Traditionally, it seems, batsman come in for overwhelming praise and are ascribed with the most importance in World Cups. After all, the man of the series awards for most of the editions of the tournaments have been bestowed to batters who have come through with flying colours and who have been perceived to dominate the bowling attacks they faced.
The highest batting aggregates, averages and strike-rates are ferociously lauded. This sort of attitude has only been heightened with the Cup returning the the batsmen-friendly pitches of the subcontinent. Since the strips here are flat and the grounds small, the strategy most talked about is how to out-score and out-hit the opposition.
But it's a conveniently forgotten fact that the bowlers are an intrinsic part of the winning formula as previously World Cups have proved. In more cases than not, it is the flingers that have swung the fortunes of their side and have largely contributed to the ensnaring of the coveted trophy. "Bowlers win matches" - the words of Balwinder Singh Sandhu couldn't have rung truer when one goes down the list of the highest wicket-takers in World Cups.
In as many as 5 of the last 9 editions of the big tournament, the top wicket-taker has come from the champions' side. In the other four World Cups, the man with the biggest haul belonged to either the runner's up teams or one of the semi-finalists. But while bowlers advancing to the knock-out stages have more of an opportunity to garner more wickets, it's the averages of the top wicket-takers that are particularly striking. In all cases the statistic is below 20 runs per wicket.
In the 1983 World Cup, which India won, it was the side's Roger Binny who came out tops with 18 scalps from 8 matches at an average of 18.67. In the 1987 edition, it was Craig McDermott who got the same number of wickets from a similar number of matches at an average of 18.94.
In 1992, it was Wasim Akram to top the wickets' chart with 18 from 10 matches, conceding 18.78 runs per scalp. Shane Warne was the No.1 bowler in the '99 edition with 20 scalps from 10 matches an average of 18.05, while Glenn McGrath took a tally-topping 26 wicket from 11 matches at an average of 13.73 in the 2007 World Cup.
So, it's high time the experts and the public at large recognise the performances of these bowlers. It will be a point of interest to follow the progress of the upcoming tournament's strike bowlers and hope that India's Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh rise well above mediocrity and shine through.