By: Chinmay Vaidya
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stifle activity around the world, sports are pushing through the storm and cricket is no different. After successful conclusions of the CPL and IPL, the cricket world will now head to Australia and New Zealand as those countries begin their respective summers in late November. There will be one big difference: fans will be in the stadium.
Australia and New Zealand have had major success in containing the pandemic. Australia has under 28,000 cases to date, averaging between 6 and 31 cases per day for the last month. New Zealand has been ever more successful, seeing under 5 cases per day from May through early August before the virus returned. Now the country is between 0-25 cases per day in the last month. Compared to the rest of the world, these two countries have worked miracles.
With India set to tour Australia and the West Indies headed to New Zealand, early reports suggest stadiums will operate at some capacity. Cricket Australia has suggested having as many as 25,000 fans in the stands with adequate distancing measures in place. With the Big Bash also set to take place, that number might have to decrease to ensure protocols are followed. The last thing either board wants to deal with is an outbreak.
India and the West Indies have arrived at their respective locations to begin the quarantine process. The CPL went on without a problem as no players tested positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. The IPL had a minor issue in Chennai's quarantine period, but the rest of the tournament went smoothly. Testing is no longer an issue for the players and boards involved. The opportunity to recoup lost revenue during the early days of the pandemic outweighs the cost of putting on tours. Cricket in bubbles has been safe, but is it sustainable for the players?
England captain Eoin Morgan and Windies skipper Jason Holder have said 'no' outright, citing the additional mental and emotional toll of tours now being supplemented with a quarantine period and limited interaction with the outside world. England had to complete some tour in the summer to avoid major revenue losses; Australia and New Zealand will make the same case when they host their tours. But the idea that cricket can continue to go on from bubble to bubble is starting to wear on the players, especially those who will potentially take part in three T20 tournaments from September to February once the Bash begins.
This is India's first tour in the pandemic and those players will have a strong voice on the issue, especially after undergoing a bubble experience in UAE for the IPL. Cricketers were already discussing the impact of the lack of fans from the pandemic's early days, but those T20 franchise leagues thrive on crowd energy. Bubble cricket for those leagues seems to actually take away from the product.
Of course the safety of everyone involved, fans included, is paramount to any board's decisions when conducting tours. Protocols will be followed until there is a vaccine effectively deployed around the world. But cricketers will make their voices heard on the struggles of going from one bubble to the next, leaving some to potentially cut their careers short by withdrawing from tours to avoid the prospect of another bubble.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It took nearly four months for international cricket to return to action, but the wait is finally over.
England and the West Indies will kick off a Test match series July 8 despite the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the global population. This will be the first international match since Australia played New Zealand for one ODI behind closed doors on March 13 before scrapping the rest of the series.
That match took place in the early stages of what would become the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, New Zealand and Australia have shown major progress in containing the virus. New Zealand has effectively stamped out the virus and life in the country is back to normal. The United Kingdom has also shown significant progress, although there are still strong restrictions in place.
Cricket inherently lends itself to maintain social distancing. Aside from fielders in the slips, the bowler running up next to the non-striker and the wicketkeeper standing up close to the stumps for a spinner, cricketers are inevitably standing at least six feet apart in the field. This doesn't mean cricketers and staff won't be tested regularly. And of course, there won't be fans in the ground.
England's World Test Championship set with the West Indies precedes a Test series with Pakistan and a white-ball scrap with Australia. A handful of Pakistan's cricketers recently had a bout with COVID-19, but the board has gone ahead with the tour. England is confident the series with Australia will take place.
Unfortunately, this resumption of play hasn't taken off globally. New Zealand's August visit to Bangladesh has been scrapped and India is unlikely to stage the IPL given the logistics of bringing cricketers in from around the world while the country's coronavirus cases rise. The CPL held its auction, but the league will have to wait and see if going forward with the tournament is plausible.
Because cricket's calendars are so interconnected, a disruption on this scale has long-standing effects. There are ODI series directly linked to team's qualification chances for the 2023 World Cup. The World Test Championship has postponed matches. Those tours must be completed given the stakes. And then there's franchise leagues and the T20 World Cup.
The ICC has yet to make an official decision on the T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia in October, but it is unlikely to take place given the international hurdles. That open window would be a chance for countries to complete their unfinished series, but players will want to play in franchise leagues to make up for a lost earnings. That possible showdown will be thrilling to watch. And all this will happen without fans in stadiums, further diminishing revenue for boards already in a crunch.
For now, all eyes will be on England and the West Indies. The future of the sport is still uncertain.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
After ranking all the World Cup champions based on their respective tournament runs, I thought it was only fair to rank the teams who had a shot at the title but fell short. After all, these teams were also pretty damn good and deserve some recognition.
I'm using the same metrics from the previous exercise and applying it to World Cup teams with a legitimate shot to win the title. What is deemed as a "legitimate" chance is a subjective measure, but I think the reasonable expectation would be to include the runner-up and the semifinalist which lost to the eventual champion. Since every World Cup has a semifinal round, this gives us at least some consistency throughout the process. If your team got knocked out in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion, tough luck. If your team lost to the runner-up in the semifinal, tough luck.
Using the above cutoff measure gives us 24 total teams to evaluate using run differential per game, number of all-time great players and win percentage. A quick note on win percentage: runner-up teams get an extra win and loss over the semifinalist flameout by default. Here are the results of that analysis.
Runner-up teams tend to be stronger than semifinalist flameouts, even if the top 10 is split equally. The top five teams to never win a World Cup did make it to the final, but the following five teams missed out after a semifinal loss to the eventual champion.
I apologized to 1999 Pakistan, a team with 11 all-time great players (most in their prime), in the previous exercise. My apology should've gone to 1999 South Africa, which was the better team across the metric on average. It's unknown whether South Africa would've beaten Pakistan in the final, but those two teams were both clearly superior to 1999 Australia and its negative run differential.
Speaking of negative run differential, five of the 24 teams evaluated carried such a mark. The most notable of those teams is probably 2019 New Zealand, which came a reckless overthrow, a faulty Super Over and a nonsensical tiebreaker away from lifting the country's first cricket World Cup. The Kiwis finished the tournament with a -262 total run differential, good for second-last on the list overall. Although 2019 New Zealand was closer to winning the title, the country's 2015 team was vastly superior. A similar thing happened with England's teams from 1979-1992. The 1983 team, the lone one from that quartet to not see a World Cup final, ranks head and shoulders above the rest of the group. Cricket can be a funny game.
It's also interesting to see how teams progress with a similar group of players. 2003 Sri Lanka finished with the worst total run differential of the 24 teams at -317. I know, it's a really bad mark. But Sri Lanka would recover spectacularly in 2007 and 2011, ranking third and first respectively out of 24 teams in total run differential. India's 1996 squad which lost to Sri Lanka in the semifinal featured some members that would be on the 2003 squad. India's 1999 World Cup campaign was a disaster, but the team went from a -104 run differential in 1996 to second overall out of 24 teams in 2003.
2015 India, 2015 New Zealand, 2019 Australia and 2019 New Zealand ran into the same issue their World Cup champion counterparts did when it came to stacking up the all-time greats. These teams didn't have the firepower to match some of the true heavyweights in this category (1999 Pakistan, 2003 India and 2007 Sri Lanka), but they could eventually be looked in a different light once careers finish.
A special shoutout goes to the 1983 West Indies team despite falling to India in the final. That Windies crew, despite the ODI game being relatively new, stacks up pretty well against more recent generational teams from India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. I don't know whether that says more about how strong the 1983 unit was or how underwhelming the West Indies cricket has been since those early World Cups. At least they have some T20 titles.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
All championships are equal, but not all champions are equal. Cricket is no different.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to pit these teams head-to-head on the pitch to sort out the best champion in the correct manner. I’d love to see 2003 Ricky Ponting’s plan to contain 2007 Adam Gilchrist in a hypothetical World Cup. How would 1979 Viv Richards fare against 1992 Wasim Akram? Would 2011 MS Dhoni outshine 1983 Kapil Dev? Sadly, we’ll never truly know.
As the sports world comes to a standstill in light of the coronavirus outbreak, let’s take a look back at World Cup championship teams and attempt to rank them based on their success at the tournament.
Only World Cup champions get ranked. Apologies to 1983 West Indies, 1999 Pakistan, 2003 India, 2011 Sri Lanka and 2015 New Zealand.
The first thing to look at when evaluating a World Cup champion is run differential. This is simply the total number of runs the team scored against the number of runs allowed. Because a chasing team cannot win by runs, there could hypothetically be a situation where a chasing team wins every game it plays and only gets a +1 differential. Luckily, that bridge doesn’t need to be crossed here.
Run differential gives us a general idea of how dominant a team was during its respective World Cup. Cricket has changed over the years and the World Cup is no different. The total runs scored and allowed has increased substantially over time as rules are modified, World Cup formats are changed and teams are built specifically for one-day internationals. 2007 Australia put together a total differential of 807 runs while 1999 Australia gets the designation of being the only team to win a World Cup with a negative run differential.
The next step is to look at run differential per game. This is a better indicator final indicator than total run differential for one obvious reason: teams in recent World Cups simply play more games to win the whole thing than older championship teams. 1975 West Indies and 1979 West Indies combined to play 10 World Cup games in their back-to-back titles. Meanwhile, 2007 Australia played 12 games in that tournament alone.
As you might expect, run differential per game is just the total run differential divided by the number of games played. Australia reigns supreme in this category. The 2007, 2003 and 2015 teams are the top three in run differential per game. 1983 India, 1992 Pakistan and 1999 Australia (with a negative run difference) are the bottom three teams.
The third step is to evaluate each World Cup squad and determine how many all-time greats played for that specific team. You may think this part of the process is subjective and it somewhat is, but here’s what I settled on: If a player sits in the top 10 of his team’s historical runs scored or wickets taken, he’s considered an all-time great.
It would be unfair to hold Viv Richards and his 187 ODIs to the same standard as Sachin Tendulkar’s 463 one-day matches. Instead, Richards get compared to his West Indies counterparts and Tendulkar to his Indian ones. Both get the designation of all-time greats, but the measuring stick takes into account their respective situation. In short, it’s easier to be recognized as an all-time great for some countries over others.
Some players appear in the top 10 for both runs scored and wickets taken, but they only get counted once. 1996 Sri Lanka didn’t have two Sanath Jayasuriayas on the field at the same time.
1999 Australia, as part of the country’s three-peat, gets a nice boost here. Despite a negative run differential, the team has seven all-timers. 2007 Australia leads the group with eight superstars while five teams boast seven greats. 2015 Australia and 2019 England are at a slight disadvantage here because many of their players are still active. 2015 Australia has four all-timers currently, but there’s a possibility for six other players to get this designation. 2019 England has five all-timers with five others waiting in the wings. This portion of the ranking is fluid as leaderboards change. Current designations are based on leaderboards as of the publish date.
The last part of our equation is to look at win percentage. This is simply the number of games a team wins en route to a World Cup title. Some teams have games with “no result” or were awarded a game by default. This still counts in the team’s game log. There is one exception here: 1999 Australia tied with South Africa in the semifinal, but advanced on Super Six tiebreakers. This result doesn’t go down as an outright win for 1999 Australia, but it still features in the team’s game log.
2007 Australia, 2003 Australia, 1996 Sri Lanka and 1975 West Indies all went through the World Cup with an undefeated mark. 2019 England, 1992 Pakistan and 1999 Australia are in the bottom three, although England’s win percentage is more reflective of a typical championship side than the other two.
After sorting all the teams in these categories, I ranked them based on their performance relative to each other. Total run differential was left out, but the other three categories were used. The rankings from each category create a final average for each team. Here are those results.
Here’s a closer look at each team, starting with 1983 India.
Run Differential Per Game: 4.5
All-Time Greats: Kapil Dev
Win Percentage: 0.75
One of the biggest upsets in World Cup history came in the 1983 World Cup. India, defending 183 against a West Indies team featuring more all-time greats than its previous World Cup winning squads, prevailed as Kapil Dev’s catch to remove Viv Richards swung the match. If India doesn’t win this trophy, the country likely doesn’t host the 1987 World Cup and may not become the cricket hotbed it is today. The 1983 squad might not be the best champion ever, but it likely inspired a nation like no other team could.
Run Differential Per Game: -3.1
All-Time Greats: Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Michael Bevan, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist
Win Percentage: 0.700
The first of three World Cup titles during Australia’s golden generation set the table for future dominance. Holdovers like the Waughs and Warne joined a group of youngsters to bounce back from a 1996 final defeat and capture the 1999 trophy. There was plenty of luck along the way, but champions also make their own luck as the semifinal against South Africa proved. Ponting, Gilchrist and McGrath would go on to be superstars.
Run Differential Per Game: 2.2
All-Time Greats: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Waqar Younis, Ijaz Ahmed, Saleem Malik
Win Percentage: 0.6
While not as talented as Pakistan’s runner-up squad in 1999, the 1992 team is similar to Australia’s 1999 team in terms of cricket history. Khan placed his faith in young stars like Akram and Younis, who delivered a World Cup title. Akram’s two “unplayable” deliveries in the World Cup final remain legendary. This team is actually tied with 1999 Australia in overall average.
Run Differential Per Game: 32.72
All-Time Greats: Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid
Potential Additional All-Time Greats: Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Johnny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Jofra Archer
Win Percentage: 0.727
It took a futile 2015 World Cup campaign to overhaul England’s entire infrastructure, but the change paid off. England dominated world cricket for a good portion of two years before capturing a World Cup at Lord’s with a collection of young stars. If all goes according to plan in the next four years, England’s golden generation will have quite a resume.
Run Differential Per Game: 9.25
All-Time Greats: Steve Waugh, Allan Border, David Boon, Dean Jones, Craig McDermott
Win Percentage: 0.875
This Australia team didn’t come out of nowhere, but it certainly wasn’t pegged as a title favorite. Boon and McDermott were the stars for Australia in this campaign. A thrilling final against England at Eden Gardens was the cherry on top for Australia’s strong effort.
1975 West Indies
Run Differential Per Game: 10.8
All-Time Greats: Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes
Win Percentage: 1.000
The first World Cup champions ever didn’t have the firepower of the 1979 team, but dominated the tournament with an undefeated record. Richards and Haynes weren’t the stars they would become yet.
Run Differential Per Game: 57.55
All-Time Greats: Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson
Potential Additional All-Time Greats: Steven Smith, Aaron Finch, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood
Win Percentage: 0.778
Clarke did his best Steve Waugh impersonation leading a group of young stars to the title on home soil. Warner and Smith rose to the occasion and Starc cemented his case as the best fast bowler in the world by leading the wicket count. There were a lot of up-and-coming stars on this team as the potential all-time greats list shows. This was Australia coming out of the shadow of a golden generation and making an impressive statement.
1979 West Indies
Run Differential Per Game: 35.2
All-Time Greats: Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding, Joel Garner
Win Percentage: 0.800
This team had a better roster than the 1975 squad and Richards arrived on the world stage, but it was Greenidge who would end up being the surprising superstar by leading the tournament in runs. Holding and Garner terrorized opposing batsmen to give the West Indies back-to-back titles.
Run Differential Per Game: 13.33
All-Time Greats: Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh
Win Percentage: 0.778
Similar to England’s transformation from 2015 to 2019, the 2011 India team represented a shift in the country’s sporting infrastructure after the 2007 debacle. Dhoni’s leadership and Yuvraj’s aggression led the way for India, which also featured borderline all-timers in Suresh Raina and Ashish Nehra. Tendulkar playing in his last World Cup was the only motivation this team needed to get the job done.
1996 Sri Lanka
Run Differential Per Game: 31.4
All-Time Greats: Arjuna Ranatunga, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Murlitharan, Kumar Dharmasena, Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Roshan Mahanama
Win Percentage: 1.000
The start of Sri Lanka’s golden generation came with this World Cup title. Ranatunga and de Silva were spectacular in the final, but it was youngsters like Vaas, Jayasuriya and Murlitharan would carry the momentum from this championship run forward. Jayasuriya would go on to be one of the best all-rounders ever while Murlitharan became arguably the best bowler ever.
Run Differential Per Game: 64.0
All-Time Greats: Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Michael Bevan, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Brad Hogg
Win Percentage: 1.000
Not quite the best Australian team ever, but it’s very close. The 1999 holdovers added Lee and Hayden to dismantle the rest of the field en route to a second straight World Cup title. Australia’s massive 359 in the final was punctuated by Ponting’s spectacular innings.
Run Differential Per Game: 67.25
All-Time Greats: Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath, Brad Hogg, Michael Clarke, Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson
Win Percentage: 1.000
Australia entered this tournament having last lost a World Cup match on May 23, 1999. That wouldn’t change after this title campaign, cementing Australia’s golden generation with a three-peat and the 2007 team as the most dominant champion ever. Every player was at or near his peak and contributed in meaningful ways with Gilchrist’s masterclass in the final sealing the title.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It is heard so often from commentators, players and coaches. Some leagues, like the IPL, even give out points for it. Sportsmanship is a complex thing to navigate in professional sports at the highest level. On one hand, there's a game to be won and careers to be built. On the other, there's a certain level of respect we expect from competitors towards one another even in a high-stakes environment.
At the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, there were three major instances of where sportsmanship and the "spirit of the game" were brought into question. Two incidents occurred on the field while one took place on social media. There's won't be any judgements on what the right or wrong thing to do in each situation is, but we can look at the reactions from players, coaches and administrations to decipher how people in the game approach this complicated subject.
Incident 1: Australia's players take to Instagram
Australia's U-19 squad already dealt with some criticism for its on-field actions in a match against India, but the real problem came before that match on Instagram. Players took to Instagram to celebrate their berth in the quarterfinal and that's where things got dicey.
Oliver Davies, Liam Scott, Lachlan Hearne, Tanveer Sangha and Sam Fanning replied to Jake Fraser-McGurk's post in choppy English, seemingly aimed at non-native English speakers and potentially at India's players. The post was deleted and the players apologized, but the damage was already done. According to ESPN Cricinfo, Cricket Australia is considering sanctions for the players due to the post. The administration issued a statement on the incident, essentially saying it holds Australia's players to a higher standard. Australia would end up losing to India and Fraser-McGurk, who made the post, had to leave the team early and fly back home to get treatment for a monkey scratch while visiting a monkey reserve for a team outing. Call it karma if you wish.
At the end of the day, these are teenage kids doing typical teenage things. However, the sheer unnecessary nature of the action warrants a closer look. What seemed like good fun for the players could definitely have been taken the wrong way. It's a good narrative for people in the media and it'll get attention, but it's not the type of thing CA wants to deal with. The players weren't taking digs at their opponent's skills; they were going beyond that. This is where we cross the sport threshold and move into the humanity aspect of something. And once you've done that, you can safely say the actions of Australia's players have no place in the game.
Incident 2: Afghanistan's Noor Ahmad pulls a "Mankad" on Pakistan's Mohammad Huraira
This is a favorite among fans, commentators and ex-players. Ravichandran Ashwin, the "Mankad king", is inspiring a whole generation of players. There's several things to consider when looking at a "Mankad" incident. The first is whether is how the bowler took off the bails at the non-striker end.
As we can clearly see from the video, the bowler doesn't attempt to complete his delivery and back out halfway through to take off the bails. Ahmad does it in a quick motion when Huraira is outside of the crease. By the letter of the law, Huraira is out. And many people can get behind this. The batsman should stay in his crease until the ball is bowled so he doesn't gain an unfair advantage with a start. That's where we go to Step 2.
Huraira did not take off like a sprinter at the 100 meter dash. He's casually strolling outside his crease and by the time he's actually out, you could argue Ahmad's delivery would've been halfway down the pitch had the bowler continued his action. Huraira wasn't intentionally trying to gain an advantage. We know this because of Step 3: the game situation.
At the time of the "Mankad" incident, Pakistan was 127 for 3 and needed 63 runs from 134 balls to win the match. Huraira was the in-form batsman with 64 runs to his name. He didn't need to gain an advantage for a single run. Pakistan were fully in control of the match. Which meant Afghanistan had to do something to potentially win, even if it meant resorting to cheap tricks to get a player out in a way he couldn't see coming. After the game, Afghanistan captain Farhan Zakhil came clean to ESPN Cricinfo about the whole situation.
"At that time, we realised let's do something different to build pressure on Pakistan," Zakhil told ESPN Cricinfo. "To be honest, it was not in the spirit of the game. But we wanted to win. It was a very important game for us. The people of Afghanistan wanted us to beat Pakistan. But it's within the rules - and out is out. You have to stay within the crease. If you want to reduce the pitch length to 16 or 18 yards, then you're creating a problem for us. If you want to make runs and rotate the strike, you must respect the opposition, which is why we went ahead. If we were winning, we probably wouldn't have done it."
The key phrases in that quote are "let's do something different", "we wanted to win" and "if we were winning, we probably wouldn't have done it". Zakhil admitted the action wasn't in the "spirit of the game", but said the team went ahead with it because it needed to get back in the game to possibly win it and had basically run out of all other options. Huraira wasn't getting out in normal gameplay so the Afghanistan team had to try something else.
The "Mankad" is nothing new. It's been done before and will be done again. The problem is that it's used at a time where everything else has failed and players admit it's a "bush league" tactic that doesn't fall within the flow of the game. You don't see players use the "Mankad" sporadically throughout the game. You only see this stuff being done when the chips are down and the win is more important than anything else. For me, the circumstances surrounding the "Mankad" are enough to say it's an unsportsmanlike action and should be removed from the game. The rule is what it is, but we'd see this far more often if the players thought of it as just that.
Incident 3: Bangladesh's players get in a scuffle after winning the U-19 World Cup
Here's a video of what happened when Bangladesh knocked home the winning runs in a rain-shortened final against India courtesy of UnBumf's Sameer Allana.
Whether Bangladesh's players intended to rub the win in India's face or not, storming the pitch and getting in the opponent's faces is a surefire way to get a reaction. India's U-19 captain Priyam Garg called the reaction "dirty". Bangladesh U-19 skipper Akbar Ali apologized for the incident, saying "it shouldn't have happened" while also commenting on the circumstance in which it happened.
Garg commented on the team's reaction, which came after WINNING A WORLD CUP. Whether or not words were said (and I'm sure there were words said), this seems normal. Just like the "Mankad" situation, here's where the competitive nature of players and winning comes before a sense of sportsmanship. Did Bangladesh's players have to get in the opposition's faces? Probably not. Does it mean they were attempting to degrade them? Most likely not.
Once again, these are teenagers celebrating a World Cup win against a major rival. There are very few times Bangladesh gets the upper hand on India in cricket. For some of these players, winning a U-19 World Cup will be the highlight of their professional career. They may not make it to a World Cup with Bangladesh's top team. This might be the best they do. They have earned the right to celebrate by winning the match. If India didn't want them to celebrate, they should've won the match themselves.
England's players ran around the pitch after a thrilling Super Over win in the 2019 World Cup final against New Zealand. This celebration from Bangladesh's players is no different.