The World Cup is the ultimate platform for any cricketer to showcase his talent. Any cricketer who plays for the country harbours the dream of winning cricket’s ultimate prize one day. Most big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Viv Richards, Imran Khan and Allan Border have won the coveted trophy.
On the other hand, some greats like Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara and Kumar Sangakkara (50-over World Cup) have been unlucky not to have laid their hands on the World Cup despite coming close.
Every four years, numerous players transform from star players to legends. England all-rounder Ben Stokes was the latest to join the list with some stupendous performances in the 2019 edition at home. The World Cup also gives an opportunity for some unknown names to come to the fore.
Over the years, many underdog cricketers have grabbed the golden chance to exhibit their skills on the grandest stage of all. Here, we look at three stars who exceeded expectations and left a significant impact on the World Cup.
#1. Gary Gilmour
The current generation of IPL fans may wonder, Gary Gilmour who? Thye can be forgiven for doing so. A left-arm medium pacer and left-handed batsman from Australia, Gilmour only played five ODIs and 15 Tests in a short career. He was considered a talented all-rounder at one point, but never lived up to it.
Gilmour claimed only 16 wickets in his ODI career, but will be part of World Cup history forever. 11 of his 16 wickets came in the semi-final and final of the inaugural World Cup in England. He ran through the hosts with 6 for 14 in the semis against the hosts at Leeds. With Australia having crumbled to 39 for 6 chasing 94, Gilmour hit an unbeaten 28 from as many balls to lift Australia into the final.
The left-arm seamer shone in the final as well against the mighty West Indies with figures of 5 for 48. However, Windies skipper Clive Lloyd’s 102 led the Caribbean side to a 17-run win as Australia failed to chase down 292. Gilmour played his last ODI towards the end of the same year, and the Centenary Test against England in 1977 turned out to be his last international assignment.
#2. Geoff Allott
In the 1999 Auckland Test against South Africa, famous for Daryll Cullinan’s unbeaten 275, Kiwi number 11 Geoff Allott batted for 101 minutes before being dismissed for a duck. He thus played his part in helping New Zealand escape with a draw in the Test. However, no one expected him to make the kind of impact he had on the 1999 World Cup in England.
The unassuming left-arm seamer had an unforgettable campaign with a then World Cup record of 20 wickets, equalled by Australia’s Shane Warne in the same competition. Allott was the bowling star with 4 for 37 in New Zealand’s famous win against the Aussies at Cardiff, picking up the big wickets of Mark Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Michael Bevan.
Allott claimed four wickets in the league game against Pakistan at Derby as well, but a batting collapse saw the Asian side win by 62 runs. The pacer further starred with 3 for 15 in the easy win against Scotland and 3 for 24 in the washout versus Zimbabwe as the Kiwis progressed to the semi-final. Allott, however, went wicketless in the semis against Pakistan at Manchester as New Zealand were knocked out following a nine-wicket thrashing.
New Zealand had high hopes from Allott following his impressive World Cup display, but a persistent back injury forced him into premature retirement. He played his last international match in November 2000.
#3. Andy Bichel
Australian medium pacer Andy Bichel’s international career was forever overshadowed by his more illustrious teammates Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee. Bichel was mostly called in only when these pacers needed rest or were unavailable due to injury. However, in the 2003 World Cup, in the presence of both McGrath and Lee, Bichel was given an opportunity to prove his worth, and he did so in no uncertain terms.
In fact, Bichel outshone his more famous teammates at key junctures in the tournament. In the league game against England at Port Elizabeth, Bichel came up with one of the greatest all-round efforts ever witnessed in a World Cup clash. His stupendous 7 for 20 restricted England to 204 for 8. However, Andrew Caddick’s four-for reduced the Aussies to 48 for 4.
While Michael Bevan was holding one end up, wickets kept falling at the other, and the game seemed over at 135 for 8. Bevan (74 not out), however, found unexpected company in Bichel. Buoyed by his bowling effort, a confident Bichel struck an unbeaten 34 from 36 balls, looking every bit a proper batsman, as Australia recovered to win by two wickets with two balls to spare.
In the fifth Super Sixes clash against rivals New Zealand at Port Elizabeth, Shane Bond (6 for 23) ran through the famed Aussie top and middle-order to leave them reeling at 7 for 84. An embarrassing defeat seemed in store for the defending champions when Bevan and Bichel again combined forces, featuring in a precious 97-run stand for the eighth wicket. While Bevan made a sedate 56, Bichel went on to top-score with 64 from 83 balls. The duo lifted Australia to 208 for 9. Lee (5 for 42) and McGrath (3 for 29) did the rest as the Kiwis were rolled over for 112.
With expectations rising, Bichel failed to carry on his form post the World Cup, and played his last international match in February 2004.