The cricket World Cup runs from February 14 through March 29 and 14 nations have qualified for the tournament. The set of the top eight ranked cricket teams in the world have been stable for some time, although their positions within the top eight keep changing. Currently, the rankings are: Australia (1), India (2), South Africa (3), Sri Lanka (4), England (5), Pakistan (6), New Zealand (7), West Indies (8), Bangladesh, (9), Zimbabwe (10), Afghanistan (11), and Ireland (12). Unranked Scotland and the UAE round out the teams.
Since the cricket world Cup tournament began in 1975, these are the winners and runners-up up in the ten tournaments:
- Australia won in 1987, 1999, 2003, and 2007 and was runner up in 1975 and 1996. They clearly have the best record.
- India won in 1983 and 2011 and was runner up in 2003.
- West Indies won in 1975 and 1979 and was runner up in 1983. This was the end of their period of heavy dominance in the game that they have never regained since.
- Pakistan won in 1992 and was runner up in 1999.
- Sri Lanka won in 1996 and was runner up in 2007 and 2011.
- England was the runner up in 1979, 1987, and 1992.
- South Africa and New Zealand have never even made the finals.
The most upsets occurred in 2003 when Australia, India, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and NZ made it to the second round, with South Africa, England, West Indies, and Pakistan eliminated. Kenya even made it to the semi-finals along with Australia, India, and Sri Lanka. That was the best tournament for teams not in the top eight.
In 2007, Ireland and Bangladesh made it into the final 8, with India and Pakistan getting eliminated. That was when they had four groups of four teams each with the top two going to the final round. Since each team played only three games in the qualifying round, one upset win of a favored team was sufficient to take a low-ranked team to the quarterfinals and Bangladesh beat India and Ireland beat Pakistan.
That format was changed in 2011 to the current one in which there are two groups of seven teams. Each team plays every other team once and thus plays six games in the preliminary round, with the top four from each group qualifying for the quarter finals. The expected teams went to the next round. The larger groups make it harder for those teams outside the top eight to qualify for the next round since it now takes two upset wins. Despite this Bangladesh came close to doing so, beating England and almost grabbing the fourth qualifying spot from the West Indies. Ireland also beat England.
On the plus side, this format allows the lower-ranked teams to play at least six games on the world stage instead of three, and thus have a better chance to show their stuff.
Australia and New Zealand are expected to do well this year because this year’s tournament is being held in those two countries. But I noticed that only on two occasions has the home team even made the finals, let alone win. That was England in 1979 (they lost) and India in 2011 (they won). So having the home field does not seem to give a huge advantage. It will be interesting to see if either Australia or NZ or both make it to the finals this time.