Cricket World Cup 2023 | India, a favourite, will look to recreate the 2011 magic; Australia, England, South Africa strong contenders

The hosts, yet to win any ICC silverware since 2013, will have to cope with enormous pressure in the long-drawn showpiece event; mercurial Pakistan and shrewd New Zealand can cause upsets too

Updated - October 05, 2023 11:30 am IST

Published - October 05, 2023 12:05 am IST

The captains: One of these leaders will have their hands on the coveted trophy come November 19.

The captains: One of these leaders will have their hands on the coveted trophy come November 19. | Photo Credit: ICC

In Ahmedabad, where the Sabarmati Ashram honours the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, the prime architect of India’s freedom movement against the British Empire, cricket will once again showcase its throbbing Indian heart. A quintessential English sport is now distinctly desi while the BCCI wields unbridled clout inside cricket’s governing body, the ICC, and Indian stars are feted as global icons within the limited cricketing universe.

Booster shot

When Jos Buttler and Tom Latham (stepping in for the injured Kane Williamson), who will be helming defending champion England and 2019 edition runner-up New Zealand respectively, step out for the toss in the World Cup opener at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday, ODIs hopefully will get a booster shot.

Hovering between the romance of Tests and the commerce of T20s, the willow game tends to overlook ODIs, which used to be the original maverick child drawing enormous attention.

Muted build-up

The build-up across India for cricket’s showpiece event remains muted and it hints at the sport’s saturation levels besides the obvious coincidence of the Asian Games happening currently in China.

Being the sole host of the World Cup for the first time, India would do well to draw some lessons from the past when it did organise the championship in 1987, 1996 and 2011, but with sub-continental allies in tow.

Cut to the present, teams will zigzag from Ahmedabad to Kolkata, from Chennai to Dharamshala, and other venues before finding closure on Nov. 19.

Ben Stokes, Williamson, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, David Warner, Steve Smith and Joe Root will perhaps have their last World Cup dance. It is not as if these illustrious men are done with cricket but another tilt at World Cup glory four years down the line looks remote.

This premier tournament isn’t always about winners and losers, it is also about personalities defying odds or, for that matter, even nations finding an inner steel like for instance Afghanistan. With their backyards in a shambles and individual liberties being shredded, the men from beyond the Durrand Line are out here playing cricket.

They truly embody the rugged chutzpah, grace and kindness under the gravest threats that permeated Khaled Hosseini’s great Afghan novel The Kite Runner, which incidentally just turned 20.

Australia, England and South Africa are all part of the top-mix that could test India, a favourite to lift the Cup.

The fact that India hasn’t won any ICC silverware since 2013 isn’t lost on anyone and there is the resultant pressure on Rohit’s men. Mercurial Pakistan and shrewd New Zealand can spring upsets too and, in long-drawn tournaments, ebbs and flows are but natural.

Even India, when it won in 2011, had to deal with a league-game loss against South Africa.

Among the rest, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Netherlands also get a chance to ruffle their fancied rivals and, for the nostalgically inclined, there is a heartbreak to nurse as the West Indies failed to qualify. Sport can be cruel too!

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