Preview – the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup

Dear reader,

The tournament – the thirteenth edition (yes, it’s bound to be unlucky for some ) – hosted in India, starts on 5 October and lasts for about six weeks. Ten sides are competing. Each side plays each other side once and the top four progress to the semi-finals. The ten teams comprise nine full ICC members – Ireland, West Indies and Zimbabwe missed out – plus The Netherlands.

The first game, between the participants of the epic final of the 2019 final, England and New Zealand, takes place In Ahmedabad, where temperatures are currently in the mid-thirties. This 50-over tournament is going to be gruelling for everyone. There are nine venues located all over the country; India and England are due to play in all of them. Thinking about the travel, let alone the actual play, is enough to make you feel exhausted. Fitness, stamina and mindset will be huge factors. That said, many of the leading players will have had plenty of experience of the conditions because of the Indian Premier League.

As to who is going to qualify for the semi-finals, it is difficult to see any of the lesser sides making it. By the “lesser” sides one means, with all respect, The Netherlands, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Each of these teams, with the probable exception of The Netherlands, is capable of winning two or three matches. None of them, though, has the batting strength consistently to threaten the top sides (and Sri Lanka, the best of the four, have lost their two best bowlers to injury).

That leaves the remaining six to squeeze into four semi-final places. It seems to be more or less a given that India and England will qualify. India are hosts – the host nation has won each of the last three World Cups, the top- ranking ODI team, and just look an amazing squad on paper. England are champions – captain Jos Buttler is at pains not to emphasise that – and have been busy revolutionising all formats of the game in a way which often seems to bamboozle opponents. They are quite an old side. The squad includes seven of those who played at Lord’s in 2019, plus Moeen Ali, who didn’t play at Lord’s but featured significantly in the earlier stages, David Willey who missed out in 2019 because he was jettisoned to accommodate Jofra Archer (now injured), and Dawid Malan, who is 36.

Australia seem very likely to join India and England. They too have a highly experienced squad but not an especially well-balanced one. They too have been unlucky with injuries, losing Travis Head, at least for the start of the tournament, and Ashton Agar. They have only one full-time spinner, Adam Zampa, which seems risky on the sub-continent.

Lots of people will want Pakistan to do well. Weather permitting, 120,000 people will be watching them play India at Ahmedabad, and countless millions on television. In Babar Azam they have arguably the world’s most exquisite batsman, and they have other wonderful players. Any neutral observer, if there were such a thing, would want them to win the World Cup.

New Zealand always get through to the semi-finals of the Men’s World Cup; it’s one of the unwritten rules. They looked a bit out of their depth in the recent series against England but the great Kane Williamson seems to be fit again and, basically, you just can’t rule them out.

South Africa are the hardest side to judge. They seem to be wavering somewhere between the top five and the bottom four. One can imagine them beating India and losing to Afghanistan. They have proven match-winners in players like David Miller. But the loss of ace strike bowler Amrich Nortje is a cruel blow.

If I had to choose four semi-finalists, they would be India, England, New Zealand and Pakistan.

And I would pick England to win the tournament because they play the crunch situations in the big games better than anyone else.

An eleven to look out for:

Shubman Gill
Jonny Bairstow
Babar Azam
Daryl Mitchell
Ben Stokes
Jos Buttler (c, wk)
Hardik Pandya
Ravindra Jadeja
Shadab Khan
Kagiso Rabada
Mark Wood

In case you are interested you can find reviews of each of the first eleven World Cups (dating from 1975 to 2015) on my website, posted between 18 and 29 May 2019. The 2019 competition is dealt with in seven articles posted between 10 June and 16 July, comprising three first-hand reports, descriptions of the round-robin stage generally and an account of the final (the last three articles are linked below).


Bill Ricquier

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