Australia (Grade A+)
Australia started the tournament by being played off the park by India then South Africa. The team looked old, imbalanced and uninspired by its leadership. But you don’t win five World Cups without knowing that it’s not the first two matches that matter, it’s the last two. By then, the team was populated by men in form with confidence running high, best exemplified by the quality of the fielding, astonishing after a treadmill of a year spent in and out of hotel rooms under the gaze of security. One of the great triumphs in cricket history.
Patrick Cummins. No longer the tearaway teenage quick, he is now all angles and hard lengths with the older ball, keeping the tourniquet tight with the field up saving one. Unquestionably the leader of his team, he commands respect from friend and foe and does it all without remonstrations nor verbals. He even batted well too. In every sense, the least ugly Australian cricketer of this century
Like his fellow all-rounder, Cameron Green, Marcus Stoinis never really got going and, once it became clear that Glenn Maxwell and a fit again Travis Head offered much more with bat and ball, they wore the bibs and ferried the drinks. As flops go, they had pretty good tournaments.
India (Grade A-)
Rohit Sharma’s men carried all before them for ten matches buoyed by national (maybe nationalist?) fervour and an aching desire, from Mumbai to Kolkata, to crown King Kohli in Ahmedabad. Did it get to them (or even, whisper it, to him) in that cauldron? Sure there was a crucial toss and an opposition brimming with nous, but to be beaten so comprehensively will sting with, for some of the side’s legends, no chance of redemption.
Though the uncrowned king was made Player of the Tournament, Mohammed Shami’s 24 wickets at 10.7 at a strike rate of one every couple of overs, are figures that might never be matched in future editions. After coming into the side late, he pretty much solved soft ball bowling on slow, flat strips, finding swing and bite off the surface, never allowing batting momentum to build. The tournament’s outstanding bowler, and by a distance too.
Ravichandran Ashwin. A late draft for the squad, he must have had expectations of playing a significant role – why else bring him in? But even after the batter who bowls, Hardik Pandya, was injured and the bowler who bats, Shardul Thakur, lost his place, the veteran still failed to get a place in the XI. Travis Head must have been delighted.
South Africa (Grade B)
Did the absolute shellacking by the hosts in the meaningless penultimate group match raise those old scars to the surface? Sure they got over a terrible start in the semi-final with a superbly judged partnership between David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen, but, at the death, they had 45 balls at Mitchell Starc and Partick Cummins batting under intense pressure with little to come after them – and they couldn’t get them out.
In his valedictory ODI series, Quinton de Kok batted like a dream at the top of the order, hitting sixes and fours with effortless timing and supercharging the innings, making life much more straightforward for those who followed him. He also kept spectacularly – and he needed to, particularly to the new raw fast man, Gerald Coetzee, a cannon, if sometimes a loose one.
Temba Bavuma. Was he fit? If not, it’s surely his job as captain to step aside in favour of someone who could fulfil the opener’s role, something he could not do effectively at any point in the eight matches he played. Nobody was quite sure what was happening in the semi-final as the cameras kept finding his wicketkeeper and most experienced player apparently setting his fields.
New Zealand (Grade B)
Bridesmaids again after a strong opening run of victories yielded to lost momentum when up against the stronger sides in the competition. The schedule played a role in raising expectations, but semi-finalists was probably the best they could do and they did that, even if they ran into the Indian juggernaut that flattened them in the semi-final.
Rachin Ravindra. The man named for RAhul and saCHIN (allegedly) isn’t quite in their class yet, but, trusted to play in the top order after just 12 ODIs prior to this World Cup, he delivered a fluent 578 runs at a strike rate in excess of 100 with just Kohli, Rohit Sharma and de Kok scoring more. He has the brightest of futures ahead of him but faces, as so many do, the tricky navigation between Test, ODI, T20I and franchise cricket.
Tim Southee. It was probably a tournament too far for the old warhorse, 35 next month, but with many miles on the clock. He played just four matches and signed off from ODI World Cup cricket with tales of what might have been. Nevertheless, he has graced his country and the game.
Pakistan (Grade C+)
What, then, to make of Pakistan? A disastrous sequence of four consecutive defeats pretty much scuppered their chance of progressing before it had even got off the ground, starting with an emotionally painful hammering by India and rounded off with a psychologically painful one wicket defeat to South Africa whose tail, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi, batted out 41 balls between them to slither over the line.
Mohammad Rizwan scored almost 400 runs at almost 100 and kept wicket, thereby lifting his side in both innings of matches, a reliable livewire in a team that can slide as often as it soars.
Shadab Khan. Aged 25, but with plenty of experience, he balances Pakistan’s batting and bowling but could not get going in either discipline. With wrist spin so critical a weapon in white ball cricket, his return of just two wickets at an average and strike rate well over 100 represents a poor return from so key a man in the XI.
Afghanistan (Grade B+)
Nobody is calling them minnows any more. Given their backstory, that such a statement can be made without so much as a raised eyebrow is a testament to the skills and wills of the men who play their cricket in exile. Say what one likes about whether they should be there at all – Afghanistan are in breach of ICC regulations with regard to their obligations to support women’s cricket – the hearts of the players on the field cannot be questioned.
All-rounder, Azmatullah Omarzai, is a handy sixth bowler who might go for a few but might get you wickets too, and he came of age as a batter in this World Cup, building on just 13 previous appearances for his country by notching an ever-present record. He never scored fewer than 14 and missed out on a maiden century in the last match, 97 not out against South Africa. Like his 62 against India, it shows he’s ready to move to the next level of his career.
Harsh to name Rahmanullah Gurbaz as he is only 21 still, but is reaching the stage where coaches and captains look for consistency to back up mercurial talent. His 80 up top against Pakistan and 65 against England, his country’s standout wins, shows his importance to the team – but just one score above 25 (47 vs Bangladesh) in the other seven matches, tells the tale of what might have been.
England (Grade D-)
A miserable defence of a hard won title was only rescued from adjectives like shameful and disgraceful by a couple of late wins when the only stakes were what vestiges of professional pride were left to salvage. The roots of the shambles lie in the structure of both the domestic game in England and the lack of specific preparedness for this tournament. It must never happen again.
One can argue whether an injured Ben Stokes should have been selected at all, but, once he was, he had to give everything on the park and he did. Second highest run scorer in just 6 matches, he averaged over 50 in a struggling side.
Jos Buttler hit 16 boundaries in nine innings – in peak form, he’d hit 16 boundaries in nine overs. His captaincy appeared a little shellshocked at times, and one felt his curiously paradoxical schedule, relentless yet strangely short of consistent time in the middle, caught up with his over-extended responsibilities as key batter, wicketkeeper and captain.
Bangladesh (Grade D)
Though their opening win against Afghanistan looks better in the rear view mirror, it merely presaged six consecutive crushing defeats in a miserable tournament, which will be remembered solely for Shakib Al Hasan’s miserable appeal to dismiss Angelo Mathews.
Mahmadullah is older than Shakib and brought all of his 37 years to the middle, much the most consistent batter in the order. His 111 at a run-a-ball in a forlorn chase of 383 against South Africa was supported by just 105 runs off the other ten bats. Which tells its own story.
Shakib has talent to burn and, at the age of 36, he’s still burning it. He’ll retire with a set of stats to rival the best to play white ball cricket, but, like his performance in this tournament, he never seems to be capable of summoning all that potential when he most needs it. Though his was by no means a weak tournament, in an outplayed team, he was sixth in the batting and third in the bowling averages – which is not good enough.
Sri Lanka (Grade D)
After losing their opening three matches, consecutive wins over whipping boys, The Netherlands and a moribund England, sparked hopes of a charge to the semi-finals. But a dispiriting defeat to Afghanistan started a run of four heavy defeats and, with a postscript of an ICC ban, completed a desperately disappointing tournament for the Lankans.
Left arm pacer, Dilshan Madushanka, is the kind of white ball bowler all sides look for and his 21 wickets (no other Lankan hit double figures) shows how important he was to his country’s efforts. He has made a fine start to his international career and might just be the long hoped for successor to Lasith Malinga.
Nobody expected Angelo Mathews to bowl as effectively as he did after such a long time without ball in hand, but his batting was a sore disappointment. He played his first World Cup match alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Mutiah Muralidaran and, with his last now surely behind him, he marks a severing of the last link to that golden age of Sri Lankan cricket.
Netherlands (Grade C)
Never mind anything else, they’ll always have a World Cup win over a strong South Africa side to look back on, a glorious high for an enthusiastic, if largely outclassed, team.
Scott Edwards was Player of the Match in that win and, as captain, finisher and wicketkeeper, shouldered a Dhoni-like job description for his team.
Roelof van der Merwe is an experienced pro who usually finds his way into a white ball match with bat or ball, but the years had caught up with him and a return of six wickets and 68 runs in eight matches is a disappointing conclusion to his World Cup career.
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