We’ve been hearing a lot about the dreams of different nations, what they are aiming for, and why they think that they can yet accomplish their goals.
Their aim was to win a match or two, and, with two matches to go against teams that they have recently beaten, in West Indies and Pakistan, they have some hope of accomplishing that aim. But the fact that they threw away a winning position against Sri Lanka and failed to capitalise on a genuine chance against India will be hurting them badly. They have been far below where they wanted to be, and former captain Mohammad Shahzad’s comments, after being ruled out due to injury, yet claimed that he wasn’t hurt, have really summed up their situation. Rather than hope and optimism they are pessimistic.
Their aim was to break their hoodoo of losing in semi-finals, having in 2015 broken their hoodoo of losing in World Cup knockouts. Dale Steyn, who was the bowler when South Africa were cruelly knocked out by New Zealand in 2015 by the narrowest of margins, was spurred on to come good in time for the World Cup, only to fall down with injury that he never really recovered from and that summed up their campaign. Lungi Ngidi was off with injury too, and even Hashim Amla missed a match for precautionary reasons after suffering concussion. Whichever side you are on with the fact that A B de Villiers offered to come out of retirement to play in this World Cup, there is no doubt that that was an unwelcome distraction. They suffered the most close losses of any team, and were also forced to play an extra game compared to everyone else to make up for India’s desire to start late. It seemed like the world was against them and they became the second team to be knocked out.
After being forced to qualify, West Indies were angry, and they showed it with their shock win in their warm-up match against New Zealand, who in turn had easily beaten India, who in turn were the second favourites. A first-up win to Pakistan gained much confidence, and they were right on track to beat Australia too, until Australia refused to lie down. After that, it’s been all one-way traffic. They nearly stole a match against New Zealand but instead of a six to win it was caught over the boundary rope and dragged back in and that’s pretty much it. They still look good but with Andre Russell now out not only have they been knocked out but they are ultimately pretty disappointed about it. So much for being the dark horse.
Their win against England wasn’t just the biggest upset of the tournament – it has also breathed life into a tournament that was otherwise looking very dead. While Sri Lanka look unlikely to be the team to benefit, and England still look most likely to make the semi-finals anyway, at least the ICC will be happy that Sri Lanka made the last few group matches watchable. As for Sri Lanka themselves, they are busy making complaints to the ICC about how they have been treated. While they still can make the semi-finals, it looks very unlikely.
Ask any Bangladeshi and they will tell you that not only will they make the semi-finals but that it is guaranteed, they are guaranteed to beat India and are guaranteed to win the World Cup itself. Not only that, but they were saying this pre-tournament. Ask your typical Bangladeshi fan and we may as well just hand them the trophy. They’ve had these unrealistic expectations since they joined world cricket in 1999, when they insisted that beating Pakistan was not an upset, nor was it Pakistan not caring about it as it was a dead rubber, and Pakistan, surprisingly, agreed with them. Some people love to hear their “passion”, others are annoyed by it. They are sitting on 3-3-1 and, if they can beat India, they might make the semi-finals, though they’ll need to beat Pakistan too, who themselves need to beat Bangladesh. That match might be effectively a quarter final. Ask Bangladesh, though, and they’ll tell you it’s all guaranteed, and ignore their 3 losses. They were the upsets. They’ve been doing this for years. In this World Cup, what with more upsets than usual, they are going into hype overdrive.
Pakistan are at least being nice about it, even if it does have a bit of a fairy tale feel to it. It’s 1992! They keep repeating it over and over again. In 1992 they started with a loss to West Indies, and therefore they will win like they did in 1992. In 1992 they had a washout in their 2nd match. In 1992 they won their third match then lost matches four and five. In 1992 they won their sixth match. In 1992 they defeated a then undefeated New Zealand in their seventh match. If they do win that match, then they’ll be even more excited. Also, Aladdin came out in 1992 while in 2019 the Aladdin remake is out. You may as well just hand them the trophy. Way more fun than the Bangladesh dream. The Pakistan fans at least are just having fun with it.
For people outside of Australia, they’d think that this team who has won five out of 11 World Cups doesn’t deserve to win a 6th, but to this Australian side who just had their two best players ruled out for a year for “their involvement in” ball tampering, when they didn’t even tamper with the ball, and when ball tampering only got everyone else 1-2 match bans, this means so much. If Australia can win this, then they will have recovered in the perfect time. They are not expected to win, and some of the selections, especially of fringe players, has been strange to say the least, but they have a very good core and they could well do it. It’s not a fairy tale as far as the situation as they are the first team to qualify for the semi-finals, but it is definitely a fairy tale in terms of the ball tampering bans and the general state of Australian cricket. We lost a test match to Bangladesh of all things!
India is in a similar situation to Australia: outside of India, few care about their dreams. India are not a team you follow as a neutral. They are now the number one team, with the number one batsman and the number one bowler. As for what the dream is, it’s to try to prove that they are a good side now. Or something like that. After all, until their shock World Cup win in 1983 cricket wasn’t even their favourite sport. Now, 36 years later, it is loved so much that they dominate the sport financially. It is India that led to the 10 team World Cup after they were knocked out in 2007. They deserve to win. It’ll make the exclusion of associates, as well as two test teams, justified.
New Zealand have been the 3rd most successful team in World Cup history (behind Australia and India) yet have no trophies while Australia have five and India two. Other teams with less success have trophies so why not them? New Zealand seem to always make the semi-finals but then fail to make the final, but last time in 2015 they went one better and went all the way to the final, only to lose badly. They say in sport that you have to lose a final to win one, so New Zealand fans are hoping that they will go one better this time.
“It’s coming home” was the slogan, as England just expected to win this tournament. They never have before, but they think that this time they will. They had a shock loss to Pakistan but other than that started off pretty well, and were sitting at 4-1 after five matches and probably needed to win just one of their last four matches to qualify, with Sri Lanka sure to give them that win. But then somehow they lost, a last minute thing, when Mark Wood edged it behind off the solitary ball he had to face. Right up until then, England were winning. Right up until that moment, they looked set to cruise into the semi-finals and win the tournament. Now everything is in danger. Now this invincible looking team is looking fragile. But there is still hope. If England can win now, after being knocked down, it’d be huge, and yet if they make the semi-finals then it does look like they might well win the whole thing.