Most wickets in ODI World Cups: The all-time list

The ODI World Cup is held once every four years, and regarded as one of the largest and most prestigious tournaments in cricket. In events of such a grand scale, we not only see the willow do the bulk of the talking but also see some spectacular bowling performances that go on to script history. 

As we approach the Cricket World Cup in India this October, we break down those who have taken the most wickets in ODI World Cups, looking at each of these performers individually.

Most wickets in ODI World Cups: Counting down the top 10

In an era where the conditions are increasingly becoming more favorable for batsmen to score, there are still some elite bowlers who have managed to pick up wickets consistently to stun some of the best batters in the world. In this article, we dive into the list of bowlers who have claimed the most wickets in ODI World Cups, working our way from ten to one. 

10. Trent Boult, New Zealand (39 wickets)

most wickets in ODI World Cups

Trent Boult is currently an active member of the New Zealand squad who spearheads the Kiwi pace attack across all three formats. Rated as one of the best new-ball pairs in New Zealand history by Sir Richard Hadlee, Boult is a left-arm quick who presents a significant threat to high-quality batsmen with an ability to move the ball both ways even in unresponsive conditions. 

Although he has enjoyed more bowling in the longer format of the game, Boult has had a great deal of success in white ball cricket, especially in the inaugural MLC edition where he emerged as the top wicket-taker of the tournament.  

In 19 World Cup matches, Boult has picked up 39 wickets at a strike rate of 28.30 whilst averaging 21.79, putting him at number ten in our list of the most wickets in ODI World Cups.  His figures of 5/27 vs Australia in the 2015 World Cup edition remain his best World Cup figures to date. 

Read also: Most runs in ODI World Cups: The all-time list

9. Imran Tahir, South Africa (40 wickets)

most wickets in ODI World Cup

Pakistani-born South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir played professional cricket in many countries including Pakistan and UK before making it to the South Africa squad for the love of a woman. During his extensive cricketing career, Tahir has played for more than 25 teams, including four English counties, three South African franchises, and an IPL team while carving a reputation as one of the best limited-overs leg spinners of his time. 

Known for being quick and skiddy through the air, Tahir had a very deceptive wrong-un which would occasionally turn more than the usual off-break. In three World Cup editions spanning 2011-2019, Tahir grabbed 40 wickets at an impressive average of 21.17 which included four four-wicket hauls. His figures of 5/45 vs West Indies in the 2015 World Cup edition remain his best World Cup figures to date.

8. Javagal Srinath, India (44 wickets)

Fast bowler turned match referee Javagal Srinath was once upon a time the fastest bowler India had ever produced during the early 90s. Not only was he equipped with raw pace, but he also had the desired cricketing intelligence and knew how to outfox set batsmen. 

With a strong shoulder action, Srinath hit the pitch with force, and bowled mainly incutters and inswingers, though in the right conditions, he could move it the other way. Besides, he was a very crafty customer, especially with the old ball. 

During his World Cup days spanning from 1992 to 2003, Srinath picked up 44 wickets at a remarkable average of 27.81 while having a robust economy rate of 4.32 RPO. His figures of 4/30 against Sri Lanka in the 2003 World Cup edition remain his best figures, and he sits at number eight in our list of those who have taken the most wickets in ODI World Cups.

7. Zaheer Khan, India (44 wickets)

Zaheer Khan shot to fame during the early 2000s when people started taking notice of his skilled bowling capabilities. As a tall left-arm quick bowler who covered all bases as a fast bowler, he could swing the new ball, reverse it, bowl cutters, and cleverly alter his pace through the air which deceived a lot of high-profile batters. 

Khan had an intuitive sense of when to go for the kill, and once a batsman showed him the slightest hint of a weakness, Zaheer was quick to cash onto it. He has represented India in three World Cup editions, taking 44 scalps at an average of 20.22 whilst having a potent strike rate of 27.11. His spell of 4/42 against the Black Caps in the 2003 World Cup edition brought the Kiwis down to their knees.

Read also: India Cricket World Cup wins: 1983 and 2011 teams remembered

6. Chaminda Vaas, Sri Lanka (49 wickets)

Chaminda Vaas was yet another left-arm prodigy produced by Sri Lanka who was devastating with the new ball. He swung and seamed the ball with skill, his trademark delivery being the late in-dipper. However, he also used to bowl a carefully disguised off-cutter, and later on added reverse swing to his armory, a skill that made him a consistent wicket-taker even on bland subcontinental pitches. 

Although Vaas lost a lot of pace throughout his career, he never lost his knack for picking up wickets. Vaas participated in four World Cup editions where he claimed 49 wickets at a stunning average of 21.22 while going miserly at 3.91 RPO. He also managed to pick up a five-wicket haul which includes his best figures of 6/25 in the 2003 World Cup edition that floored Bangladesh for just 124. 

5. Mitchell Starc, Australia (49 wickets)

mitchel starc most wickets odi world cup

Mitchell Starc is a magical product of Australia’s left arm pace battery who burst onto the international stage in early 2012. Mitchell has been a staple of Australia's attack for more than a decade and seems set to remain so for the foreseeable future. Starc is still quick enough to make life uncomfortable for opposition batsmen and boasts greater control of the swing. 

During the 2015 World Cup, Starc was unplayable at times with his inswingers rattling stumps and trapping batsmen in front throughout the competition. Four years later he would claim 27 wickets at the World Cup in England when Australia's defence ended in the semi-finals. 

In just two World Cup editions (2015 and 2019), Starc picked up 49 wickets at a mind-blowing average of 14.81. He has picked up three five-wicket hauls in the World Cup which includes his best figures of 6/25 against New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup final. 

4. Wasim Akram, Pakistan (55 wickets)

most wickets odi world cup

Wonderfully dubbed “The Sultan of Swing”, Wasim is currently the second-highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket trailing just behind the legendary Muthiah Muralidaran of Sri Lanka. It is no surprise that the tall quick from Pakistan is featured right in the top section of our all-time World Cup Wickets list. Akram could swing the ball both ways at a high pace which came from a quick, ball-concealing action, backed up by the threat of a dangerous bouncer or deceptive slower delivery. 

In his 19-year-long career, Akram made five World Cup appearances and registered 55 wickets at a stunning average of 23.83. Besides, he picked up two four-wicket hauls and one five-wicket haul which featured his career-best of 5/28 against Namibia in his final World Cup appearance, putting him at fourth in our list of the most wickets in ODI World Cups. 

3. Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka (56 wickets)

Most commonly referred to as “Malinga the Slinga”, Lasith’s unorthodox round-arm bowling action led to the complete bamboozlement of prime batters. That yorker, a deceptive slower ball, and an excellent bouncer formed the body of Malinga's menace, while the action made his deliveries hard to pick up. 

Although Malinga’s test career was prematurely curtailed, the skiddy Sri Lankan quick reaped a great deal of success in white-ball cricket. In four World Cup appearances from 2007-2019, he bagged 56 scalps at an extraordinary average of  22.87 while having a robust strike rate of 24.89. He achieved his best World Cup figures of 6/38 against Kenya in the 2011 World Cup edition in the form of a hat trick. 

Read also: 1975 Cricket World Cup: Story of the first ever winners

2. Muthiah Muralidaran, Sri Lanka (68 wickets)

Speaking of unorthodox bowlers from Sri Lanka, Muthiah Muralidaran simply cannot be overlooked when it comes to the most wickets in ODI World Cups. For the believers, he's among the greatest to ever spin a ball. 

Murali often found himself in the epicenter of never-ending on-field/off-field controversies surrounding his unconventional bowling action early on in his career. But that did not let him deter him one bit as he went on to become the greatest mystery spinner of all time surpassing Wasim Akram’s tally of 502 ODI wickets. At present, Murali still holds the record of being the highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket with 534 wickets to his name. 

From 1996 to 2011, Murali achieved some mind-boggling figures which comprise 68 wickets averaging just 19.63 with a tight economy rate of 3.88 RPO. He picked up four four-wicket hauls, including his best figures of 4/19 that skittled Ireland for just 77. 

1. Glenn McGrath, Australia (71 wickets)

Glenn McGrath most wickets odi world cup

And finally, our numero uno on this prestigious list of all-time World Cup wicket takers, is none other than Glenn McGrath. McGrath's USP was an unremitting off-stump line and an immaculate length. He rewrote the World Cup record books in 2003 with 7 for 15 against the outclassed Namibians, on his way to adding another winner's medal to a bulging collection. 

An ankle injury threatened to derail McGrath’s quest for 500 Test wickets, but after briefly contemplating retirement he bounced back with yet another five-wicket haul against Sri Lanka in Darwin in July 2004. In his 11-year-long World Cup period, McGrath emerged as the top wicket-taker claiming 71 wickets with a killer average and economy rate of 18.19 and 3.96 respectively. He bowled his best spell of 7/15 in the 2003 World Cup which blew Namibia away, taking him to the top of our list of those who have taken the most wickets in ODI World Cups.

With Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult both likely to feature at the upcoming Cricket World Cup in India, will we see either of these two pacers improve their positions on this list of the most wickets in ODI World Cups? Or can a new bowler force their way into the top 10 with a stellar performance in the subcontinent? Tune in this October to find out. 

Read also: Most centuries in ODI World Cups: The all-time list