April 6, 2011

The World Cup's prolific nearly-men

Players who were outstanding on the biggest stage of all but were part of unsuccessful teams

Seven of the top eight run-scorers in the 2011 World Cup played in the final. Only the insatiable Jonathan Trott, who scored 422 runs in seven innings, wasn't there. Five of the top eight wicket-takers weren't on show in Mumbai. Only Zaheer Khan, Muttiah Muralitharan and Yuvraj Singh were. In this week's List, we've looked at players who were outstanding in World Cups but failed to make it to the business end of the tournaments.

The only player to score more than 500 runs in a World Cup and not play its final is Sachin Tendulkar. In the 1996 tournament Tendulkar amassed 523 in seven innings during India's run to the semi-final, which was awarded to Sri Lanka after the Eden Gardens crowd did not allow India's collapse to reach its inevitable conclusion. It was the first time a batsman had scored more than 500 in a World Cup and it remained the highest aggregate until 2003, when Tendulkar scored 673 runs as India finished runners-up in South Africa.

The next two batsmen in the table below belong to two teams that fare extremely well in World Cups until the penultimate step, or the one before that - New Zealand and South Africa. Scott Styris and Jacques Kallis had terrific tournaments in the Caribbean in 2007, finishing fourth and fifth on the top run-scorers' list, but their teams fell in the semi-finals. Like in 2011, New Zealand were beaten by Sri Lanka in 2007 as well, while South Africa lost to Australia. New Zealand have now played six semi-finals and never made it to a final. South Africa have not yet won a knockout match in a World Cup.

Most runs in a World Cup without the team making the final
Player Series Mat Inns Runs HS Ave 100 50
SR Tendulkar (India) 1995/96 7 7 523 137 87.16 2 3
SB Styris (NZ) 2006/07 10 9 499 111* 83.16 1 4
JH Kallis (SA) 2006/07 10 9 485 128* 80.83 1 3
R Dravid (India) 1999 8 8 461 145 65.85 2 3
MD Crowe (NZ) 1991/92 9 9 456 100* 114.00 1 4
KP Pietersen (Eng) 2006/07 9 9 444 104 55.50 2 3
GC Smith (SA) 2006/07 10 10 443 91 49.22 0 5
IJL Trott (Eng) 2010/11 7 7 422 92 60.28 0 5
PN Kirsten (SA) 1991/92 8 8 410 90 68.33 0 4
IVA Richards (WI) 1987/88 6 6 391 181 65.16 1 3
G Kirsten (SA) 1995/96 6 6 391 188* 78.20 1 1
DI Gower (Eng) 1983 7 7 384 130 76.80 1 1
HH Gibbs (SA) 2002/03 6 6 384 143 96.00 1 2
MS Atapattu (SL) 2002/03 10 10 382 124 54.57 2 1
SC Ganguly (India) 1999 7 7 379 183 54.14 1 1
RR Sarwan (WI) 2006/07 9 9 375 92 46.87 0 2
AB de Villiers (SA) 2006/07 10 10 372 146 37.20 1 2
DC Boon (Aus) 1991/92 8 8 368 100 52.57 2 0
NC Johnson (Zim) 1999 8 8 367 132* 52.42 1 3
G Fowler (Eng) 1983 7 7 360 81* 72.00 0 4
SP Fleming (NZ) 2006/07 10 10 353 102* 39.22 1 3
AB de Villiers (SA) 2010/11 5 5 353 134 88.25 2 1

The only time the leading run-scorer's team failed to make the semi-finals was in the 1999 edition in England. Rahul Dravid was the top run-getter in that tournament, with 461 in eight innings. He was, in fact, the only batsman to make more than 400 - Steve Waugh was next with 398. Sourav Ganguly was third, with 379, but India crashed out in the Super Six stage, losing to everyone except Pakistan.

There are three South Africans in the top half of the table below who were in terrific form in World Cups but were part of campaigns that ended abruptly. Gary Kirsten made 391 runs in the 1996 tournament, including a record score of 188, and was instrumental in South Africa winning all five group games. They were expected to brush West Indies aside in the quarter-final but were ambushed by Brian Lara and an exceptional fielding performance. Herschelle Gibbs averaged 96 at home in 2003, when South Africa's campaign ended because they misread the Duckworth-Lewis sheet against Sri Lanka and tied the game when they needed to win it. In 2011, AB de Villiers was shaping up to be the batsman of the tournament, until his run-out in the quarter-final against New Zealand led to another early exit for South Africa. He finished the World Cup with 353 runs at an average of 88.25.

Most runs in a World Cup without the team making the semi-finals
Player Series Mat Inns Runs HS Ave 100 50
R Dravid (India) 1999 8 8 461 145 65.85 2 3
KP Pietersen (Eng) 2006/07 9 9 444 104 55.50 2 3
IJL Trott (Eng) 2010/11 7 7 422 92 60.28 0 5
IVA Richards (WI) 1987/88 6 6 391 181 65.16 1 3
G Kirsten (SA) 1995/96 6 6 391 188* 78.20 1 1
HH Gibbs (SA) 2002/03 6 6 384 143 96.00 1 2
SC Ganguly (India) 1999 7 7 379 183 54.14 1 1
RR Sarwan (WI) 2006/07 9 9 375 92 46.87 0 2
DC Boon (Aus) 1991/92 8 8 368 100 52.57 2 0
NC Johnson (Zim) 1999 8 8 367 132* 52.42 1 3
AB de Villiers (SA) 2010/11 5 5 353 134 88.25 2 1
AJ Strauss (Eng) 2010/11 7 7 334 158 47.71 1 1
BC Lara (WI) 1991/92 8 8 333 88* 47.57 0 4
M Azharuddin (India) 1991/92 8 7 332 93 47.42 0 4
A Flower (Zim) 2002/03 8 7 332 71 47.42 0 3
BJ Haddin (Aus) 2010/11 7 6 332 88 55.33 0 4
Saeed Anwar (Pak) 1995/96 6 6 329 83* 82.25 0 3
SP Fleming (NZ) 2002/03 8 8 321 134* 45.85 1 0
S Chanderpaul (WI) 2006/07 9 9 315 102* 39.37 1 2
RN ten Doeschate (Neth) 2010/11 6 6 307 119 61.40 2 1
HM Amla (SA) 2010/11 7 7 306 113 43.71 1 2
DS Smith (WI) 2010/11 7 7 300 107 42.85 1 2
CB Wishart (Zim) 2002/03 8 7 293 172* 48.83 1 0
SR Watson (Aus) 2010/11 7 6 290 94 48.33 0 3
A Jadeja (India) 1999 8 7 285 100* 47.50 1 1
SR Tendulkar (India) 1991/92 8 7 283 84 47.16 0 3

With the exception of the Australians, the best bowlers in most recent World Cups have been from teams that failed to reach the final. In 2011, Shahid Afridi topped with 21 wickets (Zaheer Khan had as many but played one more game) but Pakistan were beaten in the semi-final. Afridi's average was a sensational 12.85 and his economy rate was only 3.62, when the average economy rate for the tournament was over 5.00. Chaminda Vaas claimed 23 scalps in 2003, ahead of Brett Lee's 22, but Sri Lanka were eliminated by Australia in the semi-final. New Zealand also fell in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup, in which Geoff Allott was the surprise highest wicket-taker with 20. Shane Warne went on to match his tally in the final.

Most wickets in a World Cup without the team making the final
Player Series Mat Balls Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ 4 5
WPUJC Vaas (SL) 2002/03 10 528 331 23 6/25 14.39 3.76 1 1
Shahid Afridi (Pak) 2010/11 8 447 270 21 5/16 12.85 3.62 2 2
GI Allott (NZ) 1999 9 526 325 20 4/37 16.25 3.70 2 0
TG Southee (NZ) 2010/11 8 434 312 18 3/13 17.33 4.31 0 0
ALF de Mel (SL) 1983 6 396 265 17 5/32 15.58 4.01 0 2
Imran Khan (Pak) 1987/88 7 299 222 17 4/37 13.05 4.45 2 0
L Klusener (SA) 1999 9 455 350 17 5/21 20.58 4.61 0 1
M Muralitharan (SL) 2002/03 10 526 319 17 4/28 18.76 3.63 1 0
SE Bond (NZ) 2002/03 8 468 305 17 6/23 17.94 3.91 0 1
CZ Harris (NZ) 1991/92 9 433 342 16 3/15 21.37 4.73 0 0
AA Donald (SA) 1999 9 492 325 16 4/17 20.31 3.96 2 0
VC Drakes (WI) 2002/03 6 311 208 16 5/33 13.00 4.01 0 2
DL Vettori (NZ) 2006/07 10 586 447 16 4/23 27.93 4.57 1 0
A Kumble (India) 1995/96 7 418 281 15 3/28 18.73 4.03 0 0
RJ Peterson (SA) 2010/11 7 336 238 15 4/12 15.86 4.25 1 0
RJ Hadlee (NZ) 1983 6 391 180 14 5/25 12.85 2.76 0 1
Maninder Singh (India) 1987/88 7 420 280 14 3/21 20.00 4.00 0 0
BP Patterson (WI) 1987/88 6 336 253 14 3/31 18.07 4.51 0 0
EA Brandes (Zim) 1991/92 8 421 355 14 4/21 25.35 5.05 1 0
JDP Oram (NZ) 2002/03 8 420 295 14 4/52 21.07 4.21 1 0
AJ Hall (SA) 2006/07 9 456 335 14 5/18 23.92 4.40 0 1
A Flintoff (Eng) 2006/07 8 414 298 14 4/43 21.28 4.31 1 0
CK Langeveldt (SA) 2006/07 8 396 361 14 5/39 25.78 5.46 0 1
DBL Powell (WI) 2006/07 9 510 385 14 3/38 27.50 4.52 0 0
Imran Tahir (SA) 2010/11 5 237 150 14 4/38 10.71 3.79 2 0
Umar Gul (Pak) 2010/11 8 363 272 14 3/30 19.42 4.49 0 0

  • Zimbabwe's Andy Flower has scored the most runs overall in World Cups - 815 in four tournaments - without ever appearing in a semi-final. He's followed by Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen.

  • Andrew Flintoff's 23 wickets in three World Cups are the most for a bowler who hasn't played in a semi-final. James Anderson, Heath Streak and Waqar Younis, who missed Pakistan's triumph in 1992 because of injury and wasn't a regular in the 1999 team, have taken 22.

  • Brian Lara has the most runs for a batsman who's never appeared in a final - 1225 in 33 innings. He's followed by Jacques Kallis and Stephen Fleming.

  • Allan Donald's 38 wickets in four tournaments is the highest for a bowler who's not played a final. Jacob Oram is second with 36 wickets in three World Cups.

Travis Basevi is a cricket statistician and UK Senior Programmer for Cricinfo and other ESPN sports websites. George Binoy is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo