Sept 15, 2023: The G20 was a resounding success. The galaxy of world leaders embarking on the ancient soil of Bharat, along with their supporting Sherpas were simply marvellous. India were perfect hosts and under the leadership of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they came through with flying colours culturally, commercially and diplomatically.
With the sun setting on the G20, India will very shortly awaken to cricket at its doorstep. The top G10 world cricket nations all vying to win the prestigious Cricket World Cup’23! This is a trophy that seems to be the crowning glory of the cricket world since its inception in 1975.
The last mile to the tournament has commenced with teams announcing their squads and a few others still unsure of their final combination. It reminds one of a similar situation before a major examination, when one is cramming what one feels will be the ideal answers on that day.
The road for each one of the sides will be an uncertain terrain, as the effects of climate change will definitely have a major impact on the grounds and wicket preparations. Especially, if one gets affected by the weather and the uncertainty of it.
The wonderful format of the World Cup matches is that every team plays each other once and this does make it into much more of an even contest. The excitement and buzz of the grand tournament has already captured the hearts of the fans and followers from all over the world and the rush for tickets has been tremendous. One only wishes that the problems that a cricket lover is facing at present to obtain a ticket is sorted out and the venues made hospitable for all to enjoy.
The WC’23 will be a very closely contested affair. Teams are familiar as to how to play and plan for a 50-over encounter. There is very little to choose from between the top sides and on a given day the likes of Afghanistan and even Netherlands could be a handful.
The ODI has slotted itself nicely between the fast pace T20’s and the conventional Test cricket. Tall scores will be in plentiful. One will not be able to be secure, even after notching up a score of 300 runs. The 30 overs between the initial powerplay and the final 10 overs, gives teams the leverage to consolidate, even if they have lost wickets initially. Additionally, it also becomes a good platform for teams to launch from, in the final ten overs. This is where the spinners and the weaker bowlers will come into play and how the teams use these overs both for batters and bowlers, will play a major part in the result of the match.
An area where most teams are faltering is looking at ways as to how to complete the 50 overs rather than getting a side out. Pakistan was a good example of this when they played India in the first match of their Asia Cup’23 encounter. India were tottering having lost their top 4 batsmen and if they had taken an aggressive approach as regards the field placement and bowlers to bowl, the outcome could have been different. One also saw a similar approach in a match by New Zealand when they played England recently.
The success of the Indian cricket side against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup has brought about a positive mindset and injected confidence into the team. India were not in the best frame of mind till then. The batting and bowling combinations have been solved with KL Rahul and Kuldeep Yadav establishing themselves through some magnificent performances. India’s top order batsmen have runs behind them and with Jasprit Bumrah bowling at his best, India definitely look to be a side that will shine on their home turf.
A win in the Asia Cup would be a bonus, however, with most of the Indian players having done well, the individual comfort will be good enough to carry them with confidence into the World Cup.
One feels that the only glitch now as regards the Indian squad is the absence of the world’s best off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin. His presence on a turning Indian track would have been invaluable and India may miss him, especially against the left-hand batters.
With most teams evenly matched, fielding and especially catching will play a major part in their performance. An area where most fielding sides fail is placing the right fielder in the correct position and at the most effective distance. Outfields at most venues will be fast and therefore the captain would have to be clever in the way he sets his field.
Rohit Sharma, with a few wins under his belt, seems to be a captain who is more relaxed on the field as well as while batting. His scintillating batting in the last World Cup must be rankling in the minds of most of his opponents, especially, seeing him touch good form at present. With the young Shubman Gill and the colossal Virat Kohli to support him, along with the two versatile all-rounders in Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, India have a combination that has all the potential to be successful. They are a formidable side at home and will be the favourites to win the WC’23.
After all, India won it in 2011, Australia in 2015 and England in 2019 and all of them did so in their own backyard.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)