Cricket World Cup 2023: Can anyone stop this Indian Super team?
India are the rightful favourites in their home tournament, but with so many quality teams nothing is set in stone. Who will lift the trophy in Ahmedabad and be crowned Champions of Cricket?
Heading into the 2019 World Cup, England were the heavy favourites. Eoin Morgan’s white ball dynamos had dominated ODI cricket over the last few years, and being a home tournament, they looked destined to become World Champions for the first time.
However, they didn’t half make it difficult for themselves, losing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Australia, meaning they had to beat both India and New Zealand to even qualify for the knockouts.
That they did, and after a routine semi-final victory over Australia, a meeting with New Zealand awaited in the final.
What followed will probably be remembered as the greatest cricket final ever, as both teams finished on 241 after 50 overs. The resulting super over also finished tied on 15 runs a-piece, but on the number of boundaries hit, England were declared champions.
England’s incredible victory marked the third successive time that a home nation has won the World Cup, and with the location of the 2023 tournament being India, it seems hard to look past the possibility of this happening again.
Much like the 2019 tournament, the format of the 2023 edition remains the same. Ten teams make up a round-robin stage, with each team playing each other once. After that, the top four teams advance to the semi-finals, with 1st place playing 4th, and 2nd playing 3rd, with the winner of this, of course, going to the final.
Normally seven wins is enough to guarantee a side safe passage to the semi-finals, but England qualified with six in 2019 and we all know what happened next.
Unlike the last edition of the tournament, the 2023 World Cup will have reserve days for both the final and the semi-finals, if rain is to play a factor.
The hosts India are rightly the favourites for the competition. As well as having home advantage, they also have the leading ODI wicket taker in 2023, Kuldeep Yadav with 33 wickets, and the leading ODI run scorer, Shubman Gill.
Gill has had an incredible 2023, scoring 1,230 ODI runs, at an average of 72.35, 400 runs more than any other batsman. As well as Gill, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi and KL Rahul have all averaged over 50 in ODIs in 2023, giving India the most formidable batting lineup in the tournament.
But in order to push for the World Cup crown, a team needs to be more than just a batting unit, and India’s strength lies in their balance. In addition to Kuldeep Yadav, India also possesses serious quality in the form of pace bowlers Mohammad Siraj, the No.1 ODI bowler in the world, and Mohammad Shami, the top IPL wicket taker in 2023.
Their depth is further solidified by the quality of all-rounders, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja. Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan also provide immense fire power further down the order depth, making India the full package. It is hard to see anybody stopping them.
The defending champions England will have a big task on their hands if they to retain the trophy. Whilst their ODI form definitely suffered a dip following 2019, the side seems to be on a bit of a resurgence.
Dawid Malan has been in exceptional form in 2023, racking up 591 runs at an average of 73, whilst Captain Jos Buttler has also had good returns this year, making 548 runs at an average of 60. The return of Joe Root and Ben Stokes, as well as the addition of Harry Brook, will help to further strengthen England’s batting lineup.
But the real issue for England will once again lie with the bowling department. Without Jofre Archer, England will have to rely on one of Chris Woakes, Reece Topley, David Willey, or Sam Curran to be the premium quick, and I fear the quality is lacking.
England’s key bowler will once again be Adil Rashid, who has been at the centre of all that has been good about English white ball cricket over the last few years. With the strength of their batting lineup you never know, but it will be a hard ask for England to retain their title.
No matter which country you support, one match will have everybody glued to their tv screens. India vs Pakistan is, and always will, be one of the biggest rivalries and match-ups in sports, with their World Cup meeting in 2019 having 278 million live viewers. This year it promises to be even bigger.
We have already touched on the strength of the Indian team, but what of Pakistan? The ‘Men in Green’ have created quite the formidable team over the last few years, with an exceptional array of fast bowlers including Haris Rauf and Shaheen Shah Afridi, who will both be towards the top of the wicket takers list.
But the beauty of the Pakistan team, much like India, is their balance. As well as having exceptional bowlers, they possess two of the best ODI batsmen in the world in Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. Openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq have also enjoyed excellent years, both averaging over 40. Pakistan will be contenders for the title for sure, and where better to do it than at the home of your fiercest rivals.
No team has won more World Cups than Australia, and the ‘baggy greens’ once possesses a fantastic team. However, injuries to key players may have disrupted their plans somewhat. That said, injuries to Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Travis Head seem to be less serious than first thought, although Head is likely to miss out until late into the tournament.
Key to Australia’s success will be the form of David Warner, Marnus Labuschange, and Mitchell Marsh who have been in the runs recently, Labuschagne in particular. Key in the bowling department will be the fitness of key quicks and the spin of Adam Zampa. One of Australia’s biggest advantages will be their recent series in India, which even though they lost, will have given them good experience on the Indian pitches.
Runners-up from the last two years, New Zealand will be desperate to go one step further than they managed in both 2015 and 2019, but what chance do they have?
The issue with this prediction is that on multiple occasions, New Zealand has come into a tournament on the back of bad form, but find said form when it matters most. Once again, New Zealand’s form has not been good this year, ODI series thrashings to both England and Pakistan suggest that their wait for a major tournament victory may well continue.
It would be the fairytale ending to the careers of Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Tim Southee if the Kiwis were able to lift the trophy, but it may well be just one step too far.
Much like New Zealand, South Africa’s World Cup history is filled with heartbreak and tales of so close yet so far. The Proteas have a fantastic batting lineup on paper, filled with fantastic 2023 averages; Bavuma, Markram, Klassen and Miller are all averaging over 50 this year.
Backed by a fearsome pace attack of Rabada, Janssen and Ngidi, the South Africans have produced some fantastic results this year, most notably a recent series victory over Australia. The key players for the Proteas will be their spinners, Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi.
The South Africans have flown slightly under the radar coming into this tournament and will definitely cause some teams headaches. If they can get over their tournament nerves, then they could well be the World Cup’s surprise package.
In terms of other teams that might surprise, Afghanistan of course has the ability to shock some teams with quality spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman, but I believe that the true dark horse of this tournament is Sri Lanka.
Pathum Nissaka and Kusal Mendis have enjoyed a good year with the bat, but Sri Lanka’s key strength lies with the ball. Maheesh Thesskshana has had a fantastic year, taking 31 wickets in 15 matches, the 23-year-old off-spinner will be crucial to Sri Lanka’s potential success but is currently nursing a slight hamstring injury.
As well as this, Sri Lanka possess some quality pace bowlers in the form of Lahiru Kamara, Kasun Rajitha and Matheesha Pathirana (whose action will remind Sri Lankan fans of one of their greats). The huge blow for Sri Lanka will be the loss of their front-line spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, who has been ruled out of the tournament with injury. Were it not for the injury to both Theekshana and Hasaranga, it is a possibility that I would be talking about Sri Lanka as a serious dark horse contender. As it is, they may not proceed to the semi-finals but they will cause some upsets.
Overall, I think both India and Pakistan are the favourites to progress through to the semi-finals, then it is up to a whole host of teams that could realistically qualify. Net run rate will be key, but I see South Africa surprising people, leaving England, Australia, and New Zealand to fight it out for the final spot. It stands to be an exhilarating World Cup.