ICC World Cup 2019: Consistency will be key
The team that masters the conditions and stays on top will have the advantage
The ICC Cricket World Cup, the game’s showpiece event, begins in London today. This edition is set to be one of the most open, competitive and unpredictable in recent times. Unlike during the decade of the tournament’s inception in 1975, when the West Indies was the dominant side in world cricket, or during its maturity during the last years of the 20th century, and the first decade of this one, when Australia was the world’s pre-eminent team, no hegemony exists in the game today. England is the Number 1 side in One Day Internationals, and must be seen as favourites. India, ranked Number 2 in the format, is, on paper at least, a strong challenger. But Australia, winner of five titles (three more than any other team in the world) is welcoming back two match winners, Steve Smith and David Warner, and is peaking at the right time. Despite the tag of chokers, South Africa has a strong side. New Zealand, the neutral’s favourite of the 2015 tournament, have the solidity and swagger to go deep into the tournament. Talk of a renaissance of West Indies cricket is swirling. And Pakistan, on a good day, can beat anyone as surely as it can capitulate against anyone on a bad day.
The format of the tournament will reward consistency. It is not like a typical cup format, in which the luck of the draw plays a part. Each team plays against the nine other teams in the qualifiers. The top four sides go through to the semi-final. If anything, it is akin to a league season. One bad day can be made up for. Equally, one flash in the pan will not be enough to pull a side through. It is fair to assume that the four teams to have played consistently well in the early stages of the tournament will reach its business end, the semi-finals.
For the spectator, this means 45 games in 38 days before the semi-finals, a smorgasbord of variety and delight. For the players, though, it means longer gaps between games than they were used to in previous editions. Whether that helps in rest and recovery or whether that results in players going off the boil is to be seen.
The wickets will be flat, inviting a wealth of runs. But as a nippy, early English summer matures during the course of the tournament, conditions are likely to play their part. May the team that masters the conditions as well as stays on top of its game for a month and a half (an awfully long time for such an event) win what promises to be one of the most exciting World Cups ever.