From 1975-92, England was by far the best team that never won the ODI World Cup. Out of the five editions, they made it to three finals and two semi-finals to become the most consistent team of the World Cups.
Not even West Indies and Australia had made it to 5/5 semis at that stage. Their very first semi-final was a strange one. First they crashed to 93 all out looking like they had simply choked. However they fought back and had Australia on the mat at 39-6.
England must have fancied their chances of entering the final, but the Aussies overhauled the target with no further loss of wickets. They set things right in 1979, but in the final they were no match against the Windies, losing by 92 runs.
In 1983 they perished against the unstoppable force called India in the semis. They took their revenge in the semis of the 1987 edition and in the final they were chasing 254 to win against Australia.
England was coasting at 135-2 when Mike Gatting played the infamous reverse sweep that got him out. England steadily lost wickets and lost by just 7 runs in the end in what remains to be the closest World Cup final ever.
They messed it up in the final of the 1992 World Cup too. At 20-1 fast bowler captain Imran Khan promoted himself and saw his team being reduced to 24-2. An extremely tense period of play followed and after 16 overs Imran had made only 9 runs!
The tension got to Imran and he buckled under to sky the ball. Graham Gooch went running and dropped the catch. Someone could have well told him, “Mate, you’ve dropped the World Cup forever!”
Compare this with captain Kapil Dev taking a brilliant catch dismissing the dangerous Viv Richards in the 1983 final that set up India’s win.
Imran finally scored 72 runs and his platform with Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq’s late blitz saw Pakistan through.
After 1992 England were never ever favourites in the ODI World Cup and the mantle of chokers passed to South Africa.
In fact the mantle passed in a single match. England and South Africa squared off in the semis and a silly rain rule saw South Africa chasing the same score as England despite been given two less overs.
But 1996 could be called their first choke when they crashed from 186-3 to 245 all down in pursuit of 265 against the Windies in the quarters. Then it was the infamous tie in 1999 when Lance Klusener couldn’t even take 1 run off 4 balls.
In 2003 they read the Duckworth-Lewis target wrong and failed a semi-final berth. In 2007 they crashed in the semis and in 2011 lost in the quarters to New Zealand which hadn’t won a knockout match themselves.
When South Africa thrashed the Sri Lankans in the quarters in 2015 everyone thought the jinx was finally gone but a wretched fielding performance (extremely rare for South Africa) saw them lose with just one ball to spare.
While first it was England and then South Africa for falling short, if there is one team that has been missing the bus throughout, then it has to be New Zealand. They made it to the semis of the very first World Cup in 1975.
They crashed to 158 all down against the mighty Windies. They got their next chance in 1992 when a brilliant display of batting and bowling saw them actually top the only open league of the World Cup.
Martin Crowe was the top run scorer of the tournament. In the semis after posting a competitive total, they had Pakistan on the mat but a late burst by Inzamam saw their dreams being shattered. To be fair to them they also made a very competitive 286 in the quarters of 1996, but they were no match for Australia.
In 1999 also they put up a competitive 241/7 in the semis, but Pakistan won by 9 wickets. In the 2007 semis they crashed to 208 all out chasing 290. 2011 was their landmark year when they broke the quarters jinx and they broke the semis jinx in 2015.
However in the 2015 final you could say that the Kiwis choked. Martin Guptill had the most runs in the tournament and Trent Boult the most wickets. Grant Elliot scored 84 in the semis and 83 in the final.
And yet the Kiwis crashed to 183 all down and didn’t even put up a fight.
The Indian fan is upset that we lost in the semis, but we still have two World Cups. Spare a thought for the fans from England, South Africa and New Zealand.
The three countries have had great teams in the past, come out with downright brilliant performances in one World Cup or the other but still don’t have a single title between them!The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://www.sunilrajguru.com/