the tournament’s best. His top spinners were consistently hard to dominate, while he surprised batsman with quicker balls and occasional googlies. In total he claimed 21 wickets at fewer than 13 apiece. He also proved a good leader of Pakistan, with players seeming to genuinely enjoy playing under him.
Few expected New Zealand to make the semi-finals; that they did was in large part down to Southee, who provided the wicket-taking threat his side have lacked since Shane Bond’s retirement. With good pace, late swing and a useful bouncer, Southee claimed 18 wickets. The 2015 tournament will be in New Zealand; Southee will be 26 then and should cause great damage.
India were nothing like as formidable with the ball as with the bat, making Zaheer’s performance critical. He rose to the challenge magnificently, bowling with subtle variations – including a bare-knuckle slower ball that dismissed Mike Hussey – and great skill from both over and round the wicket. Zaheer relished bowling during powerplays, and his match-turning yorker to Andrew Strauss was a contender for ball of the tournament.
Steyn’s spell to transform the game against India – five wickets for four runs in 2.4 overs – was the product of one of the game’s most lethal Yorkers, which were lethal throughout the tournament. He is also a thinking bowler – more so than he sometimes gets credit for – and used slower balls and bouncers with selectivity to thrive on the subcontinental tracks. Steyn’s twelve wickets cost just 16 apiece, with a parsimonious economy rate (4.15) too.
Twelfth man: Ray Price
A surprising pick, but Price was outstanding for Zimbabwe, going for just 3.44 runs an over during the six games, as well as claiming nine wickets. His guile means he is well-suited to bowling his left-arm spin during the powerplays, as was illustrated with 2/21 against Pakistan. Price’s facial expressions after deliveries also never failed to provide humour.
See how it compares with our XI of the last World Cup.