ICC Cricket World Cup 2011: Top 5 Bowlers
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The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 was unique in a way that it wasn't dominated by batsmen, as one would expect in sub-continent conditions. As many as 20 bowlers got 10 wickets or more in the tournament, six of whom bagged 15 or more.
So who were the stand-out bowlers in the World Cup? This list will take you through the top five, according to this writer.
Singh Is King (Midas)
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5. Yuvraj Singh (Matches: 9, Wickets: 15, Average: 25.13)
A batting all-rounder being included in a Best Bowlers list speaks volumes for itself. Everything that Yuvraj touched in the World Cup, turned to gold—be it his batting or his bowling.
Yuvraj was always an exciting player to watch, except during that horrid one-year patch before the World Cup where an abysmal loss of form cost him his Test spot and also his ODI spot for a brief interval of time.
But Yuvi fought his way through to the World Cup squad and saved the blushes for India on many-an-occasion.
In the game against Ireland, Yuvraj picked up the distinction of becoming the only player in the World Cup’s 36-year history to bag five wickets and score 50 runs in a match.
Yuvraj was the bowler captain M.S. Dhoni went to in the middle overs to push back the scoring with his flighted, slow left-arm tweakers, which resulted in the batsmen becoming unnerved and throwing their wicket away in a bid to up the scoring.
Yuvraj bagged 15 wickets in the tournament in this fashion. Add to that 362 match-winning runs and you know why the lad from Chandigarh picked up four Man-of-the-Match gongs and, eventually, the big one—the Man of the Tournament—as he steered India towards their second World Cup triumph.
The Smiling Assassin's Last Assignment
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4. Muttiah Muralitharan (Matches: 9, Wickets: 15, Average: 19.40)
This man from Kandy, Sri Lanka, requires no introduction. For many, he's among the greatest to ever spin a ball.
Murali was often deemed unplayable in the sub-continent conditions and was the go-to guy for all the captains he’s played under. And he seldom disappointed.
During the World Cup, Murali fought through a hamstring injury, a side strain, a troublesome knee and groin and was set to miss out on the semifinal against New Zealand (and eventually, the final).
But there was no way you could have kept Murali out of his last match at home. If he could stand straight, he would play. And play he did.
Murali ran in for his last ball at home, and bowled a bit wide, turning it back in, and hit Scott Styris in front. LBW. It was a wicket that kick-started a collapse of 4 for 4.
Murali took 15 wickets in the tournament and led Sri Lanka to a second consecutive World Cup final. Unfortunately for the master, it couldn’t be a dream ending to his ODI career as the Lankans lost out to co-hosts India in the final.
Muralitharan ended his ODI career with a record 534 wickets from 350 matches. Best bowler the world has seen so far? By a mile!
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3. Tim Southee (Matches: 8, Wickets: 18, Avg: 17.33)
Tim Southee is one of the main reasons the Black Caps reached the semifinals of the World Cup.
He was one of the bright spots for New Zealand before the World Cup when they went through a horrid time, being whitewashed by Bangladesh 4-0.
Southee’s swingers picked up 13 wickets in 10 ODIs in the sub-continent before going on to become the third-highest wicket-taker in the World Cup with 18 wickets from eight games.
His feat led the great Allan Donald—also New Zealand’s bowling coach—to state that Southee could become the best swing bowler in the world. Quite a compliment there for the young lad coming from White Lightning himself!
It wasn’t surprising, thus, when Chennai Super Kings snapped up the lad for the IPL following his heroics.
Boom Boom Afridi: This Time with the Ball
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2. Shahid Afridi (Matches: 8, Wickets :21, Avg: 12.85)
Shahid Afridi has been nothing short of a revelation in the World Cup, at least in the bowling department.
After being given the captaincy of a rather inexperienced side before the World Cup, Afridi has led from the front, and how!
His 21 wickets propelled Pakistan to the semifinals and is the joint leading wicket-taker of the tournament. One can now easily say that Shahid Afridi is a bowler who bats, and not the other way around.
Mostly, he’s just a bowler. Very rarely in the recent past has he contributed substantially with the bat. Since the beginning of 2008, nobody has taken more wickets for Pakistan than Afridi, who has 94 in 66 ODIs.
Both his strike rate and economy rates for the top wicket-takers in that period are among the best. It is to him Pakistan go to, or rather he goes to himself, for applying pressure and making vital breakthroughs in the middle overs.
Until two weeks before this World Cup began, it mustn't be forgotten, Shahid Afridi wasn't even the captain of Pakistan.
Zak Attack: India's Lethal Weapon
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1. Zaheer Khan (Matches: 9, Wickets: 21, Avg: 18.76)
Zaheer Khan has matured a lot since that horrendous first over of the 2003 World Cup final at the Wanderers that saw him being pelted for 15 runs.
Eight years of toil and hard work have seen Zak become the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack.
He might not have the skills of Wasim Akram, whom he has often been compared to, but mentally Zaheer has become as good as Akram.
He knows how to get wickets, he has an intuitive sense of when to go for the kill, and once a batsman has shown him the slightest hint of a weakness, Zaheer preys on it ruthlessly.
Zaheer Khan today is M.S. Dhoni’s go-to guy—the kind of performer who can produce a performance from sheer willpower and labour. Dhoni has gone to him several times to bring a batting team from fluency to a dead halt.
Two wickets in two deliveries against England turned their measured chase into mayhem. Against Ireland he struck early; against Netherlands, he stepped in and made a statement; against West Indies and Australia, his second spell turned the match towards his team; against Pakistan, he took the final wicket that took India to the final; and in the final, his opening spell of 5-3-6-1 tormented the much-feared Sri Lankan top-order.
Undoubtedly, the latest Zak is at par with the best test bowlers in the world and continues to be a batsman's nightmare. Ask Graeme Smith!