Sept 22, 2023: The ICC along with the BCCI seems to follow the successful road of the Indian Premier League for the upcoming WC ’23. A pulsating theme song with the exuberant Ranveer Singh dancing to the beat like only he could, is just the rhythm that the WC ’23 required to liven up the proceedings.
This edition of the World Cup, will in all respects move at the same breathtaking tempo. Every team has batters who are renowned for their brutal force and hard-hitting capabilities. The tally of sixes will exceed numbers that one has never imagined before.
The challenges that all teams will face is the travel and fatigue factor. Commuting around India is never easy. One cannot equate this with the T20 format of the IPL. The ODI 50 overs a side has the base as well as the top icing of a T20 match, however, the 30 overs in between is the core on which teams will construct, consolidate and compile their innings.
The batters will be tested for speed and sustained stamina, as October in India can be very harshly hot and humid. The running between the wickets will test the fitness capabilities of most batsmen. However, bowlers will be most tested, as with field restrictions and aggressive batters to contend with, it could lead to a heavy load on their body. The challenge for the support staff would be to get each one of them fit and ready for the next game. Every match could be the decider between a team qualifying into the Final Four or not.
This is what makes a tournament like the ODI World Cup so interesting. In a bilateral series, players can be rested and replaced. Although being an International game, these series do not have the intensity that is generated at a world competing stage. Teams cannot afford to blink even for a moment as a loss of momentum could be disastrous in the final outcome.
India, seems to be close to having their playing eleven in place. The injury to Axar Patel, if he does not recover, could give them the option of including the world’s leading off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin. He is a proven entity and one is amused to read when people want to evaluate his performance against Australia before the World Cup to decide on his inclusion.
The minimum 70 meters boundary is a good initiative being advocated by the ICC at all the playing venues. The lack of seam movement after the initial overs and the dew factor later in the evening, could lead to an arduous task for the bowlers. Any additional yards would be a boon for them and the ICC should extend it to the maximum yardage, wherever possible. This would make it a more even contest between the bat and the ball.
The WC ’23 will be most challenging for the support staff that works tirelessly behind the scenes. Each team will be playing 9 matches in the league stage and keeping players fit and well could be a humongous affair. Similarly, the coach will need to keep his wards in the best mental state and also keep them together and focused every single day.
This is never easy, as team and individual failures are a part and parcel of cricket and most sides lead to disarray when it happens. Two of the top-level teams that have never won the World Cup trophy so far, are New Zealand and South Africa. Both these teams have players who are now familiar with the Indian conditions, having played in the IPL. New Zealand, one felt, deserved to win in 2019. Luck did not favour them, when they most needed it. With the return of Kane Williamson, their prolific batsman and astute captain, surely they must be eager to start the proceedings with a victory in the opening match against England. It would be true justice for a team that stood tall even in defeat.
South Africa, branded as ‘chokers’ in the cricketing world because they seem to fail just before the finish line, looks a side that is peaking at the right time. They have a talented side of skillful and hard hitting batters, and fast as well as spin bowlers. The area they seem to have improved most is in their fielding and this could be beneficial to them in their quest to win the cup this time around.
Pakistan, although being on top of the ladder as regards One Day ranking, seems to be a side that has lost its momentum and confidence with defeats in the Asia Cup. A loss against India, a team that they have never beaten in a World Cup, may take a lot out of them to get back on track.
India, Australia and England are the front-runners to win the cup. The three have been the holders in the last three editions. The wonderful aspect of the WC ’23 is that there are three equally good sides who could upset the applecart of the hot favourites. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are no pushovers. The Netherlands too have a few good players amongst them.
The 3 ‘F’s will decide on the outcome, Fitness, Fielding and Fate. The latter being the only one that none of the 10 teams have any control over. However, they will all wish for the golden pass from above, in the presence of Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth and Sachin Tendulkar, who have been given the golden pass below.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)