They are the willow-wielders that have chopped the fleeting cherry with the most frequency and disdain on cricket's greatest stage. They stand out for their workmanship in putting bat to ball and creating a fission of magic and majesty. They have kept the scoreboard rolling over with a deft prowess and a insatiable appetite for runs.
The drive and focus of the World Cup's top run-getters have taken their respective teams a long way in their quest for globe-dominating glory, in some cases the venture culminating in 22 hands grappling at cricket's most coveted prize. Their ultimate objective has transcended individual prestige. Today, Oneindia Cricket honours the heroes who have woven silken tapestries of strokeplay to adorn the World Cup's Hall of Fame.
An integral part of the Australia steam-rolling agenda, Adam Gilchrist developed quite a reputation for giving his side blazing starts to innings in crunch matches of the big tournament. Using a high-on-the-handle grip, he effortlessly manouevered good balls into gaps and throttled most others, invariably with a straight head, soft wrists and immaculate balance. His exploits were legendary in World Cups where he ran up a total of 1085 runs at an average of 36.16 and an unheard of strike rate of 98. His premier highlight came in the final of the 2007 World Cup against Sri Lanka were he bludgeoned his way to 149 off just 104 balls. He took on the advice of his coach to stuff a squash ball into his left glove so as to enable him to hit straighter and he hit himself straight into the record books with the biggest innings in a World Cup final.
The man who will forever be remembered for his iron-cast forearms and impeccable hand-eye co-ordination, Sanath Jayasuriya was instrumental in his side grasping the World Cup in 1996 and then reaching the semi-final and finals of the tournament in 2003 and 2007. He was equally famous and notorious for his shots clobbered through point and cover and scythes over the leg side. Jayasuriya had a memorable time at most of the big quadrennial events he played in, notching up a run-tally of 1,165 runs at an average of 34.26 and a signature strike rate of 90.66. His best innings in the tournament came in the 2003 semi-final where be blasted his way to 120 off 125 balls against New Zealand in match which Sri Lanka won by 47 runs.
One of the most prolific run-getters in the history of the game, Lara was known for his patented stance - the bat raised, the weight poised on a bent front knee, the eyes low and level, as the axe would fall, sending the ball blazing to the boundary. But like all greats, he was a constant learner and strove to improve his technique, tweaking his backlift (on the advice of Sir Gary Sobers) and quickening his footwork. The man who pegged back one batting record after the next during his heyday, Lara featured in 5 world cups aggregating 1,225 runs at a formidable average of 42.24 and a strike rate of 86.26. An exemplary knock from him occurred in the opening match of the 2003 World Cup where he scored 116 off 134 bals against South Africa in an encounter which the West Indies went on to win by 3 runs.
The archetypal modern batsman, Ricky Ponting has grown into Australia's top run scorer and has proved a handful for any opposition to contain. On his day, 'Punter' can be a real menace with the bat and those 'days' have occurred with relentless rapidity in World Cups as he has gone on to score a total of 1,537 runs at an average of 48.03 and a power quotient of 81.06. He has led Australia to a record two World Cup triumphs and going by his batting record in the event, he has led from the front. The defining moment in Ponting's career came on a bright and sunny afternoon in the 2003 World Cup final, when he smoked 140 runs from 121 balls to effectively shut out India's hopes of wresting the Cup.
Currently the world's highest run-getter and biggest icon the game has known, Tendulkar's batting is a study in purity: perfect balance, frugality of movement, precision in stroke-making, and that cosmic quality bestowed to geniuses: anticipation. The upright, back-foot punch comes close to his signature stroke. His appetite for runs is matched only by his hunger for setting records. Prime among those benchmarks is the largest aggregate of World Cup runs at 1,796 and now as he is poised to make his sixth appearance in the tournament, 2,000 runs seems like a lip-smacking possibility. He has one of the highest averages in the big event at 57.93 and his strike rate of over 88 is up there in lights as well. Though he is known for competing competently against the best in the game, his biggest knock in World Cups comes against lowly Namibia, when he notched up 152 off 151 balls in 2003.