Nick Campion picks out 10 World Cup-based untruths and sets the record straight.
10) Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana were the first pinch-hitters
Sanath Jayasuriya smashed it at the 1996 World Cup and he and fellow opener Romesh Kaluwitharana are often feted as the first of the pinch-hitters (a concept that seems almost quaint in today’s game where brutal batting from ball one is the norm). But while the Sri Lankan pair certainly put pinch-hitting on the map, its history goes further back. In 1992 Mark Greatbatch, an unfashionable cricketer with an unfashionable moustache playing for unfashionable New Zealand, suddenly started plonking respectable deliveries from respected opening bowlers back over their heads, much to the bemusement of all. Before that, our very own IT Botham (in his blond mane period) tried it at the 1986/87 England-Australia ODI series, and you could argue that fearless Sehwag-prototype Kris Srikkanth started it all off in the early 80s with his unique approach to opening the batting, whatever the format.
9) England’s tournament record is rubbish
England are hopeless in World Cups, always have been, always will be. On the other hand… they’ve been runners-up three times and have the fourth-highest win ratio across all World Cups – better than India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. In the Champions Trophy they’ve been runners-up twice and they won the World T20 in 2010. Admittedly, recent form has been unimpressive but with the appointment of Eoin Morgan, England fans have reason to be cheerful. Barring a complete disaster Morgan will still be ODI captain after the World Cup and this hasn’t happened since 1996, after which England’s skippers have used the World Cup as their ODI swansong: 1999 Alec Stewart sacked; 2003 Nasser Hussain resigned; 2007 Michael Vaughan resigned; 2011 Andrew Strauss resigned.
8) India are one of the hot favourites
With many pundits backing them and most betting companies giving pretty short odds, India are among the favourites for the upcoming World Cup. However, if recent history is anything to go by then a bet on India will be money you’ll never see again. This India side is inexperienced and unsettled. Its bowling attack has played a handful of games, with its fast bowlers particularly green. Most importantly of all though, is India’s seemingly incurable travel-sickness when it comes to Australia. They’ve played 42 ODIs in Australia and won 10; in the last three years, they’ve played 12 and won one. They’ve just lost a Test series there and appear to be allergic to bounce and swing. We reckon your money’s best spent elsewhere.
7) Afridi’s a born match-winner
Yes, Shahid Afridi may be the biggest six-hitter in ODIs (just the 342) and have an incredible strike-rate of 116. He may also be a firm crowd favourite and one of the most exciting and unpredictable cricketers at the World Cup. But really, how many games has he won for his side? He averages 24 with the bat and 34 with the ball. In the last 12 months, those figures are 27 and 42. In World Cups he averages 11.61 in 18 innings. That’s not mercurial, that’s rubbish.
6) There’s no room for slow and steady
With teams consistently hitting 300-plus in ODIs these days, England’s selectors seem to have decided there is little room in the side for batsmen with a strike-rate below 80. So it’s no thanks to Jonathan Trott and farewell to Alastair Cook (both with a strike-rate of 77). However, the records of some big beasts of ODI cricket suggest it’s less to do with how quickly runs are scored and more to do with when they’re scored and what your pal at the other end is doing. A veteran of 328 ODIs, Jacques Kallis helped his team win plenty of games… at a strike-rate of 73. Smooth operators Rahul Dravid (344 games, SR 72), Kumar Sangakkara (394 games, SR 78) and Misbah-ul-Haq (153 games, SR 74) have won plenty of matches for their countries. It’s a fine line between sluggishness and stability…
5) One-day cricket’s a whippersnapper’s game
A strong recent run of form has cemented Misbah-ul-Haq’s spot as captain of Pakistan for the World Cup, despite many thinking that age might count against him. Surely 50-over cricket’s a format for the kids? Not so. Try telling that to Nolan Clarke who played for the Netherlands in the ’96 World Cup at the age of 47 and the 13 other over-40s who’ve played in the tournament. This year, both the skipper and his deputy from UAE, Mohammad Tauqir and Khurram Khan, bring all the experience of their 43 years. Misbah’s just a slip of a thing.
4) McCullum is New Zealand’s dangerman
Brendon McCullum is in the form of his life and New Zealand’s main man. Isn’t he? Not in ODIs he isn’t. He’s smashed it in Tests of late but his 50-over record is decidedly average. His international career batting averages read: Tests 39, T20s 36, ODIs 30. And in 2014 – the year in which he scored four Test tons, including a triple and two doubles – he averaged just 20 in 11 ODI knocks. No hundreds, no fifties. If you want a game-changer for New Zealand, look instead to Ross Taylor, averaging 66 in 2014, Kane Williamson, 70 last year, or wildcard Corey Anderson, averaging 38 at the astronomical strike-rate of 131.85.
3) Gatting lost England the ’87 World Cup
Poor old Gatt. Everyone knows his impetuous reverse-sweep was responsible for England’s losing the 1987 World Cup. But was it? I don’t think so. The reverse-sweep didn’t come out of nowhere; Gatt was a great exponent of it and had been playing it brilliantly throughout the tournament. He’d already played it earlier in the innings – in fact he’d been playing it for years. His dismissal left England 135-3 chasing 253. Lamb and Athey were in charge until Athey ambled the third run and ran himself out. Even then, England were still hopeful until Lamb tried to pull a length ball off Steve Waugh. Gatt averaged 50 in the 1987 World Cup at a strike-rate of 95 – he didn’t lose it for England, he damn well nearly won it for them.
2) KP, KO, OK
There’s no doubting that KP is proving a hit in the Big Bash and the crowds love him. The players love him. He loves him. But based on a few domestic T20 knocks, a lot of commentators (not to mention the man himself) seem to think that KP would enhance England’s team exponentially. I doubt it. He last played a one-dayer of any kind in September 2013 and in recent years his impact on ODIs has been less than spectacular. In 2013 he played nine ODIs, averaging 28. In the last five years, he averages 30 in 49 matches. None of this makes the England hierarchy’s handling of the KP situation any less ham-fisted but he’s not a missing saviour.
1) Herschelle Gibbs “dropped the World Cup”
The fact that this line, attributed to Steve Waugh after Herschelle Gibbs dropped him in the final group match of the 1999 World Cup, has become part of cricketing folklore says much about Waugh’s savviness. It would’ve been the perfect line as Gibbs dropped Waugh on 56, with Australia still some way from the 271 they needed for the victory they needed to make the semi-finals. The only thing is Waugh himself says he never said those words and Gibbs says he never heard them. He certainly said something but it was considerably less crafted than the myth suggests. The fact that he allowed the myth to circulate for as long as he did says much about this astute and canny fan of mental disintegration. Iceman Waugh went on to score 120 from 110 balls and Australia won with two deliveries to spare. And we all know what happened in the semis…