India in Mumbai in 2011. Australia in Melbourne in 2015. England in London in 2019. The last three editions of the World Cup have all been won by the host nation. Each of those three teams were a strong unit, and they came into those tournaments as favourites. It also helped that they were playing at home, with home conditions and home crowds providing an additional lift rather than becoming the weight of ‘responsibility’.

When India won in 2011, they had racked up a winning percentage at home of 62%—roughly two in every three matches—in the trailing four-year period. Australia in 2015 went better, at 70%. And England in 2019 have gone even better, at 72%. The notion of home advantage in cricket remains relevant, but it has also ebbed and flowed over the years, in different ways for different sides.

We looked at data in blocks from World Cup to World Cup, starting from 1996, when the World Cup was held in the Indian sub-continent. The World Cup is the big goal for teams, and they tend to assemble squads and draw up strategies keeping this four-year goal in mind.

For each block, our starting date was the day after a World Cup ended and our ending date was the final of the following World Cup. Thus, we had six blocks of four years each. Further, to maintain a certain quality of opposition, we considered only those matches involving 10 of the 12 test-playing nations (Ireland and Afghanistan were excluded).

At an overall level, the data shows that home performance, after dipping, has been on an upswing. In our review period, the highest winning home percentage was in the 1996 to 1999 block, of 59%. While it has never matched those heights again, the 57% in the latest block is the closest it has come up to.

In the 2015-19 block, there are six teams with a winning record of above 60%, the most during our review period. Further, there are four teams with a winning percentage of above 70% at home: South Africa, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh. The surprise packet there is Bangladesh, which has compiled a 19-7 record during this period, while registering wins over quality opposition like India, Pakistan, England and South Africa.

Bangladesh’s record is a good example of the kind of lift that playing at home provides. In general, good sides tend to win more at home. As for sides that are a notch or two below, home advantage tends to be an X-factor they draw on.

Another shining instance of over-performance is Sri Lanka between 1996 and 1999, when it amassed a winning percentage of 85% at home, the best in any four-year block during our review period. During this period, it registered home victories over India, Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand. Yet, in the same period, outside of Sri Lanka, it won only 41% of its ODIs.

Australia and South Africa have been consistently good at home, but each has had an underwhelming block by their lofty standards: Australia between 1996 and 1999, and South Africa between 2011 and 2015. Elsewhere, it’s after a long time that England are asserting themselves at home. And the decline in Sri Lankan and West Indies cricket is there to see in their home record in recent years.

As for India, other than a spike to 72% between 2011 and 2015, it has won just enough than lost at home.

In this latest period, India is the only country with a better away record than home record (71% against 59%), though India’s away matches are increasingly beginning to resemble home matches in terms of crowd support. India’s away winning record of 71% is also the best among all teams during this period. It’s a record that has been bettered only once during our entire review period: Australia (1999 to 2003, 74%).

It’s telling that of the 60 data points on the home-away differential available, there have been only 10 instances of teams doing better away than at home. Further, in just five of those instances came from a team with a winning record of at least 50% at home, and then doing better away.

For each team, there are home stadiums where they do better than on other grounds. In stadiums that have hosted at least 10 matches in our review period, there are 11 stadiums across seven countries where the home side has a winning record of above 70%. Five countries have a stadium each, including Cuttack for India. Australia has two such grounds. And then, there’s South Africa, with four such fortress stadiums but the team remains a symbol of heartbreak at the World Cup.

Ironically, going by the previous rotation policy in place, the 2023 World Cup would have been hosted by South Africa. But, instead, it is coming to India. Will the host nation winning streak continue?

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