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Careers, reputations, ODI future on line as Cricket World Cup spectacle takes off at world's largest stadium

The 2023 edition of the Cricket World Cup could be the biggest and probably the most important given the future of the format it is played hinges so much on its success. It starts off where it left in London four years ago, England vs New Zealand, just that the venue this time is Ahmedabad.

Written By: Anshul Gupta @oyegupta_ New Delhi Published on: October 05, 2023 6:15 IST
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 kicks off in Ahmedabad with
Image Source : AP The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 kicks off in Ahmedabad with England taking on New Zealand in the tournament opener

24, an age when you are still figuring out what to do in life, a time in your life when you want to be a free bird, and if you are a sportsperson, then it's an age when you are just starting out or are into your career recently. By now you will be wondering why it has suddenly become a philosophy class but I really mean when I say that 24 is an age of doing anything but taking retirement. Yes, the young Afghanistan pacer Naveen ul Haq has announced his retirement from ODIs and that this ICC Cricket World Cup will be his last in the format. 

Strange uh? Well, it will not feel strange when I tell you that Naveen might not be the only player bidding goodbye to the format. Quinton de Kock at 30 has announced that it will be his last in ODIs and then there is Ben Stokes has come back from retirement just for this tournament. Also, a certain Mr. Trent Boult, who has given up his central contract and is yet to play a Test match since but has played both the T20 World Cup and now this one. The pattern is familiar but scary at the same time. It tells you everything you need to know about the diminishing relevance of the ODI format and how the advent of T20 leagues and lucrative deals combined with the gruelling international schedule has played a part in the current state of the 50-over format.

ODI World Cup still remains the biggest tournament in international cricket but the format itself is going through an existential crisis. That's a bizarre dichotomy and that's why this World Cup is so important. In a day and age where T20 cricket is the thing and attention spans are hitting a new low, a tournament comprising 48 games of 100 overs each could be asking a lot. Hence the format of the tournament and it being a multi-nation event helps big time. 

Every team plays every other side once, the top four qualify. It's a World Cup in the real sense because there's no place for hiding and no team can't be taken lightly. Ask Pakistan, England, Australia or even India in the past who have suffered losses against lower-ranked teams.

Apart from these four teams, there are New Zealand and South Africa, who also have found places in the list of favourites for the tournament. Coincidentally, these two are the only strong full-member nations yet to win a World Cup. While Kiwis have come close twice, the Proteas have been nowhere near it, especially in the 50-over format.

Hence, there is extra pressure on India. Hosts, ICC title drought lasting more than a decade, a last hurrah in the 50-over format for some of the veterans including skipper Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and Mohammed Shami. Rohit was made captain because India needed to win some silverware because the team couldn't under Virat Kohli. England took that dream away in Adelaide last year but with odds in favour of the Men in Blue, will this be that campaign?

This is probably the strongest 15 India have put out on paper for an ICC event in recent times. All bases covered, players in form and a couple of senior pros hungry to make a statement. The excitement and expectation of what could happen is too enticing to not think of but tournaments are not played on paper. 

Teams like England who have covered all the bases and are undergoing that white-ball revolution Eoin Morgan began after the 2015 debacle will shrug you off like dust on their good day. England is also probably the only team without an injury concern which teams like Pakistan, Australia and South Africa might suffer from. So where does New Zealand stand? Probably still the last in the line for everyone predicting their top four but if the last 9 years are anything to go by, they should be the first name on that knockout list.

This World Cup promises a lot because there is genuine hype maybe because of the factor that the home team hasn't won anything for a decade and all hopes hinge on this one. A few careers will come to an end and a few careers and reputations are at stake. Who knows where the ODI format will go after this World Cup, but if this tournament becomes that focal point or the medium of people's memory in the future, going back to the matches, the potential fun and thrill, then it might have done this job.


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