Phil DeFreitas has come closer than most to winning a World Cup for England but the former all-rounder is backing the class of 2019 to go one better than his own near misses.
DeFreitas featured in two of England’s three final appearances, losing to Australia in 1987 and Pakistan in 1992, and also reached the quarter-finals in his swansong four years later.
The tournament is wound tightly around the story of DeFreitas’ career – only James Anderson and Alec Stewart top his 22 appearances at that level and he sits second among England’s wicket-takers behind Sir Ian Botham.
And while that is a source of pride to the 53-year-old, the disappointments hit hard enough for him not to keep track of his runners-up prizes.
“I haven’t got a clue where my medals are. I don’t even know,” he told Press Association Sport.
“The second time I just didn’t want to know, I was so upset. I always look back at being part of those events as a great privilege, it was fantastic to finish my career with two World Cup finals to my name, but of course the disappointment is not winning one. In both games we had great opportunities.”
DeFreitas was just 21 when he appeared in the ’87 final in Kolkata and fresh from the career high of bowling the great Sunil Gavaskar for four in the semi – a game that turned out to be his farewell appearance for India.
He jokes that “Mike Gatting cost me an MBE”, a light-hearted reference to the captain’s ill-fated reverse sweep when England were in charge, but also felt he had a chance to be the hero in the seven-run defeat.
“I went in at the end and picked out the tallest player on the field, Bruce Reid. If it had been anybody else it was six runs and we were away,” he said.
“Looking back it was an amazing experience.”
Five years later it was a different story. England were a much improved team by then and were buoyant heading into the Melbourne showpiece against Pakistan.
In the end they were 22 runs short, with DeFreitas the penultimate man to fall in a doomed chase.
“We had played fantastic cricket in the quarters and the semis. We were so confident, had such belief, that I remember talking to Neil Fairbrother about how we were going to celebrate,” he recalled.
“We were such a great team, we just felt it was our time…like our name was on the trophy. Wasim Akram just bowled fantastically and there were one or two decisions that didn’t go our way. But it was sad, one of the moments that hit me the hardest.”
England have never come so close again. The last six editions have yielded only various levels of disappointment but DeFreitas is certain the drought is due to end.
“I honestly thought we’d have won one by now, I’m amazed we haven’t,” he said.
“I wish the troops all success this summer and I do believe. I believe that after all this time this is our year.”