We know it all already. England and Pakistan are hopeless. After early losses in this World Cup, areas of the media have reacted predictably and declared the World Cup over. Poor Andy Zaltzmen was reduced to identifying Chris Woakes as the highlight from England’s match against New Zealand. England and Pakistan are out. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India will be the teams remaining come semi-finals.
But we should remember this is a World Cup and six weeks is an incredibly long time.
It’s almost as though no one remembers the 1992 World Cup. I was 9 at the time, and in my mind Australia never recovered from Dipak Patel’s offspin on the first day of the cup, and the pace and swing of Wasim Akram combined with the leadership of Imran Khan to bring Pakistan it’s only World Cup. At his pace, once Wasim got that ball swinging Pakistan were unstoppable.
It’s important to remember Pakistan was horrible early on. They got beaten easily by the West Indies, escaped with a no result after England rolled them for 74. Then both India and South Africa beat them. After five round of the round robin it was them, not Australia who looked most like missing out of the knock-out stage. Indeed whilst England and New Zealand looked almost certain at that stage to make the knockout, the rest of the teams were hovering around 4-6 points (or 2-3 wins) each, making it completely unclear who was going to fill out the other two spots. We all remember Wasim in the final, but do we remember that rain may have been the difference between Pakistan escaping the group stage and not?
Probably you remember the 1999 World Cup. The one where Australia and South Africa staged not one but two epic battles in a row, with Australia emerging on top to prove once and for all they were the best team in the world? Australia struggled with Scotland, before losing to New Zealand and Pakistan before defeating Bangladesh and eking past the West Indies. Two classic matches against South Africa, some Steve Waugh heroism, and a dash of Shane Warne at his Shane Warniest, saw Australia’s period of ODI dominance with its first marker.
Maybe you remember the 2003 World Cup as the middle chapter in Australia’s inevitable march to victory. But in the super-sixes Australia was destroyed by Shane Bond (6 for 23) before managing to defend a low score. They repeated this in the semi-final, posting an entirely beatable 212 that Sri Lanka failed to chase. In 2011 India lost to South Africa and tied with England before going on to win the cup.
The truth is that each of these (and other) World Cup’s had their twists and turns. There was nothing inevitable about each. This is even more profound at this World Cup where it is likely that all of the major teams will make it through to the knock-out stage. Put three games together and you have a World Cup (as we’ve said before). As I write this South Africa, who many think will win the World Cup, are losing to an Indian team that up until a week ago hadn’t won in months.
Heck, in 2007, even after losing a test series 5-0 in the most embarrassing way possible, even after being dominated for much of the one day series, the English team still won the tri-series against Australia in Australia. We need to take the early form of team’s with a grain of salt. Teams have performed this badly and won World Cup’s before.
Nothing matters until the knock-out stage – and given the schedule, any team (even England) can still win the Cup.