It’s noted that whenever any team wins a World Cup title, its captain receives a lot of praise for his leadership skills. In 2011, when India won its second One-Day International World Cup title, MS Dhoni was commended for his incredible captaincy and match-winning knock of 91 against Sri Lanka in the final at the Wankheded Stadium.
Along with Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar were also lauded for their stunning all-round and batting shows respectively. Gautam Gambhir, who scored 97 in the final, was considered an unsung hero of India’s scintillating triumph as his innings got overshadowed by Dhoni’s spunky knock.
However, this isn’t just one case where some player guided his team to a trophy win but didn’t get enough credit for his contribution. There are several instances to recount from the past when players didn’t get sufficient recognition for their humongous efforts in their team’s World Cup triumphs.
Discussing more, here are the five unsung heroes of ODI World Cup victories
5. Yashpal Sharma – India, 1983
Yashpal Sharma in 1983. (Photo Source: X(Twitter)
Yashpal Sharma was a crucial batter in India’s middle order from 1978 to 1985. In India’s maiden title victory in 1983, the right-handed batter made a vital contribution from his bat. Scoring 240 runs in eight matches at a strike rate of 64.00, he ended up as the second-leading run-getter for the team in the competition.
In India’s 34-run win against the defending champions West Indies in the maiden game, Yashpal became the Player of the Match, for his 89-run knock. He also contributed 40 runs to the team against Australia in Chelmsford and became the highest run-scorer in the match. India won the crucial contest by 118 runs and qualified for the knockouts after this victory.
In the semi-final against England, Yashpal again stepped up and scored a half-century to help India chase down 214. Riding on his 61-run knock off 115 deliveries, India achieved the target in 54.4 overs, with six wickets in hand.
4. Mushtaq Ahmed – Pakistan, 1992
Mushtaq Ahmed. (Photo Source: X(Twitter)
In 1992, Pakistan won their maiden and only ODI World Cup trophy under the leadership of Imran Khan. Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram did their job efficiently and became the heroes of the sensational title victory. Along with Akram, Mushtaq Ahmed also reinforced Pakistan’s bowling unit with his leg-break bowling.
Mushtaq scalped 16 wickets in eight innings of nine matches and ended up as the third-leading wicket-taker in the tournament. His best performance came against Australia in Perth, where he grabbed 3/41 figures and helped the Men in Green hammer the hosts comfortably by 48 runs.
Playing the final game against England at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), he assisted Akram and took 3/41 figures in his 10-over spell. Riding on the leggie’s bowling efforts along with that of Akram, Pakistan contained England on 227 and emerged victorious in the match to lift the trophy.
3. Asanka Gurusinha – Sri Lanka, 1996
Asanka Gurusinha in 1996. (Photo Source: Getty Image)
Sri Lanka ended their World Cup trophy drought in 1996, under Arjuna Rantunga’s captaincy. Arvinda de Silva is considered the hero of this stunning trophy triumph as he batted fiercely in the competition and concluded his journey as the third-leading run-getter, with 448 runs in six games at a strike rate of 107.69.
Following de Silva, Asanka Gurusinha ended up as the second-leading run-getter in the team. Batting at the top order, the wicketkeeper batter hit 307 runs with three fifties in six matches. In knockout matches, Gurusinha put up fine shows from his bat. Against England in the quarter-final in Faislabad, it was Gurusinha who stood at the crease and played an impactful 45-run knock to support the Player of the Match Sanath Jayasuriya, after the early fall of Romesh Kaluwitharana while pursuing 236 runs.
Gurusinha again showcased his mettle against Australia in the final at the Gaddafi Stadium. In the high-octane clash, Australia tasked Sri Lanka to chase 242. Sri Lanka lost their openers Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana early and found themselves in trouble. Taking matters into his own hands, Gurusinha stitched a 125-run partnership with Aravinda de Silva and brought Sri Lanka back into the game. The left-handed batter lost his wicket to the pacer Paul Reiffel on 65 and became a silent contributor to his team’s massive achievement.
2. Munaf Patel – India, 2011
Munaf Patel. (Photo Source: AFP)
As discussed earlier, India won their second World Cup title in 2011, and players such as captain MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, and Sachin Tendulkar are recalled for their impressive performances but Gambhir emerged as an unsung hero. However, it isn’t just Gambhir whose contribution isn’t discussed the way it should be.
Munaf Patel, whose responsibility was to bolster India’s pace attack along with Zaheer Khan, was also one of the players who made a crucial contribution to India’s second title win. The speedster bagged 11 wickets in eight games at an economy of 5.36 and became an important hero of India’s enormous success.
Against Bangladesh in Mirpur, Munaf picked up a four-wicket haul and became the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural match. Playing the high-voltage contest against Pakistan in Mohali, he dismissed Mohammad Hafeez and Abdul Razzaq to help India pocket the game by 29 runs and reach the final.
1. Damien Martyn
Damien Martyn World Cup. (Photo Source: X(Twitter)
Australia were a formidable force in the 2003 World Cup under Ricky Ponting. They won all 11 games in the competition and became the second team after the West Indies to defend the World Cup title successfully. Ponting led the team from the front as he notched up 415 runs with two tons and concluded the series as the highest run-scorer for his side in the marquee event.
Ponting got the support of Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Andrew Symonds, and Damien Martyn to reinforce Australia’s batting unit. Martyn, who used to bat at number four, supported Ponting in important games in the tournament. In Australia’s one-sided 96-run win against Sri Lanka in Super Six, Martyn notched up a half-century and supported his captain Ponting, who continued his attack on the opponents and notched up a magnificent ton.
In the final against India, Martyn was the player who continued the onslaught on Indian bowlers after the fall of openers Gilchrist and Hayden. Standing in the middle, he built a 234-run stand with his captain. Australia hammered India by a huge margin of 234 runs and Ponting became the Player of the Match for his extraordinary 140-run innings of 121 deliveries. Martyn’s 88-run contribution is remembered by Aussie cricket team supporters but modern cricket fans aren’t aware of the middle-order batter’s role in Australia’s remarkable triumph.