15 October 2010
Preparing for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
A recap of pre-tournament form of players and teams' impact on performances at the CWC
Australia has been the most dominant side in ICC Cricket World Cups, having made it to all four finals since 1996.
In the second of this two-part series, we look back at how pre-tournament form of players and teams has impacted on performances at the ICC Cricket World Cup.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 started with the South Africans in pole position. Having suffered heartache in the semi-final four years earlier, they carried a hot streak of 11 wins in 14 matches coming into the tournament. There was nothing much to choose between the other teams with even the Sri Lankans boasting only a 50/50 record in the year before its finest hour.
The big names were very much to the fore in the 1996 event. Sachin Tendulkar was the only man to pass 500 runs, but he was closely followed by Mark Waugh, Aravinda de Silva, Gary Kirsten and Saeed Anwar in the run-scoring charts - all continuing their good form from the previous year. However, arguably one of the greatest ODI batsmen of all time struggled. Michael Bevan was often seen as the ‘finisher' for Australia but his seven matches brought him just 125 runs.
Unsurprisingly, spinners did well in subcontinent conditions and Anil Kumble was the leading wicket-taker with 15. Another two spinners Paul Strang and Roger Harper upset the form book with successful tournaments, but Harper's team-mate Ottis Gibson was a disappointment. Enjoying a surge in form which had brought him 28 wickets in 10 matches in the build-up to the event, he only managed a solitary wicket in his three matches. Danny Morrison also failed to live up to his pre-tournament hype with just three wickets in five matches.
It was back to England in 1999 and it was the triumvirate of Australia, South Africa and Pakistan who came in with the best records having all won roughly two thirds of their matches in the year beforehand. The hosts - having only won eight of its 23 matches coming in - failed to achieve much more once the competition started and home fans had little to cheer.
1999 was very much the year of Steve Waugh and Lance Klusener. Whereas Klusener had averaged more than 76 with the bat in the year before the ICC Cricket World Cup started, the Australian captain had struggled. With an average in the teens before arriving in England, he hit two fifties and a crucial century against South Africa to lead Australia to the first of its three successive triumphs. The majority of the focus on Australia's batting had been on Adam Gilchrist who had an explosive start to his ODI career and hit three centuries leading up to the competition. Once in England though, he struggled, and had only managed a solitary fifty before his 54 from 36 deliveries lit up a one-sided final with Pakistan at Lord's.
Ajit Agarkar had thrived in the year leading up to the competition, taking 52 wickets and reaching as high as number 14 in the world in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers. But once he arrived in England it was a different story as his three matches brought him just three wickets at 54 runs each. However, the majority of the other leading bowlers carried their pre-tournament form into the competition and performed well. Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and - surprisingly Geoff Allott - were the leading wicket-takers, but Allott had also performed well in the lead-up.
There was little surprise that Australia came into ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 as the team with the best record in the build-up, having won 22 of its 29 matches in the previous year. The rest of the field were closely bunched, but over the course of the competition in Southern Africa, India drew away from the pack to reach the final. However, once there, they were beaten convincingly by the Australian juggernaut.
Sachin was at it again in 2003 as his 673 runs set a record for any ICC Cricket World Cup. He was way down the leader board runs-wise in the build up as injuries had limited him to just 18 matches in which he had scored 489 runs. However, some of the other leading lights struggled noticeably. Mahela Jayawardena averaged just 3 in his nine matches, Inzamam-ul-Haq 3.16 in his six and Nasser Hussain just 8. But with the weight of home expectations on his shoulders, Jacques Kallis - who had enjoyed a superb lead-in to the competition - could only average 15.75 as South Africa made an early exit thanks to a tie with Sri Lanka.
Pace dominated like never before in 2003 with Murali the only spinner among the top ten wicket-takers. All the other pacemen in the top ten list out-performed their pre-tournament form, with Chaminda Vaas and Andy Bichel perhaps the biggest surprises. Allan Donald's last hurrah was somewhat of a wimper as his sole wicket in his three matches cost him 133 runs despite having taken 39 wickets in 22 matches in the year leading up to the competition.
Leading into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, Australia hadn't dominated in the manner it was used to. It had surrendered a world-record winning total to South Africa the previous year and it was the South Africans who came to the Caribbean with the greater confidence having won 70% of their games over the previous year. However, the pressure got to the Proteas on semi-final day and they subsided to just 149 all out against the Aussies, who subsequently overcame Sri Lanka in the final.
In the 2007 competition, the leading run-scorers had all enjoyed successful years before moving to the Caribbean, with Matthew Hayden's average of 54.53 beforehand translating into 659 runs including three centuries once the tournament got underway. Graeme Smith and Michael Clarke enjoyed stellar success after having had disappointing years, but MS Dhoni only managed 29 runs as India made an early exit thanks to defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The surprise package with the ball was Australian speedster Shaun Tait. Called in to lead the attack in place of the injured Brett Lee - who had averaged two wickets a match in the year leading up to the tournament, Tait took 23 wickets in his eleven matches having struggled in his few forays into the ODI arena in the build-up. On the flip side, both Jerome Taylor and Ian Bradshaw had enjoyed great success in previous ICC competitions, but both struggled this time on home soil having had solid years. Another man who found the Caribbean pitches not to his liking was Makhaya Ntini who only managed six wickets at nearly fifty runs apiece.
So - in some cases, players have been able to carry their pre-tournament form forward in the ICC Cricket World Cup, but some have fallen by the wayside too. It remains to be seen which players currently lighting up the ODI world will be the stars of next year's competition and which will struggle to live up to their lofty billing.
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Preparing for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011