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Future Tense

Mohandas Menon | February 09, 2003

Does a team's form leading up to the World Cup determine the next champion? Judging from the number of people (and pundits) who have Australia and South Africa on their lips as winners of World Cup 2003, it would seem so.

But the figures suggest otherwise. Except in the 1979 edition of the tournament, which the West Indies firmly entered as favourites and finally won, the top team based on form prior to the championship has never won the World Cup.

In 1983, the West Indies, who were then the top one-day side, were toppled by seventh-placed India.

Form cuts both ways. In 1987, Australia, who were placed fifth in the rankings before the tournament began, took home the trophy. In 1992, the Aussies who were at the top of the table, failed even to qualify for the last four.

The 1996 champion, Sri Lanka, had a miserable time prior to the tournament and were placed a lowly sixth with a win percentage of 43. But the team went on to win the title without losing a single game in the tournament.

Ditto South Africa in the last World Cup. Having won 75 per cent of the matches in the four years running up to 1999, the Proteas were firm favourites. But it was the fourth-placed Australians (win percentage: 50.66) who took away the honours.

So, what do these figures mean in 2003? Australia (win percentage 73.56) and South Africa (64.42) enter the fray as the top-two teams. Will they buck the trend? Or will the current favourites end up biting the dust?

And in the midst of all that, is there hope for India, which enters the tournament placed fifth in the rankings? Or is it cold comfort?


1971-75PWLDT%winTeam position in the 1975 WC
Pakistan321--66.66failed to qualify for the semis
Australia743--57.14lost in the final
West Indies211--50.00won the WC
England15753-46.66lost in the semi-final
New Zealand7133-14.28lost in the semi-final
India2-2--00.00failed to qualify for the semis

1975-79PWLDT%winTeam position in the 1979 WC
West Indies752--71.42won the WC
New Zealand532--60.00lost in the semi-final
England17971-52.94lost in the final
Australia10541-50.00failed to qualify for the semis
Pakistan1037--30.00lost in the semi-final
India514--20.00failed to qualify for the semis

1979-83PWLDT%winTeam position in the 1983 WC
West Indies342311--67.64lost in the final
New Zealand3923151-58.97failed to qualify for the semis
England401921--47.50lost in the semi-final
Pakistan2511131-44.00lost in the semi-final
Australia6428324-43.75failed to qualify for the semis
India271017--37.04won the WC
Sri Lanka15492-26.66failed to qualify for the semis

1983-87PWLDT%winTeam position in the 1987 WC
West Indies8061171176.25failed to qualify for the semis
England492623--53.06lost in the final
Pakistan7838364-48.71lost in the semi-final
India7332365-43.83lost in the semi-final
Australia8235415142.68won the WC
New Zealand4816293-33.33failed to qualify for the semis
Sri Lanka428322-19.04failed to qualify for the semis
Bangladesh2-2--00.00did not participate

1987-92PWLDT%winTeam position in the 1992 WC
Australia7555181173.33failed to qualify for the semis
Pakistan7943341154.53won the WC
West Indies7941333251.89failed to qualify for the semis
England4823222147.91lost in the final
India7231391143.06failed to qualify for the semis
New Zealand592336--38.98lost in the semi-final
South Africa312--33.33lost in the semi-final
Sri Lanka501238--24.00failed to qualify for the semis
Bangladesh7-7--00.00did not participate
Zimbabwe------failed to qualify for the semis

TeamPWLDT%winTeam position in the 1996 WC
Australia754529-160.00lost in the final
India6337241158.73lost in the semi-final
West Indies7845302157.69lost in the semi-final
Pakistan874637-452.87lost in the quarter-final
South Africa7033352-47.14lost in the quarter-final
England381721--44.73lost in the quarter-final
Sri Lanka7833405-43.30won the WC
New Zealand6523383135.38lost in the quarter-final
Zimbabwe314241212.90lost first round
UAE2-2--00.00lost first round
Bangladesh3-3--00.00did not participate

TeamPWLDT%winTeam position in the 1999 WC
South Africa7657163-75.00lost in the semi-final
Sri Lanka8143343153.08did not qualify for the super league
Pakistan10654493-50.94lost in the final
Australia753836-150.66won the WC
West Indies502425-148.00did not qualify for the super league
England4922251144.90did not qualify for the super league
India11950599142.02failed to qualify for the semis
Zimbabwe602434-240.00failed to qualify for the semis
New Zealand6523345335.38lost in the semi-final
Kenya19613--31.58did not qualify for the super league
Bangladesh18117--05.55did not qualify for the super league

TeamPWLDT%winTeam position in the 2003 WC
South Africa10467341264.42?
Sri Lanka10761423157.01?
West Indies8838464-43.18?
New Zealand8935513-39.32?

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