World Cup 2023]
The 50-over Cricket World Cup remains the biggest prize in the sport, and it marks its return after 4 long years away. Some teams have changed drastically in that time, while others continue to follow the formula which worked an entire World Cup cycle ago. Four other major ICC trophies have been awarded in the duration since the previous ODI World Cup, but when it returns this October, it will be the biggest draw of all.
India are once again hosts, for the fourth time. They will also enter the tournament as favourites — going back to the 2011 World Cup, every edition has been won by the country hosting. India always has high expectation on its back, but this will be doubly the case at a home World Cup. Anything except a win won't be enough, as the time since India's last ICC trophy grows longer every year.
In their way stand the defending champions England, who even 4 years later are perhaps the finest white-ball team in the world. They will miss the relentless pace and accuracy of Jofra Archer, but their destructive power and core of the 2019 team remains intact under new captain Jos Buttler. Their opponents from that famous 2019 final, however, are much-changed. New Zealand battled disappointment against losing to a boundary count and lifted their first major ICC trophy, and have added exciting batting talent in Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips. The compromise reached with Trent Boult will mean they have experience leading their bowling as well.
Australia can never be written off in a World Cup as the five-time champions and possessing a vast array of tools at their disposal. The coming months will be important as they figure out how to arrange them, with Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head recently opening the batting and doing phenomenally in Indian conditions. If they figure out a formula, they might be tough to stop.
Pakistan’s white ball ability is at an all-time peak, but their talent will need to deliver. Babar Azam leads a very capable batting group and a phenomenal bowling attack, and Pakistan will have no excuses for underperforming at a tournament with conditions favourable to them. The allure of a first World Cup title in 30 years will be equal parts pressurizing and incentivizing.
South Africa, a fixture of World Cup knockouts for the longest time, had a torrid time in England in 2019, and are in something of a rebuild themselves. The coming months are important for them to fill up the gaps in their team, but they will rely on the brutal pace of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, and Marco Jansen to carry their hopes to silverware.
Bangladesh and Afghanistan occupy a similar sort of location in this tournament: they have chances to beat their opponents because of their expertise in subcontinental conditions, and will always be a threat to steal away some games here and there with a magical spell by Rashid Khan or a stoic innings from Shakib Al-Hasan. Afghanistan in particular are ones to watch: after 9 losses from 9 in the 2019 World Cup, they are fighting for pride and have only grown as a cricketing nation. From match to match, both these teams can be as dangerous as any.
The last two spots at the World Cup will be taken up by qualifiers, currently battling it out amongst each other for a chance at World Cup glory. Sri Lanka look set to earn their spot, keeping their streak alive, but West Indies stand at risk of missing their first ever World Cup following losses to Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, both of whom are in prime position to battle it out for that final spot.