World Cup 2019: Silent Stars Who’ve Been Golden

Pakistan's Babar Azam celebrates after scoring a century (100 runs) during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, on June 26, 2019. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Sporting tournaments have some stars who raise their game to extreme limits and some others who, affected by the hype and hoopla, perform below their potential. And then there’s a third variety that just do their jobs, not caring about the adulation and just going about it in a business-as-usual fashion.

Hark back to any of the previous World Cups and there would be one name that wasn’t listed in golden letters, and yet played a role as important as the best in the business. We remember Roger Binny for being the highest wicket taker of the 1983 edition. Madan Lal with 17 scalps was right behind, but is seldom spoken of in the same breath.

Or take the case of Pakistan’s Salim Malik who scored 323 runs in seven outings during the 1987 edition. And everyone remembers Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva from the 1996 World Cup, but Asanka Gurusinha’s 307 runs made him sixth on the top run scorers of the tournament. Yet no one talks about him.

This list can be an endless one, but for now let’s look at players who’ve carved a niche for themselves in this World Cup, claiming their time in the sun with some memorable performances that may not elevate them to superstardom, but would definitely earn them a vote of thanks from their grateful teams.

The Batsmen

Aaron Finch and David Warner have bossed he tournament, scoring over fifty in six of the seven games they opened together (only against the West Indies did they fail to combine). Kane Williamson and Joe Root have also come into their own at the number three position for their respective teams, as has Rohit Sharma for India and Babar Azam for Pakistan.

However, the real unsung heroes are from Bangladesh and both are former captains. Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim hold the third and seventh position among the top-10 run scorers of this World Cup. The duo has been responsible for taking the team over the 300-run mark on at least two occasions. Shakib’s two centuries aren’t his only contribution to the team. He also features on the top-10 list of bowlers with 10 wickets.

The Bowlers

Contrary to expectations and pre-tournament predictions, the bowlers have been anything but cannon fodder this time round. Both the fast bowlers as well as spinners, irrespective of the part of the hand that they use to impart turn, have had it really good over the past four weeks.

Mitchell Starc has led the bowling charts with Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Pat Cummins and Lockie Ferguson figuring prominently after their teams have completed six or seven matches as the case may be. Though not a single Indian is on that list at present, Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal stand more than a good chance to step in the remaining matches.

However, the one bowler who has delivered the goods way beyond expectation is Mohammed Amir, the left-arm fast bowler from Pakistan who holds joint second position on the top-10 list of bowlers alongside England’s Archer. The wiry bowler, who wasn’t originally part of his team’s World Cup plans and didn’t tour England for the preparatory five-match series, has saved Pakistan the blushes each time they’ve been on the ground.

Not only has he taken wickets, Amir has also been the most economical bowler from his team thus far. His strike rate of 21 per wicket is among the best for all bowlers in this tournament and with an economy rate of just over five an over, the left-hander has truly made his detractors appear stupid after this performance.

With as many as twelve games to go for the knockout stage and another three games after that, these numbers could well change by the time the tournament winds down. However, the fact remains that some of these heroes will probably continue to remain unsung.

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