Someone asked me today if Australia were going to win the World Cup, and I answered that I didn’t know. I’m not sure if we honestly deserve to win it. We lost badly to India and we aren’t as good a side as England either. We’ve had trouble with our lineup, especially our bowling, and our squad isn’t ideal. We’ve had a handful of players win the game in spite of the failings of the others. This is not the kind of performance that usually wins World Cups. But who then should win?
The second favourites famously got to start later than everyone else, at the expense of South Africa, and are to date unbeaten. It isn’t so much that they’ve done better than everyone else, as it is more that first South Africa and then England have fallen by the wayside and they are still standing. Their victories haven’t been glamorous, and they nearly lost to lowly Afghanistan, but they got over the line. It was almost like they were keeping something in reserve for the knockout phase. This is the kind of performance that wins World Cups. The problem is that World Cups are often won by teams who are on a big run on, not teams who aren’t challenged. Pakistan played like this in 1999 and lost the final to Australia. England played like this in 1992 and lost the final to Pakistan. While it worked for Australia in 2003 and 2007, and arguably India in 2011 played like this too, but it’s not a guarantee that this will work. For India to win the World Cup they’ll need to lift, and they are still not lifting. Right now, if they faced the final playing like this they’d lose.
They are up there and will make the semi-finals, barring some absurd results, and, you never know, they might win the tournament. Certainly they’ve had their run of close wins, more than any other team, and if this were a football premiership I’d be saying that they are a good chance, as football premierships are often won by the team that wins the close ones, but cricket doesn’t quite work like that. Cricket is more of a momentum game, and New Zealand have lost their momentum. They were unbeaten until their game against Pakistan and now they are in disarray. While they might make the final, they don’t look like winning it.
Australia certainly have the momentum, and if they can win the last 2 matches then they will be irresistible in the semi-final, regardless of who their opponents are. They will likely be facing New Zealand, though it might be England, if England can win their last 2 matches and New Zealand can’t. New Zealand should be an easy opponent for Australia but England might not be – if they get there. If England win their last 2 matches then they will have momentum, more arguably than Australia will, and that spells disaster. If England don’t make it, then if Pakistan are there, then they will have momentum galore, and if they end up in the final against Australia, having presumably just beaten India in the semi-final, then it’ll be hard for Australia to win – and it’ll be just as hard for Australia to beat England. It’s possible but it just doesn’t look right.
Strange as it might sound England are a very good chance of winning the World Cup. They have to qualify first, and, especially against India, that is easier said than done, but if they can find a way to beat India, then they should beat New Zealand, and if they beat New Zealand then they could be 3rd (assuming that Australia beats New Zealand) and then their opponents will probably be Australia, and they might win that game, and then face perhaps India in the final, and they could win that too. The biggest danger for England, if they make it, is probably if Pakistan makes it with them. If Australia beat New Zealand and England beat both India and New Zealand, then we could have England 3rd and Pakistan 4th, and if that is the final then Pakistan could win, just as they did in 1992. Anything short of that will probably see England win.
If Pakistan qualify, either at England’s expense or New Zealand’s, then their biggest test will come in their semi-final, which is likely to be against India. Pakistan have never beaten India in a World Cup match and this will be a bigger test than they will face in the final, if they get over it. Potentially, the final could be against England, and boy what a meme that would be, as in 1992 they played against England in the final. In 1992 England were pre-tournament favourites while Pakistan were 3rd – in 2019 England were pre-tournament favourites while Pakistan were 6th. Well, half of that is identical at least. If it is a Pakistan vs England final, not only will the 1992 meme be true, but the momentum will be all Pakistan’s way and they could easily win it.
It seems silly to suggest that Bangladesh could win the World Cup. They are ranked 8th and were 9th favourites pre-tournament, in both cases ahead of Sri Lanka in 1996, who were ranked 7th and were 7th favourites pre-tournament. This would be the biggest tournament upset in World Cup history if Bangladesh were to win, surpassing Sri Lanka’s in 1996 and India’s in 1983. It would be ridiculous, and it really shouldn’t happen. Bangladesh’s chances of making the semi-finals require them to beat India – and most importantly Pakistan – while needing the World Cup pre-tournament favourites and world number 1 England to lose their last 2 matches, or at least 1 of them. Even if Bangladesh get that far, they will likely have to face against India again, or possibly Australia, and then if they get past that, the final will likely be the other one, either India or Australia again. While Bangladesh have beaten India, they haven’t beaten Australia – other than in that match in 2005 when Andrew Symonds turned up drunk. It’s just too hard to get there. It’s too ridiculous. And they don’t have the momentum. They’ve done well to win 3 matches – which is 3 more than most people thought they would – or at least 1 or 2 more. They weren’t supposed to beat South Africa. They weren’t really supposed to beat West Indies even. Even Afghanistan were supposed to beat them, or at least put up a big fight. They’ve played far, far above themselves, but to win the World Cup they’d have to play much higher again. Sri Lanka in 1996 were unbeaten, and it was at home, while India in 1983 were the 2nd best team all tournament long – just that West Indies were such a distance ahead in 1st. Bangladesh haven’t been the 2nd best team. They haven’t beaten any of the teams currently in the top 4. All 3 of the teams they have beaten have been eliminated from contention, as the bottom 3 teams. That puts them effectively in 7th spot, not 1st. It’s too big a dream, surely. Even a semi-final berth is so unlikely. But if they do somehow win, it’ll be bigger than either India’s win in 1983 or Sri Lanka’s in 1996. It’ll change Bangladesh cricket forever. It’ll change all cricket forever. A 10 team World Cup would be abandoned sooner rather than later. If the 9th best team can win, why can’t the 11th best? Or 12th best? Or 24th best?
Conclusion: Who will win?
If Pakistan qualify, my money’s on them to win the whole thing, but they are only the 2nd favourite to qualify, behind England.
If England qualify and Pakistan don’t, my money is on England to win the whole thing.
If neither England nor Pakistan qualify, right now I’d pick Australia to win the World Cup but if India can improve in their last few matches and time their run then I will pick India.
I don’t see New Zealand or Bangladesh, if they qualify, winning the World Cup.
New Zealand are a slim chance but I don’t think it’s likely.
For Bangladesh to win would take a miracle and it would be the most shocking World Cup winner in history.