Take these facts. At ICC Cricket World Cup, despite playing in six semi finals, New Zealand could never play in final as they lost each of these six semi finals. On other hand, Australia also played in six semi finals and won every time. Australia won four titles and ended up as runners up twice.
England played in final three times and lost every time. Poor Graham Gooch was part of England’s playing eleven at each of these three occasions, which makes him only player in the history to lose three World Cup finals. On other hand Australian Adam Gilchrist played in three finals and ended up with winning team every time.
The case of South Africa ‘The Chokers” is very well known and much talked about in the Cricket fraternity. After making a comeback in international arena in 1991, South Africa has been one of top sides over the past 24 years. Despite all the talent and abilities, South Africa could never make it in to finals in total six appearances, they have made. In 1992, their chances were ruined in semi final by that infamous rain rule. In 1996 and 2011, South Africa made a flying start and ended up at the top of group after league stage. But then, they chocked in quarter final against a team who finished at number four in other group. In 1996, it was West Indies, who knocked them out in quarter final and in 2011, it was New Zealand. It is interesting to note here that in 1996, West Indies was not at all a team to reckon with, as at group stage, there were even humiliated by minnow Kenya.
In 1999, all Lance Klusener required to do was to score a single in four deliveries to sail South Africa to the final. He engineered a stupid run instead and caused South Africa’s ouster. The freakiest carnage though took place though in 2003, when playing at home, captain and player could not even read a Duckworth Lewis chart. The score they perceived was a winning total was actually at par total. On contrary, compare this with the performance of teams from sub-continent in the Cricket World Cup. It is refutable fact that South Africa has been a more potent ODI side overall than India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka over the past 24 years. Statistics also validates this. So far in all India-South Africa ODIs, South Africa has won 42 ODIs in comparison of 25 by India. But India has been a far better performer at World Cup as they have played in two finals during this period and won title once. In fact, during their voyage in 2011, India was only defeated by South Africa and till date India has lost all three encounters against the Proteas at World Cup. However despite all this, end results make India a far superior achiever at the World Cup. Sri Lanka also has played in three finals during this period and won title in once in 1996.
Father of Cricket, England also suffered numerous anti-climaxes in the tournament. In 1979, when England was going well while chasing in second inning, Joel Garner struck and cleaned them up quite unexpectedly. In 1987, when England was cruising in the final against Australia, Mike Gatting’s over ambitious reverse sweep costed them the title.
New Zealand’s case during 1992 World Cup is equally interesting. New Zealand won seven games in row under the inspiring leadership of great Martin Crowe but crumbled in semi final against Pakistan, who actually had a pretty ordinary tournament till then. When New Zealand was quite close to their maiden final appearance in 1992, young Inzamam struck with a whirlwind knock and spoiled the party for kiwis. During 1996, in quarter final against Australia, New Zealand failed to defend a mighty total of 286.
It would be point of great curiosity that how New Zealand, South Africa and England would perform in 2015. Can South Africa shrug off the dubious title of biggest chokers in the history of the game? Can New Zealand & England break the jinx of semi final and final respectively?
Legendary Martin Crowe has already predicted that no team from sub continent can make a cut to semi final this time (it happened last time in 1975 World Cup that no team from sub-continent appeared in semi final). If it happens then in all probability South Africa, New Zealand and England will make it to the semis. After that, it is up to them to change the course of history. All we can say to these three teams is all the best and break the jinx this time. With depleted sub-continent’s prowess and moribund West Indies, this perhaps is the best chance for them.