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The Impact of Australia's Cricketers on India's World Cup: A Review
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The Impact of Australia’s Cricketers on India’s World Cup: A Review


The official slogan for the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup was “It Takes One Day.” While this may seem unenthusiastic – focusing on only eight hours of sports excitement instead of a full day – the truth was that the event was actually quite exhausting.

After 46 days and 48 matches in 10 different cities, with countless air miles traveled, the tournament culminated in an ideal platform for the top players and an unexpected turn of events: Australia emerged victorious in the final, crushing India’s hopes and securing their sixth men’s title.

The good

Amid concerns about the future of one-day international cricket, the tournament experienced a surge in attendance and TV viewership. According to Wikipedia, it was the third most-viewed page globally in 2023. While the format may not be as popular for bilateral matches, its quadrennial event remains highly coveted.

The outcome of this was greatly influenced by the chaotic spectacle that is Indian cricket and a determined home team that moved forward with the intensity of a bull in Pamplona. However, Australia ultimately thwarted India’s efforts by outplaying them in the final moments, preventing Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting the desired photo opportunity. Reluctantly, he presented the trophy to Pat Cummins and, as depicted in memes, left the scene to the theme song of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Australia dominated in the knockout round, thanks to Cummins’ impressive captaincy, excellent fielding, and a strong century by Travis Head. This also put an end to the three-time home champions, adding excitement to a competition that was in danger of becoming too predictable. However, the 92,000 spectators and viewers at home were unlikely to find comfort in this fact.

Did India fall victim to their own trap? Many felt a sense of joy at this revelation, following reports that their team had a hand in creating the challenging pitch in Ahmedabad. Regardless, it was a harsh defeat for a team that had performed admirably. And to give credit to the ground staff at all 10 venues, the range of pitches and conditions seen over the course of seven weeks was superb.

They allowed for technicians such as Virat Kohli to showcase their class, so, too, a Twenty20 maverick such as Glenn Maxwell, whose unbeaten 201 against Afghanistan was spoken about as one of – for mine, the – greatest ODI innings of all time. But bowlers were in the contest, India’s attack the irrepressible pick of them until the last. Mohammad Shami struck a blow for purveyors of seam-up precision in a world of T20 Bertie Bassetts; so, too, did Australia’s big three quicks.

South Africa’s run to their inevitable semi-final heartbreak featured some wonderfully dynamic batting, while Afghanistan’s four wins – including England’s debacle in Delhi – made for heartening fare (even if offset by the ban on women’s cricket back home). Having elbowed aside West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe in the qualifiers, the Netherlands also snatched two juicy group stage pelts: South Africa and Bangladesh.

Afghanistan’s Fazalhaq Farooqi appeals successfully for the wicket of Jonny Bairstow in his side’s win over England.

Several promising new players have emerged, including Rachin Ravindra of New Zealand, a talented left-handed batsman, Gerald Coetzee of South Africa, known for causing trouble on the field, and Azmatullah Omarzai, a fearless opener for Afghanistan who plays alongside a strong group of aggressive bowlers. It may have been the last World Cup for Kohli and Rohit Sharma, but they both showcased their exceptional skills in one-day internationals, even if they didn’t bring home the trophy.

The bad

The criteria for a “good game” are often quite demanding, but there were not many close matches. The decrease in bilateral ODI cricket worldwide may have played a role, as players accustomed to Twenty20 matches may have lost motivation too quickly despite having more time to play in 50 overs.

It took 26 matches before South Africa narrowly defeated Pakistan by one wicket in Chennai, causing some nail-biting tension. However, this outcome also raised concerns about the tournament’s format, as the semi-final spots were seemingly decided with 19 group games left to be played and many uncertainties remaining.

During the event, Afghanistan briefly posed a potential threat that could have caused a major upset, but Maxwell’s impressive performance in Mumbai saved the day. While the current format of all teams playing against each other has its advantages, the proposed change to 14 teams and two groups in 2027 could add even more excitement and risk.

In the year 2023, there was some negativity surrounding the conversation, especially during India’s semi-final win against New Zealand. The Daily Mail had shared concerns from International Cricket Council’s pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, about potential interference in preparing the Wankhede Stadium’s surface. Despite this seemingly credible story, with quotes from Atkinson in a leaked email, it was met with a barrage of anger and accusations of “propaganda” from Indians. Sunil Gavaskar even went as far as calling reporters “idiots”.

The number of traveling fans was low due to the delayed announcement of fixtures, which occurred only 100 days before the start. Additionally, tickets were not available for purchase until six weeks before the event due to schedule changes. Despite a slow start, the enthusiastic Indian crowd created lively atmospheres, particularly at Kolkata’s famous Eden Gardens. However, with more advance notice, there may have been a larger presence of visiting team supporters (except for Pakistan’s followers, who were unable to obtain visas).

Despite having fewer visitors, the environmental impact of the tournament was still significant due to the teams constantly traveling across India. The ICC did not make exaggerated statements about mitigating this impact, unlike Fifa in Qatar the previous year. However, the ongoing partnership between the ICC and Aramco speaks for itself.

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The ugly

England, despite their initial intentions to stay until the end of the event, ended up facing defeat and humiliation before the night was even halfway through.

Jos Buttler made it clear that his team had no plans to defend their title. Despite losing six out of their first seven games, they were able to fulfill their goal as a team that had previously achieved great success in 2019 but had limited playing opportunities and were now facing a decline in performance.

Jos Buttler

Before the team left, there were conflicting messages about who would be included in the provisional squad, particularly regarding Harry Brook’s absence. However, he ended up making the cut. Ben Stokes also returned from retirement but injured his hip upon arriving in India. This uncertainty affected the team’s strategy and by their fourth game against South Africa in Mumbai, where Buttler chose to bowl first in extreme heat, all 15 players in the squad had been used.

The team arrived late to prepare compared to Australia and New Zealand, causing their already weaker bowlers to struggle with finding the right lengths until it was too late. The batting also faced a decline in performance and identity, as seen in Buttler’s average of 15 and his constant hesitancy between sticking or changing strategies, similar to his past performances in Test matches.

In the end, the team’s director, Rob Key, acknowledged that his complacency had been the cause of their only mildly successful performance, with two late wins and qualification for the Champions Trophy. He had believed that things would work out on the night and that their past successes in Bazballing Tests and T20 World Cups would carry them through.

Key was shielding Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott – the latter’s messaging queried by Eoin Morgan from the sidelines – and it felt a card that could be played only once. With a daunting Test tour of India starting in January, possibly too soon also.

Lessons learned

England was reminded that the world has progressed from 2019, while India learned that being the top team until the final does not guarantee success. As for the entire tournament, its duration may not change but the cricket played is still captivating. It is uncertain whether this was a strong display of the ODI format or a sign of its decline as T20 dominates the scene.

Source: theguardian.com