World Cup 2015 review March 30, 2015

Awesome Aussies, nice New Zealand, and a Big Brother house

ESPNcricinfo's staff on their lasting memories of the World Cup

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Australia celebrate World Cup win with fans

Sharda Ugra: A fairy tale comes to life
So Australia won, New Zealand charmed, South Africa wept, India soared and stumbled, and Ireland upset. But how could you forget the impossibility of the idea called Afghanistan, which came to heady life on the biggest stage in world cricket? A country's cricket built out of nothing like any other cricketing nations in this tournament, a game introduced to one nation only from watching boys in another play over the last three decades. Their cool fast bowlers, their batsmen who didn't hold back, their palpable desire to hold their own. When they beat Scotland in one of very few tight games in the tournament, thoughts flew to 2019. Only ten nations made you want to weep. What chance we could possibly see the marvelous "Zais" again?

Andrew Fidel Fernando: Fast, furious and fantastic
There have been Mexican waves at almost every ground this World Cup. There have been mass-chants, both derogatory and encouraging, on both sides of the Tasman. The MCG became an eruption of noise during India's matches and in the final, and Eden Park's din was heard for many kilometres across the city.

But there are times when the cricket is good - truly, extraordinarily good - when it can hush entire stadiums; when it can stun tens of thousands into silence. When Wahab Riaz was hurling meteors at Shane Watson at the Adelaide Oval, the split seconds between ball leaving hand and blowing past batsman were filled with a startling quiet. When Watson top-edged a hook towards the end of that spell, the ball flew up into dead air, more than 35,000 people involuntarily filling their lungs, unable to muster even whispers. A few days later, a 41,000-strong crowd had been baying all evening, but lost its voice in the moments just after Dale Steyn entered his delivery stride.

I'll remember the colour, the fun in the stands, the music people danced to, and of course that spilling over of emotion when Grant Elliott struck the six to send New Zealand into the final. But amid the clamour, there is something special about that silence, when all else is stripped away, and we're held in helpless thrall by a bowler battling with a batsman.

The entire cricketing world (barring maybe Scotland) celebrated Afghanistan's historic win in Dunedin © AFP

Firdose Moonda: The people's Cup
From that first chilly day in Christchurch, warmed by the welcoming people proud of a city beginning it's rebirth, to the last moments in Melbourne when a record crowd of 93,013 (of which I was one), watched the home team crowned champions, this World Cup has been about the people.

The cricketers have been charming. Sean Williams opened up about how he almost walked away from international cricket, Brendan Taylor actually did. Chris Gayle revealed his struggles with back pain, Jason Holder grew up before our eyes, Mohammed Tauqir explained his team members need to have a job because that's the only way they can play for UAE. But it was in a Grant Elliott that cricket's most human story came.

Brought back from the wilderness to play for New Zealand, Elliott played the innings of his life to ensure they thrilled their home crowd and won the semi-final, picked Dale Steyn off the floor and then he was their last man standing at the grand final. I knew Elliott a decade ago when he was just a regular Joburg boy and there he was, carving his own piece of cricket history. It could not happen to a nicer man. And it could not have happened in front of nicer crowds.

Everyone from cab drivers to cleaning staff, shop assistants and spectators have got into the spirit of the tournament. That celebration of people and passion is something I will never forget.

George Dobell: New Zealand's refreshing niceness
There is a much repeated - and utterly fallacious - suggestion that nice guys don't win in sport. That it is necessary, in some way, to subjugate any generosity of spirit, any kindness, any decency in the pursuit of victory.

But ahead of New Zealand's much-anticipated match against England in Wellington, Brendon McCullum provided a reminder that none of those qualities are a sign of weakness. Given the opportunity to put the boot in against his struggling opposite number - Eoin Morgan - McCullum instead praised Morgan as a player and a man, rating him a "champion cricketer" and reminding him that "tough times don't last, but tough guys do". The next day, New Zealand thrashed England. They thrashed them with high-class swing bowling, wonderful, committed fielding and the most ferocious batting display you could hope to witness. And they did it without hubris, without posturing, without ugliness.

In an increasingly grubby sport, in a sport where "send-offs" are common and trash talk the norm, McCullum and his New Zealand side provided - throughout this World Cup - a welcome reminder that the game can still be played hard and can still be played successfully without stooping to such strategies. They may have fallen short at the last, but they conducted themselves with a class that may linger long after we have forgotten the individual results of many of these games. They were, in short, a reminder of the way things ought to be.

Andrew McGlashan: The perfect hosts
From Auckland to Dunedin, and all stops in between, New Zealand embraced the World Cup. It helped, of course, that the team played an enchanting brand of cricket, but their success and the groundswell of support fed off each other. And neither was it on show purely when the co-hosts played. With the odd exception, there were healthy crowds and vibrant atmospheres throughout. New Zealand has many natural advantages in selling itself, but it made the most of them by opening its arms to the World Cup.

Towns and cities welcomed visitors, pitches were subtly different throughout - with always something to keep the bowlers interested - and the venues ranged from beautifully boutique Nelson to the boisterous Eden Park which staged two of the matches of the tournament when New Zealand played Australia and South Africa. But when will their next turn come to host a premier global event? It's a long way off, for sure. Certainly the World Cup won't return for at least 12 years, and probably far longer if the power of the Big Three remains. Australia are due to host the World T20 in 2020 - and they will do an outstanding job - but New Zealand would be an ideal venue for the tournament except, of course, that the timezone makes it a tough sell for many of the major cricket TV markets around the world. As it stands, New Zealand will host an Under-19 World Cup in 2018 and a Women's World Cup in 2021. After the show they have put on in this tournament, they deserve more.

New Zealand showed us how things could be on the cricket field © AFP

Andy Zaltzman: Some extraordinariness, too much ordinariness
I will remember thinking how great a cricket World Cup could be. There were moments and matches when the splendour of the sport, the 50-over format, and the uniqueness of a World Cup, were gloriously displayed - the eight-hour din in Adelaide during the India-Pakistan game, the ingenious magic of AB de Villiers, the visceral thrill of Mitchell Starc, the nation-trembling Auckland semi-final, the soul-gripping narratives and the delight/devastation of the winning/losing players in matches such as Afghanistan v Scotland, Ireland v Zimbabwe, and England's heroic effort to giantkill Bangladesh. A brilliant team playing brilliant cricket lost the final to an even better one. It was so nearly so good.

But the vast majority of the tournament involved matches with insufficient competitive jeopardy and minimal tournament relevance, played over an unnecessarily long period, to the effect that there was little if any sense of a great global competition gathering and growing towards a series of defining climactic showdowns. Once New Zealand and Australia had won their opening games, for example, it would be, realistically, a month until they would play another which could affect their tournament prospects. England sacrificed themselves to keep the group stages interesting, but even this was not enough. It would be simply resolved - make it harder to qualify for the second phase (whatever format that takes), so that as many group-stage matches as possible have genuine importance, and condense the schedule. Nurture the lower-ranked teams in between tournaments, and reach some compromise in the neverending battle between the desire to maximise TV revenues and the duty to showcase the sport at its competitive best. I will remember this World Cup as an intermittently magnificent spectacle and a significantly missed opportunity.

Devashish Fuloria: The Big Brother house
Wake up, cricket, eat, cricket, sleep, repeat. Working with colleagues for long hours is one thing, working and living with colleagues for six weeks in a corner of the world, talking cricket day and night, and not being able to switch off from the game was a social experiment meant for television but without a million-dollar jackpot for the final survivor.

The cricket went on, a blur at most times, but still with a few vignettes in sharp focus. Tim Southee's burst against England, turbo-charged Eden Park games, Brendon McCullum's mad fielding, AB de Villiers' godly hitting, Wahab Riaz's spell - those few moments were life and friendship savers, the instances of everyone being on the same plane of cricket-induced insanity. Maybe there were secret cameras in this house and just maybe, in far-off Peru, on an obscure TV channel and at an obscure hour, the freak show was being followed. However, unlike the teams falling one by one, there were no evictions in the house. Like Australia, everyone survived.

A nation held its collective breath when Wahab Riaz took on Shane Watson © Getty Images

Arya Yuyutsu: The Kane Train
"He shouldn't have taken that single..." yelled a fan as Trent Boult walked into the middle. Starc was bowling the spell of the tournament in Auckland and had brought Australia to the brink of an improbable win, given their meagre total of 151.

Boult negotiated the last two balls of the over and the tension was palpable. Williamson, though, was back on strike.

"Don't take a single," yelled another fan from the edge of his seat. Four to win. One wicket in hand. Pat Cummins with the ball.

A few brief moments later the Eden Park faithful became delirious. The "Kane Train", almost uncharacteristically, slapped the ball back over Cummins' head and into the stands.

Most modern day cricketers would've jumped in joy, exulted, celebrated and gone wild, justifiably so. But Kane, well, he smiled calmly, task completed, and walked back to his team-mates' back-pats.

"Kane train, you legend!" yelled a fan from the stands behind me.