Sydney, Delhi, Lahore or Christchurch - who has produced the best World Cup XIs?
Sadaqut Ullah Khan
Some things never change. Like New Zealand qualifying for the World Cup semi-finals: they did so for a record eighth time in 2019. Like everything going wrong with the South African campaign and the team punching below its weight on the biggest stage of all.
And like Sydneysiders taking their team close to winning yet another World Cup. In England this year, David Warner and Steven Smith piled up the runs while Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins took wickets like machines.
Sydney has a history of producing players who rise to the occasion. Three of Australia's four World Cup-winning captains - Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Michael Clarke - are from there, and there have been a lot of remarkable contributions from players like Mark Waugh, Jason Gillespie, Starc, Smith and Warner.
An analysis of over 1850 players from 133 World Cup squads through the history of the tournament places Sydney on top of the list of cities with the best overall bowling and batting performances in World Cup history. It is the only city in the world that can field a complete team of World Cup winners. There are 15 players from Sydney who have been part of World Cup-winning squads.
Take a look at the cities with the largest number of players who made it into World Cup squads.
Cities with the best batting talent
Colombo (8186) and Harare (6328) have the most World Cup runs but these were scored at an average of 29 and 26 respectively. That doesn't speak too highly of the overall batting talent produced by these cities.
When you apply a higher cut-off in terms of average, Sydney comes out on top. The city has produced several batsmen who can tough it out in the most difficult situations - like Steve Waugh, Clarke, Smith, Mark Waugh and Warner.
Launceston in Tasmania is second, thanks to players like David Boon and Ricky Ponting - the latter is second on the list of the highest run scorers in World Cups. Cape Town is third; it has produced gritty batsmen like Jacques Kallis, Gary Kirsten, Jonathan Trott and Andy Flower.
Then we have Delhi, where Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan come from.
Cities with the best bowling talent
Sydney comes out on top again. Starc has played the most vital role here, with 49 World Cup wickets at an average of less than 15. Other notable performances include 16 wickets at 16.1 by Nathan Bracken and 19 wickets at 23 by Cummins. Gillespie, Steve Waugh and Border have also made some good contributions.
Christchurch is second, with bowlers like Richard Hadlee, Shane Bond, Matt Henry, Chris Harris and Ben Stokes. Bond tops the list with 30 wickets at 17.1. Hadlee is next with 19 at 18.1, while Harris, Henry, Stokes and Andrew Caddick have also picked up a lot of wickets.
At No. 3 is Kingston, for whom Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Andre Russell and Sheldon Cottrell are the leading contributors.
Cities with the best average of Man-of-the-Match awards
Lahore has won the most Man-of-the-Match awards but that is simply because there are more top players from Lahore compared to any of the other cities. If you look at the averages, Dubbo in New South Wales, has the best average, because of Glenn McGrath. (Dubbo is about 300km away from the nearest big cities, Sydney and Newcastle, and so it has been considered as a city in its own right.)
In second place comes Chandigarh, with players like Kapil Dev and Yuvraj Singh, the main architects of India's successes in the 1983 and 2011 World Cups. Launceston owes its third place to Ponting.
Cities with the best chances of winning the World Cup
Stats of players from more than 450 cities were considered in this exercise, but it turns out only 31 cities have produced at least 11 players or more. So we looked at the best performances of players from these cities to see which one has the best overall talent to compete in the World Cup.
Some of these cities are good in the batting department (like Delhi and Mumbai) but lack strength in their bowling. Then there are cities like Wellington and Port Elizabeth that have really good bowlers but not enough quality batsmen.
The eight cities in the graphic below have the most balanced teams - with players who have performed reasonably well in World Cups.
You can see that Auckland, Christchurch, Cape Town and Johannesburg have a lot of big names but they don't have the star-studded line-ups that Sydney and Lahore boast of. The two South African sides have players like Andrew Strauss, Graeme Smith and Jonathan Trott, whose ODI records were not as good as their Test ones. They also contain quality players who haven't quite performed to their true potential in the World Cup, like Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada.
Together, Lahore and Sydney have more than 20 players who helped their teams reach and win a World Cup final. Most of these players were ranked among the best ODI bowlers or batsmen of their time. Which is why our final will be played between these two teams.
Lahore has a slight edge over Sydney in the final because of its bowling line-up - Wasim Akram, Imran Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdul Qadir. So good is their attack that Sarfaraz Nawaz, Wahab Riaz and Imran Tahir have been relegated to the bench.
The batting line-up isn't too shabby either: Mohammad Yousuf, Babar Azam, Saleem Malik, Umar and Kamran Akmal and Aamer Sohail. Not to forget that Imran, Abdul Razzaq and Akram are more than handy with the bat.
You can argue that Sydney has batsmen like the Waughs, Smith, Warner and Clarke, who can deal with any bowling line-up, and that their pace attack is fearsome, with tall fast bowlers like Starc, Gillespie and Bracken. However, they don't have any quality spinners or a proper wicketkeeper in their squad - so Warner will have to take the gloves.
However, Lahore might be displaced from the top in a few years since the city isn't routinely producing champions like Imran and Akram, while Sydney and Christchurch are still on top of the game.