Can England defend their crown? – World Cup talking points

By Sports Desk October 02, 2023

The sheen may have faded from ODIs in recent years but the 50-over World Cup remains cricket’s most prestigious title.

Ahead of the latest event getting under way in India on Thursday, the PA news agency looks at what topics are up for discussion.

World Cup remains a draw despite waning interest in ODIs

The conveyor belt of T20 franchise leagues being churned out is putting the squeeze on like never before and it is the middle format especially that is feeling the pinch. Former Australia captain Ian Chappell last week admonished administrators for neglecting ODIs in favour of T20s while India great Sachin Tendulkar said earlier this year the 50-over format was getting “boring” and “predictable”. The importance of bilateral ODI series may continue to dwindle but conversely the World Cup remains the crown jewel, as demonstrated by England’s Ben Stokes ending his retirement for one more shot at glory.

No West Indies, no party

There will be a distinct lack of Caribbean flair this year as the West Indies, winners of the first two events in 1975 and 1989, were unable to qualify. Full member nations Zimbabwe and Ireland also miss out but it is the absence of the Windies that will be felt the most. They bear a lot of responsibility after failing first in the 2021-23 World Cup Super League then at a separate qualifying tournament in June. But while other sports encourage growth and expand its global events, cricket has shrunk to a 10-team World Cup for its last two editions. A return to a 14-team set-up is planned from 2027.

England at the double?

England prevailed by the barest of all margins four years ago – although the boundary countback rule has been abolished and, now, there will be further super overs until a winner emerges. Despite Eoin Morgan standing down, Jos Buttler oversaw a more formulaic triumph in the 2022 T20 World Cup, meaning England will have a target on their backs. They have brought along eight members of the 2019-trophy winning side, plus the rehabilitating Jofra Archer as a travelling reserve, while an average of 31.4 has seen them labelled ‘Dad’s Army’ in some quarters. Experience, though, is rarely a bad thing and England retaining their crown would mark them out as one of the greatest white-ball sides in history.

India v Pakistan

The marquee occasion of the tournament that carries the weighty tagline of attracting up to one billion viewers. As they have not faced each other in a bilateral match since 2013 amid fraught relations between the two nations, any meeting now takes on extra significance. Witness last year’s T20 World Cup showdown, when Virat Kohli produced arguably his magnum opus to get India home in front of 90,000 frenzied fans at the MCG. While the players are said to be friendly with each other, Pakistan faced a delay – having to cancel a trip to Dubai – before securing their visas earlier this week. They have now arrived into India – can Pakistan spoil the party at Ahmedabad on October 14?

Missing pace aces

India, and the sub-continent as a whole, is historically not a happy hunting ground for pacemen but there will be enough variety in the pitches and conditions for all types of bowlers to thrive. However, South Africa pair Anrich Nortje and Sisanda Magala, Pakistan’s Naseem Shah and Sri Lanka’s Dushmantha Chameera are high-profile quicks who will miss out. There is no guarantee Archer, England’s super over hero, will get any game time while team-mate Mark Wood has not bowled competitively since July. India’s Jasprit Bumrah is also still feeling his way back to his best after a year on the sidelines. Niggles, knocks and injuries are sure to strike at some point in the six-and-a-half-week campaign and countries will have to be on their guard amid exacting travel schedules that may stretch bodies and minds.

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