The 16 players who donned the blue jersey at the 2023 ICC World Cup – with the target of a third ODI crown on their backs and the hopes of 1.4 billion on their shoulders – might not have the glittering, golden winners’ medals around their necks. For, they were second-best in the final.
But on any and every occasion barring that, they were head and shoulders above everyone, showing how India – not merely an assemblage of cricketers, but that of the nation – can not only win, but do so in the most dominant of styles.
This is the story of Rohit Sharma’s Super 16, who won’t need any trophies to be called legends:
Rohit Sharma will not have a trophy to his name, but he will have records aplenty. Having scored 597 runs in 11 matches, he became the first-ever cricketer to score north of 500 runs in consecutive editions of the ODI World Cup, and also the first-ever Indian captain to go beyond the 500-run mark in a single edition of this competition.
Although he scored just the solitary hundred – which came against Afghanistan – Rohit’s strike rate of 125.94 highlights how efficiently he perfected his role as an attacker.
Among his other notable knocks were a 63-ball 86 against Pakistan, and a 101-ball 87 against England – two similar scores, but coming in vastly contrasting circumstances.
· Matches – 11
· Runs – 597
· Average – 54.24
· Strike Rate – 125.9
Shubman Gill’s campaign had both highs and lows, with perhaps the former outnumbering the latter. Making a comeback after his bout with dengue, the young prodigy scored 354 runs at an average of 44.25.
His highest score was a run-a-ball 92 against Sri Lanka, albeit, the most influential knock was an unbeaten 66-ball 80 in the semi-final against New Zealand. In the final, however, he could only score four runs.
· Matches – 9
· Runs – 354
· Average – 44.25
· Strike Rate – 106.94
Talking about records, no one broke more of those – and ones which once looked unbreakable – than Virat Kohli. Not only did he become the first player to score 700 runs in a single ODI World Cup edition, but he bettered it by 65 runs to get to a tally of 765.
Moreover, by scoring three centuries in this competition – against Bangladesh, South Africa and New Zealand – he became the first cricketer in the sport’s history to score 50 ODI centuries, transcending Sachin Tendulkar’s tally of 49.
Among his other notable knocks were a crucial 95 against New Zealand and an 88 against Sri Lanka. Despite conditions being harsh on batters in Ahmedabad, Kohli scored a 63-ball 54 in the final.
· Matches – 11
· Runs – 765
· Average – 95.62
· Strike Rate – 90.31
Shreyas Iyer’s campaign began unceremoniously, with a duck against Australia. In the second match against Afghanistan, too, he could only manage to score 23 runs.
But in the high-voltage clash against Pakistan, Iyer justified his selection by scoring a 62-ball 53 to guide the home side to a 7-wicket victory. The next three matches were not up to the mark, but his flight took off after that.
Against Sri Lanka in Mumbai, Iyer came at number 4 and at a staggering strike rate of 148.21, made 82 runs off 56 balls. Against the Proteas, he scored 77 runs off 87 deliveries.
During India’s last group-stage match against the Netherlands, the middle-order batter brought up his maiden World Cup ton, scoring 128 runs off 94 balls with a strike rate of 136.17. He then followed it up with a 70-ball 105 in the semi-final against New Zealand.
Unfortunately, the end was not according to plans, as he could only score four runs in the final.
· Matches – 11
· Runs – 530
· Average – 66.25
· Strike Rate – 113.24
KL Rahul announced his arrival in this competition by, scoring a 97 off 102 balls against Australia, rescuing his team from a spot of bother.
During India's last league-stage match, against the Netherlands, Rahul achieved a noteworthy feat by becoming the first Indian batter to score the fastest century in a World Cup, by reaching this milestone in just 62 balls. During this scintillating innings, he hit 11 fours and 4 sixes, maintaining a strike rate of 159.38. In the semi-final game against the Kiwis, Rahul starred with a 20-ball 39 cameo.
During the final match against Australia, Rahul played the rescue act yet again, scoring 66 runs on a tricky wicket. He has also been reliable with the gloves.
· Matches – 11
· Runs – 452
· Average – 75.33
· Strike Rate – 90.76
Suryakumar Yadav got the chance to don the World Cup jersey only after all-rounder Hardik Pandya picked up an injury. In his maiden World Cup appearance, which was against the Kiwis, the explosive batter could only score 2 runs. But in the match against England in Lucknow, he showcased his potential by scoring 49 runs off 47 deliveries.
In his next games, against Sri Lanka and South Africa, Yadav recorded just 12 and 22 runs respectively. During India’s final group-stage game and in the semi-final game against the Kiwis, the Mumbai-batter faced merely three deliveries in total.
Yadav’s somewhat underwhelming World Cup run continued with in the final, where he could only score 18.
· Matches – 7
· Runs – 106
· Average – 17.66
· Strike Rate – 100.95
Ravindra Jadeja’s campaign in this World Cup was rewarding with the ball, but not so much with the bat. He was India’s most effective spinner with 16 wickets – 5 of which came in the match against South Africa.
Another impressive bowling display came against Australia – not in the final, though India would have dearly loved it – but in the league stage match, where he picked up three wickets by conceding only 28 runs.
He scored 120 runs with the bat, with an unbeaten 39 against New Zealand being his highest score. The major dampener of what was otherwise a nearly flawless season was his performance in the final, where Jadeja scored only 9 runs and could not pick up any wickets.
· Matches – 11
· Runs – 120
· Wickets – 16
Not a part of India’s ideal playing XI plans – as he quite often has been, especially in the ODI World Cups – Mohammed Shami got a chance to show India what they have been missing when Hardik Pandya’s injury presented him with an opportunity. And show, he did, like no one else has done before – with 24 wickets.
Embarking on his mission with a fifer against New Zealand, Shami followed it up with a four-wicket haul against England, before another fifer against Sri Lanka.
His best performance came in the semi-final against the Kiwis, where by picking up seven wickets, he became the first-ever Indian bowler to get a seven-wicket haul in this competition. In the final, he got the wicket of David Warner in his very first over, but could not add to that.
· Matches – 7
· Wickets – 24
· Average – 10.70
· Economy Rate – 5.26
Having missed the better part of this year owing to an injury, Jasprit Bumrah did announce his comeback at the Asia Cup. But it was not until this competition that the Indian fans were assured their prized bowling asset is not just the same as he always was, but better than ever before.
Bumrah’s best spell came against Afghanistan, where he got a four-wicket haul, while against England, he picked up three wickets. Though it ultimately did not propel India to a win, Bumrah was influential in the final as well, dismissing Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh.
· Matches – 11
· Wickets – 20
· Average – 18.65
· Economy Rate – 4.06
The second member of India’s two-pronged spin attack, Kuldeep Yadav had a campaign to cherish.
He kicked off his World Cup journey by claiming two wickets against Australia, dismissing David Warner and Glenn Maxwell.
In the next match, against Afghanistan, the left-arm wrist spinner got the better of Hasmatullah Shahidi, while he outfoxed Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed against Pakistan. India’s fourth match of the tournament against Bangladesh saw him clinch the wicket of half-centurion Tanzid Hasan. In his next assignment, Kuldeep claimed the wicket of New Zealand skipper Tom Latham and Glenn Philips.
In what is being regarded as one of the best dismissals of the ongoing World Cup, Kuldeep took the wicket of England skipper Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone with two peaches. In his next two matches – against South Africa and Netherlands – he picked up two wickets apiece.
In the semi-final against the Kiwis, Yadav bowled exceptionally well and finished his spell with Mark Chapman’s wicket. Although, he was ineffective in the final.
· Matches – 11
· Wickets – 15
· Average – 28.26
· Economy Rate – 4.45
Coming to the World Cup on the back of an incredible Asia Cup run, Mohammed Siraj was successful in replicating his form. Even though his economy rate was on the higher side, India benefited greatly from his ability to disrupt the opposition's plans and strike at pivotal moments.
In his opening game against Australia, the speedster bagged the wicket of Mitchell Starc. Then against Pakistan, he got the important wickets of Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam.
Against Sri Lanka in Mumbai, Siraj looked lethal, conceding only 16 runs at an economy rate of 2.28.
In his matches against New Zealand (1), Bangladesh (2), South Africa (1) and the Netherlands (2), the pacer took a total of 6 wickets. He also got a wicket in India’s semi-final clash against the BlackCaps.
However, Siraj’s World Cup run didn’t end as he would have desired. The bowler was introduced in the 17th over of Australia’s innings and got just one wicket in his kitty, which came at an inconsequential stage.
· Matches – 11
· Wickets – 14
· Average – 33.50
· Economy Rate – 5.68
Picked to replace the injured Axar Patel, veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was among the only two players who had the experience of winning an ODI World Cup. He featured in only India's campaign opener against Australia at his home ground – the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
The off-spinner maintained an economy of 3.40 runs per over, and also scalped the important wicket of Cameron Green. Albeit, his services were not used ever since.
· Matches – 1
· Wickets – 1
· Average – 34
· Economy Rate – 3.40
With fellow opener Shubman Gill recuperating from dengue, Ishan Kishan featured in India's first two matches.
In the campaign opener against Australia, which was also his maiden ODI World Cup appearance, the 25-year-old lost his wicket for a duck to Australia’s Mitchell Starc.
In India’s second match of the tournament, where they were chasing a target of 273 runs against Afghanistan, Kishan scored a run-a-ball 47, with five boundaries and two maximums to his name.
· Matches – 2
· Runs – 47
· Average – 23.50
· Strike Rate – 97.91
Hardik Pandya's individual campaign was not a memorable one, as he suffered an unfortunate ankle injury during India’s match against Bangladesh on 19 October. Having bowled only three deliveries, the 30-year-old twisted his left ankle.
Prior to his injury scare, Hardik had picked up five wickets in four matches. On the only occasion he got to bat – against Australia – he scored 11* off 8 deliveries. As it turned out, his injury ultimately paved the way for Mohammed Shami's introduction in the playing XI.
· Matches – 4
· Wickets – 5
· Runs – 11
Initially a part of India's playing XI plans, Shardul Thakur had to concede his place when Hardik Pandya got injured. Since Mohammed Shami's introduction, the all-rounder did not feature.
His campaign began against Afghanistan at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, where Thakur finished his spell of 6 overs with an economy of 5.20 runs per over, alongside Rahmat Shah’s wicket. His second match saw him bowl two uneventful overs against Pakistan at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, where he gave away 12 runs and had an economy of 6.
In what was his final game of the tournament, Shardul conceded 59 runs and a got wicket – that of Towhid Hridoy – in his spell of 9 overs against Bangladesh.
· Matches – 3
· Wickets – 2
· Average – 51
· Economy Rate – 6.00
Seamer Prasidh Krishna was added to the team to replace Hardik, following approval by the event technical committee of the tournament. Having returned from a lengthy injury layoff himself, the 27-year-old pacer did not take the field for India at the World Cup.