Of the top eight cricket teams, five have won the ODI World Cup. Of the remaining three, two have won the ICC Champions Trophy, which has been touted as a mini World Cup. Till Sunday morning, there was just one team which had won neither. Nor had it ever won any major tournament featuring more than five teams. Nor was it ever called the world’s undisputed Test champion.
When Paul Collingwood lifted the T20 World Cup for England, he created history in more ways than one and will surely join the pantheon of greats of his nation. After being the cradle of cricket for hundreds of years, no team deserved to win a World Cup more than England. With this victory, a lot of wrongs were set right and in a vague way, some lost karma was regained.
Tests… almost there
The first recorded cricket match is said to be in Kent in 1646 and the London Club formulated the laws of cricket as early as 1744. That was also around the time that a ladies match was recorded in Surrey. The legendary Lord’s ground also has been standing for about two centuries now. England played the first Test in Australia in 1877 and had the first cricket superstar in WG Grace.
Vishy Anand - breaking fresh ground
After that, it was Australia which produced Donald Bradman, the greatest batsman of all time and earned the title of the Invincibles. Test cricket was later dominated by West Indies with its battery of fast bowlers and batting legends. South Africa threatened to take that mantle before it lost out due to Apartheid. In fact, it was Australia once again which took the mantle of Test champion from the Windies.
In 2005, England got their first crack at the ICC No. 1 ranking in Tests. Before the Ashes, they had won 14 out of the 18 Tests they had played (without dropping a series), becoming No. 2 in the rankings. They beat Australia 2-1 and all they had to do was win the next couple of series and claim the No. 1 crown. However they didn’t and collapsed. The No. 1 crown was claimed first by South Africa and then by India. Today England doesn’t even look like a challenger for the Top 3.
ODIs… so near and so far
In ODIs, the story has been even more heartbreaking. In 1963, England’s Gillette Cup became the first limited-overs competition. In 1971, England and Australia played the first ever ODI. England were runners-up in the first ever World Cup in 1975. In the 1987 final, they lost by a mere 7 runs.
In 1992, after having Pakistan on the mat in the finals with early breakthroughs in the first innings (in the league stage, they had got Pakistan a miserable 74 all down!) they loosened their grip and lost by 22 runs. After making it to the semis for five straight World Cups, they failed to do so in the next four editions.
Then what of the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy? In the final, they made 218 and had the West Indies reeling at 147 for 8. Even that was not to be and the Windies sneaked in with 2 wickets and 1 ball to spare. It seemed that England was destined never to win a major ICC trophy.
T20s: Just a 7-year wait
The whole tale threatened to repeat itself in the world of T20. England invented T20 in 2003 and seemed to lose it after that. The first International T20 was played between Australia and - not England - but New Zealand. Then India hijacked T20 by winning the inaugural World Cup and following it up with the high-profile IPL.
T20 World Cup
In the first two editions of the T20 World Cups, England failed to reach the semis. In the third edition, they were really not among the favorites. Even in the final, you’d have put your money on Australia for their undefeated run and their amazing semi-final run chase. But for a change it was Australia which won all the matches and lost the most important one. For a change, England saved their best for the last.
Paul Collingwood has boldly gone where no Englishman has gone before…
…and England are the T20 World Champions!
This is one achievement which the whole world can and will celebrate whole-heartedly.
It has been more than 100 years in the making!
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger