Monday, June 17, 2024

How home teams are thriving in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cups

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Photo Credit: ICC

Pressure or advantage? The conundrum that faces the hosts of each ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.

If the last three editions are anything to go by, it is an advantage to be playing at home. 

But, up until the 2011 edition, only one team had ever won as hosts, and that was Sri Lanka in 1996 when they co-hosted with India and Pakistan.

Even then, they only played two games at home, winning the final in Lahore.

Since 2011, a home team has triumphed every time with India setting the trend which Australia and, most recently, England followed. 

Each team had unique challenges to face en route to the trophy, but what worked for the home teams? 

 2011: India’s legends lead them home 

Legends were made, celebrated, and inspired at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2011. 

The final on 2 April was the most memorable day for the great Sachin Tendulkar as he was finally part of a World Cup-winning squad. 

He made only 18 runs in the showpiece, but he had stewarded India there with a Player-of-the-Match- performance in the semi-final against Pakistan. 

Yuvraj Singh had also done his job, winning Player of the Tournament after piling up 362 runs and 15 wickets, doing so without knowing he was suffering from cancer. 

Each player was facing a personal Everest as well as the collective one of attempting to win a World Cup under what felt like insurmountable pressure. 

To prepare, they spoke with Mike Horn, an adventurer who became the first person to solo circumnavigate the Equator, who put into perspective the challenge ahead of them. 

The first challenge they faced was opening the tournament against Bangladesh, Virender Sehwag began with a boundary and that is how the tournament ended – MS Dhoni hit the winning six in the final against Sri Lanka. 

The captain had moved himself above usual No.5 Singh, the change paying off as he then compiled 91 runs from 79 balls to see India to a second title and send the nation into ecstasy. 

Doing so, the pressure was released and the curse of the hosts winning on home soil was broken. 

2015: Australia surge to fifth trophy 

The most successful team in the competition’s history, Australia were never going to be able to fly under the radar, and their performances in 2015 certainly caught the eye. 

The World Cup started on a positive note when they beat their old rivals England by 111 runs at the MCG. 

But spirits were dampened by a washout against Bangladesh before New Zealand took a low-scoring thriller at Eden Park, winning by just one wicket. 

And hell hath no fury like an Aussie team beaten. 

Michael Clarke’s men responded by putting on the highest score at a World Cup, crashing 417 against Afghanistan in a 275-run win. 

Comfortable defeats of Sri Lanka and Scotland followed before Australia brushed aside Pakistan and India in the knockouts. 

The latter became the sixth team to be bowled out by Australia in the tournament as they were reduced to 233 runs, 96 short of their target. 

The same fate befell New Zealand in the final in Melbourne as they were all out for 183 which Australia chased down with 101 balls to spare. 

The experience of previous wins outweighed the pressure of home expectations, not something England could say four years later. 

2019: Four years in the making 

England had never won the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup before and had been burned by a disastrous campaign in 2015. 

But from the ashes grew new life, as captain Eoin Morgan led a rebuild with one aim, to win the World Cup on home soil. 

There was time for beauty amid the ruthlessness, Ben Stokes’ stunning catch in the opener against South Africa firing up the tournament.

Morgan broke records as he blasted the most sixes in an innings against Afghanistan before Australia were blown away in the semi-finals. 

The final at Lord’s was not about beauty or ruthlessness but as England attempted to do what had previously been impossible for them, they simply just needed to be in the contest. 

The game ebbed and flowed as any good one-day match should before reaching a crescendo with a Super Over. 

It almost had to be like this, the team who had set out to revolutionize the game, winning the World Cup in a way it had never been won before. 

Now the tournament returns to the place where the trend started, and with India acting as solo hosts for the first time, all eyes will truly be on them. 

But as 2011 showed, that is how they like it.

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