Cricket has a history as old as about 200 years old and can be said to be the world’s first-ever global sport. The game began as a sport in England, as a competition between village kids to see who could hit the ball the furthest with a wooden stick has today become one of the highest revenue generating, dynamic, modern games played by billions of people around the world. Interestingly, according to the history of cricket, the first ever international cricket match was played between the United States of America and Canada in 1844, two nations where the sport isn’t very popular anymore.
From then on, the sport spread around the world to many countries, and at some places, it remained as popular as ever, while at some, its popularity declined over a period of time.
So, the question is, how many countries in the world play cricket right now?
Well, going as per the official numbers given by the International Cricket Council (ICC), there are about 108 members of the ICC of which 12 are full-time members and 96 associate members. These 12 full-time members are where the sport is the most popular and is the primary sport, generating most of its revenues from these nations. This includes countries like India, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, England, Afghanistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland.
But which of these full-time members of the ICC and the 12 cricket-playing nations has been the best in cricket history with the most success and the most World Cup wins?
In this chapter by ZAP, let’s rank the top 12 best cricket-playing nations in history based on the number of World Cup trophies they have won.
Which is the best cricket-playing country in history?
The ICC organised the ODI Cricket World Cup for the first time in the year 1975 and a total of 13 editions have been played with the latest one being the 2023 edition in India. Throughout the history of this competition, there have been 6 unique cricket-playing countries that have won the prestigious trophy. Here are the best cricket-playing nations in history based on their World Cup victories:
Australian Cricket Team:
When it comes to domination in cricket, the mighty Australians are miles ahead of any other nation. They have won the prestigious ICC ODI World Cup trophy a record 6 times, which will not be broken any time soon. The Australian Team’s history in the sport dates long back to 1877 when it became the joint first nation in the world along with England to play the first ever test match. This rivalry between England and Australia has now become one of the biggest rivalries in the sport, and the Ashes Series is a testament to their fierce competitiveness.
Having played over 860 Test matches in total, they are the most successful test playing nation in history with the most wins, the highest win-loss ratio, and the highest win rate. In the ODI format too, the country has played 907 matches and has won over 60% of their games, which is the most for any team. Their dominance has been such that they are the only team in the world to have played in the World Cup Final in 4 consecutive years (1996, 1999, 2003, and 2007) and the first and only country to have won the title back to back to back (1999, 2003 and 2007).
In terms of players too, Australia produces some of the best players in the world and that is evident with the number of legends they have had. Ricky Ponting is one of the greatest batters of all time, Shane Warne is second on the list of most wickets in history, and is an undoubted icon of the sport. Sir Donald Bradman is the batsman with the highest batting average of 99.94 in Test Matches, making him one of the greatest players to have ever lived. Other legends include Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Steve Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins and so many more. Australia without a doubt is the greatest cricket playing nation in history.
Indian Cricket Team:
Credit: India Today
Though Australia might be the best, India is the nation where the sport is most popular. The sport practically is like a religion here, where people eat, sleep, and breathe cricket their entire lives. Most of the revenue that the sport generates today comes from India, and due to the Indian Premier League (IPL), the sport has gained global popularity and the competition now competes with other giant sporting events like the Premier League, the NBA, and the NFL.
In terms of the ICC Trophies won, India ranks second having won 2 ICC ODI World Cups in the year 1983 and 2011. It was in 1983 when an underdog Indian Team lifted the trophy at Lord’s against the mighty West Indies. After this World Cup victory, the popularity of the sport spread like a wildfire in the entire country and inspired many future legends to take up the sport. One of these legends was a player who would later go on to become the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman ever. He set innumerable records and became the highest run scorer ever, the player with the most centuries in history, the player with the most matches played, and so many more. He was followed by a barrage of greats like the King, Virat Kohli, the Indian Team’s most successful captain MS Dhoni, and the current captain, Rohit Sharma.
Also Read: Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)
West Indies Cricket Team:
Credit: The Quint
The West Indies Cricket Team is like a fallen dynasty that ruled over the sport for a long time before being brought down and never being able to get back up again. During the 1970s to the 1990s era, the West Indies team was one of the scariest cricket-playing nations and consisted of legendary players like Sir Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshal, Gary Sobers, and more. They were easily the most dominant team during that period. They cruised through winning the first-ever ODI World Cup, which was held in England in 1975 and came back in the next edition to win it once again in 1979. They even reached the final in 1983 as the heavy favorites to three-peat the tournament only to face defeat against the underdog Indian Team. 1979 was the last time the West Indies won the most prestigious trophy in the sport and since then have become a struggling team due to the lack of proper management, a lack of funds, and the decline in the quality of players. Their latest success on the world stage was in the years 2012 and 2016 when they won the T20 World Cups and became the first ever cricket playing country to win the trophy twice. Since 2016, it has all been downhill for them, and they didn’t even manage to qualify for playing in the 2023 ODI World Cup in India.
England Cricket Team:
Credit: Hindustan Times
England is the birth place of cricket and nation where it all began. With a legacy dating back centuries, England continues to be one of the best team in the world currently. Though they have only won one single world cup in 2019 after beating New Zealand, their impact on the game has been undeniable. England houses the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the governing body that laid down the laws of the game. Having played 1,066 Test matches, England has won 391 and lost 320 (with 355 draws). They have made four appearances in the World Cup final (1979, 1987, 1992), winning their first in 2019. Of the 182 T20Is played, England has won 94 and won the T20 World Cup in 2010 and 2022 and stands as the World Champions at the moment.
Sri Lankan Cricket Team:
Credit: India Today
Sri Lanka too, like West Indies is a team that has fallen of massively in terms of quality and success over the years. Under the leadership of Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka's national team began to enjoy significant success in the 1990s, going from being the underdogs to winning the World Cup in 1996. The team continued to a formidable side and were considered the team to beat my many with players in the team like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardhene. They even played in the 2011 ODI Final against India at the Wankhede Stadium and gave a tough competition to India losing out to those brilliant innings by MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir. They eventually took a revenge from Indian by beating us in the 2014 ICC T20 World Cup final, but since then the Lankan fans haven’t had much success to enjoy on the world stage. Sri Lanka was even suspended from the full time members list recently by the ICC because of the involvement of the Sri Lankan government in the cricket board of the country.
Pakistan Cricket Team:
Credit: India Today
Pakistan's history with cricket dates back before the nation was created in 1947. The first-ever international match in Karachi took place on November 22, 1935, between the Australia and Sindh. This cricket playing country is regarded as a formidable yet unpredictable team. Pakistan has historically produced talented players, but their performances on the field on the match day remain very undisciplined and inconsistent at times. The rivalry between India and Pakistan is the most watched rivalry in the sport and is often highly heated resulting some very exciting matches. Pakistan was granted test status in 1952, but until the 1980s, they had no international success. They took home the ICC World Cup as their first international trophy in 1992, and in 2000 they won the Asia Cup. In the twenty-first century, they experienced further success, winning the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, the Asia Cup in 2012, and the T20 World Cup in 2009.
Also Read: Babar Azam
New Zealand Cricket Team:
Credit: Hindustan Times
The New Zealand cricket team, though always has some great players have been very unlucky in their entire history and have missed out on multiple ICC Trophies by the barest of margins. In 2015, they qualified for the 2015 ODI World Cup Final in Australia, but were outplayed by the Aussies in all departments. In 2019, it seemed as if it was finally their year, but turned out to be one of the most unfortunate results in the history of the sport. Playing the World Cup Final against England at the Lord’s, the Blackcaps tied in the game twice, in the 50 over quota as well as in the super over, but due to the rules of the game, lost the match on boundary count. Though the rule didn’t make any sense, the fact was that they had lost the final. Their first flowers in the ICC tournaments came when they defeated India in the World Test Championship Final, winning an ICC Trophy for the very first time.
South Africa Cricket Team:
Infamously known as the chokers of world cricket, the South African Team hasn’t had any silverware to show for on the biggest stage on the world. This cricket playing nation has produced some of the best players who have dominated on the world stage, like Jacques Kallis, the best all rounder ever, AB de Villiers, one of the best batsmen ever, Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock but hasn’t ever won the ICC Trophy. But the South Africa team has gone through some gloomy times in their history. They were banned by the ICC from all international games due to political reasons. The ban was lifted in 1991 and since then South Africa have come back strong being at top of the ICC rankings. With over 61% of its matches won, they are also among the most successful teams in One-Day International format.
Bangladesh Cricket Team:
Credit: Outlook India
Bangladesh have been one of the underdogs for some time now. They obviously haven’t won any major trophy in their history yet, but are famous for disturbing the tournament campaigns for many teams. In 2007, the beat India and derailed India’s world cup dreams and then in 2015 Knocked England out of the World Cup in Australia. Bangladesh's first ODI was in the Asia Cup against Pakistan on March 31, 1986. Football was the most popular sport in Bangladesh for a long time, but cricket has eventually overtaken football as the most popular sport in the late 1990s, especially in metropolitan areas. Infamously, this cricket playing the nation has suffered the most consecutive defeats in Test matches (21 from 2000 to 2002) and One-Day Internationals (23 from 2001 to 2004).
Also Read: Football vs Cricket
Afghanistan Cricket Team:
Credit: The Bridge
Cricket was brought to Afghanistan by the Afghan expatriates who learned the game while staying in Pakistan in the decades between 1980 and 1990. Most of the original members of the Afghanistan national team were born and raised in Pakistan, where they also played in the local league system, and used Peshawar's facilities with the help of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). In 1995, the Afghanistan Cricket Federation (now known as the ACB) was also established during this period. Like all sports, cricket was initially banned by the Taliban, but in 2000 it was granted permission to be played in Afghanistan—the only sport that the Taliban had ever permitted. The team is now a full member of the ICC and now is carried by the young superstars like Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and the experience of Mohammad Nabi. The cricket playing nation had an amazing 2023 ODI World Cup Campaign and will only get better with time.
Ireland Cricket Team:
Credit: Sky Sports
Ireland is one of the oldest cricket playing nations in the world and has been playing the sport on the international level since the 19th Century. Although the sport may have developed from older Gaelic sports created in Ireland, modern cricket was brought to the country in the 19th century. Ireland's first-ever international match took place in 1855. In the late 19th century, Ireland travelled to Canada and the United States and hosted other international teams on many occasions. In 1902, Ireland played its first-ever first-class match. Ireland's greatest international rivalry is against Scotland, when they played their first match in 1888.
Zimbabwe Cricket Team:
Credit: ESPN Cricinfo
Zimbabwe has been one of the member nations of the ICC since 1992 and played it’s first ever world cup in 1983. Zimbabwe, also known as Rhodesia has been one of the lowest ranked teams across all ICC Team rankings in all formats. Their best moment came in 183 when they beat Australia in a group stage match, recording a stunning upset. The ICC gave Zimbabwe Test status in July 1992, and the country hosted its first Test match at Harare Sports Club in October of the same year, against India. Due to Zimbabwe's persistently poor early Test results, there were rumours that they had been given Test status too soon. They also won just one of their first thirty Test matches, that one being a home victory over Pakistan in early 1995. They also had an impressive moment when they defeated Pakistan in the league stage of the 2022 T20I World Cup.
Which cricket playing nation has won the most World Cups?
Australia has the most ICC ODI World Cups in history with 6, followed by India and West Indies with 2 each.
Which cricket playing country has played the most number of Test matches?
The England National Team has played the most Test matches in history with 10066 matches played, of which they won 391, lost 320 and drew 355.
Why was Sri Lanka banned by the ICC?
Sri Lanka was banned by the ICC because there were intereferences of the Government in the amdisinistration of the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, which is prohibited according to the rules of the ICC.