Cricket, a sport of glorious uncertainties, has witnessed its fair share of legends who have etched their names in some of the most elite record books. With their remarkable skills and unwavering dedication to the sport, these cricketing luminaries have left an indelible mark on the game. Winning the hearts of cricketing enthusiasts all over the world, some of these elite individuals somehow concluded their glittering international careers without World Cup glory.
In this article, we delve into the stories of some of the biggest cricketing stalwarts and the twist of fate that denied them a place among the exclusive elite club of World Cup champions.
1. AB de Villiers
South African great, AB de Villiers, holds the highest batting average (63.52) in World Cup matches among all batters with more than 1,000 runs to their name. The legendary cricketer first represented his nation at the World Cup stage in 2007, reprised his role in 2011, and later donned the leadership hat in 2015. In his three World Cup attempts, South Africa failed twice in the semi-finals (2007 and 2015) and once at the quarter-final stage (2011). Nonetheless, De Villiers continues to remain one of the greatest batters to have ever graced the World Cup stage, as his illustrious batting spree makes him the fifth-highest run-accumulator in tournament history.
2. Sourav Ganguly
Sourav Ganguly, one of only 15 players in the world with more than 10,000 ODI runs to his credit, never conquered a World Cup in his glittering 15-year journey for Team India. The elegant southpaw even fell a mere step short of the ultimate glory at one stage, as his Indian troops lost to a rampaging Australian unit at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. Ganguly is also one of the handful of players to have minted over 1,000 runs in World Cup matches, making him one of the greats of the biggest stage of the game.
3. Brian Lara
In terms of batting success and international accolades, Brian Lara’s name is often spoken in the same vein as Sachin Tendulkar. However, while Tendulkar played six World Cup editions only to win in his final attempt, Lara gave up on his West Indies career after his fifth tournament appearance in 2007. Regardless, Lara concluded his journey as one of World Cup’s greatest batters, with his 1,225-run tally standing fourth behind only Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, and Kumar Sangakkara.
4. Brendon McCullum
There’s no doubt that the brand of cricket that modern-day teams like England play today is something that the likes of Brendon McCullum had initiated back in his playing days. By making his debut in 2002, McCullum has featured in an aggregate of 4 World Cups (2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015). The 2007 and 2011 World Cup editions were nothing but the same story for New Zealand as on both occasions, after reaching the semi-finals they were beaten by the Sri Lankans. McCullum’s best was unveiled when he transitioned as a full-time opener and when his captaincy stint began, he took New Zealand to his first World Cup final in 2015 but had to face misery from the Australians.
5. Kumar Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara, a player with the second-highest ODI runs to his name and third-highest in World Cup matches, never lifted the coveted trophy in his four attempts. The cricketer played two World Cup finals in succession (2007 and 2011) and a semi-final (2003), and it took Ricky Ponting’s unbeaten pantheons to shatter his dream on two of those occasions (2003 and 2007).
Sangakkara slammed 1,532 runs with the bat in 35 World Cup innings at an average of nearly 57, which is much higher than his overall ODI average of 42.
6. Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid listed 860 runs across three World Cups, including 461 in his first edition in 1999. The batting great continues to hold one of the best averages (61.42) among all World Cup players with more than 500 runs to their name. While Dravid came agonizingly close to lifting the coveted trophy for the first time in 2003, he led the Indian team to their worst-ever tournament performance in the following edition in 2007.
7. Chris Gayle
West Indies batting barbarian Chris Gayle mauled his opponents with equal contempt in World Cups as he did in his overall international career. In conclusion, the burly opening batsman finished his career with over 10,000 runs and zero World Cup to show for, despite turning up for his side in five different editions between 2003 and 2019. Gayle, however, can take solace from his two T20 World Cup wins as a player, an achievement not many can boast of.
8. Lasith Malinga
Sri Lankan speed demon Lasith Malinga picked nearly two wickets every innings, a wicket-to-match average that stands even superior to highest World Cup wicket-takers Glenn McGrath and Muthiah Muralidaran. Malinga ended up playing four editions from 2007 till 2019 and finished his career with 56 World Cup wickets from 28 innings, all while holding a better average and strike rate than his overall ODI career. The speedster came close to lifting the title in 2007 and 2011, however, a certain wicketkeeper from the opposing side ended up snatching away the game with crunch batting blitzkriegs.
9. Jacques Kallis
South African all-round legend Jacques Kallis was perhaps the unluckiest World Cup cricketer. Having turned up for his country in five editions from 1996 to 2011, Kallis gave his all, be it with a willow or a leather. The Proteas’ veteran scored 1,148 runs at an average of nearly 46, all while picking up 21 wickets for his country’s cause. Despite his best efforts, South Africa found a way to succumb under pressure in crunch World Cup knockout games.
10. Anil Kumble
One of world cricket’s most proficient spinners of all time, Anil Kumble never attained World Cup glory for the Indian team between 1996 and 2007 before he eventually called it quits a year later. In his tournament debut itself at the 1996 event, Kumble finished the entire run as its highest wicket-taker (15 scalps). The legendary spinner took 31 World Cup wickets in all, forming part of his 337-wicket haul in ODIs.