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The Common Ingredient In Every World Cup Winning Team.......Part 1

They have been integral to every World Cup winning team and no team can do without them. We explore what that is

Perhaps the finest captain the game has ever seen - Imran Khan with The World Cup in 1992. Image: Cricket Australia

Every World Cup winning team right from the first world cup way back in 1975 to the last one in 2015 has had one thing in common – A Great Captain!

While the famous saying ‘ a captain is only as good as his team’ rings true, what rings even truer is that a great team in itself cannot achieve anything significant, without a great leader at the helm. After all it is the leader who defines the identity of his team, inspires it, creates a vision and is ultimately responsible for its results.

Whether it was Clive Lloyd in the initial 2 campaigns of the triumphant West Indies teams or Michael Clarke in Australia’s latest title victory in the last edition, these skippers all brought that intangible quality that propelled their sides to the top of cricket’s showpiece event. Some of them were master strategists, some charismatic leaders and others were just pure inspirational figures.

We jog our memories back to the great captains of previous world cup wining teams and how their leadership inspired their sides to ultimate victory while also looking forward to the leaders of the last four teams still standing at this year’s event.

Clive Lloyd (West Indies – 1975 & 1979)

The larger than life Clive Lloyd with one of his two World Cups. Source: Twitter

The ‘Big Cat’ as he was fondly known was a towering presence in a star-studded team comprising the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharan, Rohan Kanhai, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Larry Gomes and Malcolm Marshall over the course of two successful back-to-back winning campaigns. His ‘Man of The Final’ performance of 138 n.o. played no small role in The Caribbeans lifting the trophy in the inaugural edition of The World Cup. He was a leader who commanded respect and led by example on the field. During his reign, he forged The West Indies into an unbeatable unit, which ended at the hands of Kapil Dev’s India in 1983.

Kapil Dev (India – 1983)

Kapil Dev with The Prudential World Cup. Credit: Cricfit

India’s greatest all-rounder and captain of their World Cup winning team, Kapil Dev inspired his team like no other could. A man of few words, Kapil always let his actions do the talking. His exploits in that event were absolutely legendary. Coming in at 9 for 4 against Zimbabwe, the Indian skipper would go onto play one of the greatest ODI innings of all time as his 175 n.o. lifted India out of the abyss and onto the path of victory. It was this innings that was the turning point of Team India’s campaign as the men from the sub-continent finally began to believe that they could achieve the impossible. Their skipper followed this up by demolishing Australia with a spell of 5 for 43 and once again leading his team to victory. In the championship match, when his team was blown away by the mighty West Indies bowling machine for a paltry 183, and seemingly crestfallen, Kapil would go on to utter the most famous words in World Cup folklore. His inspirational speech – ‘They still have to make 183’ might seem simple on the face of it but it made his team realize that the opposition had to still score those runs and that it wasn’t over yet. It galvanized his men into action, and soon the hunter became the hunted. The skipper himself then went on to create the champagne moment of the final, running backwards over 30 yards to pouch the greatest catch in a World Cup summit clash, off a rampant Viv Richards, it was to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. India soon went on to claim the biggest prize in the game. Kapil Dev Nikhanj, India’s greatest leader, the man who led a merry band of brothers to the Holy Grail and transformed the face of Indian Cricket, forever.

Allan Border (Australia – 1987)

Allan Border with The Reliance World Cup. Pic: Courier Mail

Australia were still coming out of a difficult phase of losing some of their top talent to the rebel tours of South Africa and were very much in rebuild mode when Allan Border was tasked with leading his country at The World Cup. Having just concluded a successful tour of the sub-continent (tying the Test series with India 0-0 and narrowly losing the ODI series to them 3-2), the team was confident of giving a good account of themselves at cricket’s premier event. But what was to follow was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Bereft of any explosive talent, coach Bob Simpson and skipper Border devised a strategy of making every ball of their innings count, running as hard as possible for every run and throwing themselves when in the field to stop as many runs as they could. The strategy paid rich dividends as Border, The General, and his determined troop of foot soldiers began taking down mighty foes one after another en route to their maiden world title. Their dogged leader taught them to fight to the very end, in every minute of every encounter and in the process helped his men achieve the crowning glory of every cricketer’s career. In hindsight, it was also the event that charted a course to creating the greatest nation in World Cup history!

Imran Khan (Pakistan – 1992)

Imran Khan with The Benson & Hedges World Cup. Photo: ESPNcricinfo.com

Arguably the greatest captain the game has ever seen, and definitely its most charismatic leader, Imran Khan Niazi was perhaps the only man who could have brought a bunch of talented but unruly cricketers together to form a cohesive unit and to focus on a common goal, a shared vision. On the brink of exiting The World Cup, Imran knew that he needed to jolt his team out of their month long slumber. He asked them to fight like ‘cornered tigers’, fight for their survival. Imran even wore a t-shirt with a tiger’s face on it when he went out for the toss, sending a clear warning to the opposition as well, of his team’s intention. His magnetic persona commanded the respect of everyone in the team. Overnight, a mediocre bunch of players was transformed into an unstoppable force, taking out teams from defending champions Australia, to an in-form New Zealand (twice) and ultimately the second best team of the tournament England to clinch the game’s grandest prize. Imran Khan, who came out of retirement on the behest of his country’s late Prime Minister, was the man destined to lead his country to its greatest cricketing moment.

Arjuna Ranatunga (Sri Lanka – 1996)

Arjuna Ranatunga with The Wills World Cup. Image courtesy: ESPNcricinfo.com

The men from the Emerald Isle were always considered the nicest men in the sport. They even seemed too nice to be considered serious opponents. All of that changed when the combative Arjuna Ranatunga assumed the mantle of captaincy. A fierce competitor, the burly skipper taught his men to come out of the gates firing; there was no retreat, no surrender in his vocabulary. Together with then coach Dav Whatmore, he forged a strategy that would change the face of ODI opening batting. He used his openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana to go hard at the opposition in the first 15 overs, when field restrictions were in place, maximizing them to such an extent that many a contest was ended in the first quarter of their innings itself. The entire batting order was constantly on the offence and he then used his bevy of spinners to strangle the opposing teams’ batsmen. The shrewd tactician’s moves proved to be masterstrokes and their perfect executions resulted in Sri Lanka’s fiery leader holding aloft the trophy at the end of a wonderful campaign for The Lankan Lions.

Steve Waugh (Australia – 1999)

Steve Waugh with The World Cup at Lord's. Credit: Cricket Australia

The master of mental toughness, Steven Rodger Waugh was the epitome of the hard-as-nails Australian captain. Australia who had begun their ’99 campaign rather poorly were on the verge of elimination. They had the monumental task of winning 7 matches in a row if they were to reach the pinnacle of the One-Day game once again. Every match was a do-or-die situation for them and in one such match against favourites South Africa, their skipper played the innings that would go on to define his limited overs legacy. With his team placed precariously at 48 for 3, Waugh strode to the crease and began to repair the innings. His ability to keep his composure under tremendous pressure had already earned him the moniker of ‘The Iceman’ and he once more lived up to it. However, when on 56 he was dropped by the ever-reliable Herschille Gibbs, he then went on to mentally torture the latter by telling him that he had just dropped the match. His words were to prove prophetic as the skipper went on to score an unbeaten 120 and lead his team to victory over their more fancied opponents. Never a man to be betrayed by his emotions, Steve Waugh was perhaps the toughest Aussie cricketer ever. His leadership was based on the philosophy of applying relentless pressure on the opposition while steeling his own men, so that once they had their opponents down, they were able to keep them down before delivering the knockout punch. Aided by some of the greatest cricketers ever to have played the game in Adam Gilchrist, twin Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Steve ‘Tugga’ Waugh was to eventually lead the men from Down Under to their second World Title.

In our next instalment we look at the remaining World Cup winning captains and also the remaining skippers in this year's event.........To be continued

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