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Were India the best team ever to not win the World Cup?

Last updated on 23 Nov 2023 | 06:16 AM
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Were India the best team ever to not win the World Cup?

The number one-ranked team played like one but tripped in the final hurdle

Across the limited-over cricket since 2014, the Indian Men have a win percentage of 76.4% in ICC events (Mts - 55, Wins - 42, Loss - 13), the best among all teams. But they have zero trophies to show for.

In World Cup 2023, India looked so good that everyone thought it would be a cakewalk for them. But while they 'tried so hard and got so far, in the end, it didn't even matter.'

This poses the question whether this team was the best ever to not win the World Cup. They had won ten consecutive games, with five batters scoring 350+ runs and four bowlers picking 15+ wickets.

Batting perspective

India had one opener who went gung-ho against every bowling attack, a collapse arrestor who scored the most runs in an edition, and batters at number four and five who were versatile. All of India's top five batters had a century to their name and scored 350+ runs in WC 2023. 

Virat Kohli went on to break the all-time record and scored 750+ runs. This was the first WC where three batters from the same team scored 500+ runs in the same edition. 

Overall, India's top seven batters averaged 57.4 and scored at a run rate of 6.2. Only Australia's top seven (61.9) in the 2007 World Cup had a better average in a single edition. In the 1996 campaign, Sri Lanka's top seven averaged 55.5. Both went on to lift the trophy.

Not just on overall numbers, but in every phase, against pace and spin, India were spot on. 

India had a run rate of 7.0 in the first ten overs while averaging 63.9, which is the second-best in a WC edition (since 1999) in this phase. In 2015, the Kiwis scored at 7.2 in the first ten, which is the best. 

In the middle overs (11-40), the Men in Blue were going at a rate of 5.9 runs/over before the final wobble. Still, they ended up with a run rate of 5.7 in that phase, averaging 69.4. The run rate is their personal best in a WC edition (Since 1999). 

Against the spinners, Indian batters lost just 12 wickets, averaging 102.8, the best among all in the 2023 edition.  

In 1999, the Men in Blue averaged 267 in six innings and 175.3 in 2015, the best for any team in a single edition of the WC. This edition's average is the third-best. 

By all means, India were as dominant as any team could be with the bat

Bowling perspective

Overall, in the 2023 World Cup, the Indian bowlers bagged 99 wickets at an average of 22.4, the best among all teams. Their bowlers picked up a wicket every 28.1 balls, again the best. Historically, only in the 1983 WC did Indian bowlers snaffle wickets at a better average (21.8). 

In the first ten overs, Indian bowlers bagged 24 wickets at an average of 20.6 and a bowling strike rate of 27.5. They were the only ones to concede less than five runs/over in this phase in WC 2023. The next best team on bowling average was South Africa. 

The pacers picked up 66 wickets, averaging 20.7. The second-best was South Africa with 27.1, which speaks volumes of the domination by quicks. In comparison, the spinners had 33 wickets and averaged 27.5, the second-best after South Africa (26.7).    

These numbers show how dominating they were. But to prove whether this was the best team ever not to win the World Cup, let us go back a bit. 

In the 2019 World Cup, India dominated on the batting front. They had the best overall average (43.4), the best average in middle overs (11-40) - 64.7, and the best against spinners (88.5). On the bowling front, their pacers had the best average (24.1). Making them the best in four different aspects. 

Thanks to their efforts, India topped the table in the 2019 edition. However, one poor day of cricket, or, rather, 45 minutes of bad cricket ruined the whole thing. 

One other team that would consider themselves unlucky is South Africa. The Proteas, in 2015, dominated on the batting front. The Proteas' overall batting average of 48.5 in the 2015 WC was the best by a distance. The next best team in that edition was India (43.5). 

Meanwhile, South Africa wreaked havoc with the ball in 2011. In the 2011 edition, their bowlers bagged a wicket every 18.8 balls, the best among all sides in that edition. Their bowling strike rate of 26.5 was also the best among all teams in the 2011 WC. Both pacers and spinners dominated the bowling department. 

In the 1992 edition, New Zealand bossed their way into the semi-finals but lost against Pakistan. In this edition as well, their batters were on the top, not the bowlers. The Blackcaps batters averaged 37.95, the best among all. 

All these unfortunate teams dominated either batting or bowling in the said editions. 

On the other hand, we have India, in 2023, who were the commanding team in both aspects. They had the best batting and the best bowling average. Their batters were the best against both pacers (46.5) and spinners (101.75). 

With the ball in hand, their pacers (20.1) and the spinners (26.5) had the best average. India failed to lift the trophy despite topping the chart in almost every facet. 

It will be fairly accurate to conclude that India were indeed the best team ever to not win the World Cup. The hunt for an ICC trophy for India has now become a soap opera that goes on without an end in sight.

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