Why have England never won a World Cup?
They’ve been in all 11 tournaments, they had some excellent cricketers over the last 44 years and they’ve hosted the tournament more than anyone else. But they are still on 0 wins. The answer is one simple phrase, but we will get to that in a minute.
Let’s look at the teams that have won it, and why they have won it. Sure having the best players is often part of the reason, but its not the only reason.
A closer look at some of the past winners reveals where they’ve got it right.
If we start at the 1987 Australian team, they based their whole cricketing philosophy on two things. Whoever took the most singles in a match would win it, and to get the fielding as good as it could be.
Heavily influenced by Bob Simpson, the emphasis on taking singles and rotating the strike was the way Australia played 1980s one day cricket.
The runs out produced by Dean Jones and Allan Border, both superb direct hits against India in both teams first match of the 1987 tournament set the tone for the next four weeks. A World Cup that was eventually won by Australia.
In 1992 Pakistan were up against it. They had won one in five matches and one more loss would have ended their tournament in rather meek fashion. Imran had an idea, it may have seemed like a bit of a novelty but there was meaning in it.
He walked out to the toss wearing a shirt with a tiger on it. He went from meek pussy cats to the hunter. His team followed his lead.
They went from pushovers to a team that beat Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand twice and England to win the trophy. Imran had rallied them with an inspired idea and from that point on, there was no stopping them.
Prior to 1996 Sri Lanka had decided that Australia’s plan of conserving wickets, taking singles and accelerating at the end was outdated in one day cricket. New Zealand had briefly diced with accelerating from the start with Mark Greatbatch going hard from the opening overs, but what Sri Lanka did was an acceleration from the start of the innings from both ends.
They threw caution to the wind. By promoting Sanath Jayasuriya to open with wicket keeper Roshan Kaluwitharana they attacked from the get go.
In the 1996 World Cup, chasing India’s 3/271 in a group match, Sri Lanka were 0/42 off three overs. A score previously unheard of. In fact, 0/42 off the first 15 was just about acceptable a decade prior, but Sri Lanka had changed the playing field.
They went on to win the World Cup.
In 1999 Australia had developed a slogan of ‘no regrets.’ The Australian way to never give up was tested on a number of occasions. When they had lost two out of their first three matches, when they were 3/48 chasing 272 against South Africa in the super six match, and when they were only defending 213 in the semi final and South Africa were 0/45. Australia pulled through in all times they were challenged and faced adversity. They left England with no regrets, and a World Cup win.
Enough examples. Now its time to answer the question, why have England never won a World Cup?
They have lacked an identity. They have not found a ‘our way we do things’ and as a result, have come up short time and again.
Australia in 1987 identified themselves by their fielding, and their running between wickets. Pakistan by being the hunter. Sri Lanka by their attacking flair and Australia again by their will to never give up.
What World Cup England team do you remember ever having a clear and defining attribute about them?
What England team went to a World Cup with a unique style that you could say they developed all by themselves?
England at the World Cup is more remembered for Mike Gatting’s reverse sweep in the 1987 final. Beefy Botham trudging off after Wasim Akram had him caught behind in the 1992 final or a string of early exits from the more recent tournaments were they have failed to make any lasting impressions on the cricket fan.
In 2011 they lost their quarter-final against Sri Lanka by 10 wickets. Defending 229 they didn’t take a single Sri Lankan wicket as they exited the tournament in a surrender. In 2015 they didn’t get close to the quarter-finals, finishing three points behind fourth placed Bangladesh.
The good news however for England is this. In 2019 they have it. They have found what they have been looking for. After many years without one, they now have a clear identity. They now have a clear plan and they now have the quality of cricketers to go out and execute it.
England have an excellent top order. Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root average close to 50, with both their strike rates being very good. Jos Butler will be key. He is a clean hitter of the ball with a beautiful free flow of the bat.
As their quickest scorer if he keeps going once he is in. he will win matches by himself. Captain Eoin Morgan is experienced and has been building to this moment for some time now. He has kept his team on the right track over the last few years, and knows the importance of keeping them on that path for a few months still.
With Stokes and Ali in the middle order they have players that are more than capable with the bat and handy with the ball. They may miss Alex Hales, who has played some great innings for them in recent times, but they can win the tournament without him.
England’s ability to pile on big scores isn’t matched by a bowling unit that is of the same quality. But they know their roles, and they know their conditions.
With Curren, Archer and Woakes, England have their old style English medium pacers that can do their job, especially if that job is part of defending totals that force the opposition to keep taking risks.
It’s been a long work in progress for England but after 44 years without knowing what they do in one day cricket, they look like they are just about there. They have come close in the early periods of this tournament, but have regressed since.
Now that they have found their identity, can they go about their task and for the first time be world Cup champions?