Wednesday December 06, 2023

World Cup in review

By Editorial Board
November 21, 2023
The Australian team celebrates victory in the Cricket World Cup. Batsman Travis Head gave the performance of the night, scoring 137 at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad. — AFP File
The Australian team celebrates victory in the Cricket World Cup. Batsman Travis Head gave the performance of the night, scoring 137 at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad. — AFP File 

On Sunday night in front of more than 90,000 fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Australia showed why they are regarded as the most successful cricket-playing nation of all time when they derailed the Indian juggernaut to win a record-extending sixth World Cup title. The odds seemed to be heavily stacked against Pat Cummins and his men as they faced India, who looked unstoppable with ten consecutive wins in the finale. But after asking India to bat and restricting their fancied batting line-up to just 240, the Aussies recovered from an early collapse to march to a commanding triumph thanks to 120-ball 137 from Travis Head. He played the lead role in a match-winning 192-run partnership with Marnus Labuschagne that broke a billion Indian hearts and helped Australia end 2023 with yet another major title following their triumphs in the World Test Championship and the Ashes earlier this year.

While the Aussies were once again celebrating a World Cup triumph, the Indians were left ruing a golden opportunity of winning their first major international title in a decade. They were the hot favourites with a team brimming with match-winners. They had the home advantage and fully exploited it as well. They had the momentum with a series of big wins leading up to the title clash. But once again, their star-studded team choked as the bolder and braver Aussies gave their best when it mattered most. However, the Indians can take solace in the fact that their team finished the contest with more overall wins even more than eventual champions Australia in the World Cup. Their biggest star, Virat Kohli, was named the player of the tournament while pacer Mohammad Shami finished as the highest wicket-taker. Pakistan, India’s old foes, have no such luxury. Having entered the World Cup as one of the major title aspirants, Pakistan finished as one of the biggest flops of the event as they bowed out of it following losses against India, Afghanistan, Australia, South Africa and England, the defending champions who fared even worse in the ten-nation spectacle. Alongside Pakistan and England, Bangladesh and former champions Sri Lanka were also disappointing. Meanwhile, Afghanistan punched above their weight and were even in contention for a place in the semifinals. The Netherlands, too, had their moments including a shock win against South Africa.

Overall, ‘the biggest ever ICC World Cup’ failed to produce the sort of thrilling games that are usually a hallmark of the event. There were too many one-sided results which doesn’t augur well for the future of the 50-over format. The rise and rise of Twenty20 cricket in recent years has put a question mark on the fate of the ODI format. The 2023 World Cup fell short of giving it a new lease of life. The World Cup wasn’t without its share of controversies. India’s poor treatment of Pakistani journalists and fans, who were deprived of visas during the initial phase of the event, left a bad taste in the mouth. The way Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews was ‘timed out’ on the controversial appeal of Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan was another low point. Australia’s Glenn Maxwell gave the World Cup its biggest fireworks with a stunning, match-winning double ton against Afghanistan before compatriot Travis Head bettered it with a knock that floored India in the final. Well done Australia, you deserved to be world champions!