The gentleman’s game, Cricket would be in all its glory during the 12th World Cup being hosted by England and Wales, from 30 May to 14 July 2019. The ICC (formerly International Cricket Council) is the organiser for the one and a half month long tournament. It is the fifth time that the Cricket World Cup is being held in England and Wales, following the 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999 World Cups.
Although, cricket is played by only a few countries, that too most of which were the colonies of the British Empire, the ‘game of willows’ is very popular. In terms of spectators and followers, it ranks only after Football & Lawn Tennis. In the sub-continent, the game is almost a religion and cricketers are said to be demi-gods. The rivalry between sub-continental teams is so high that sometimes it borders on fanaticism. It is also a tribute to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan that they have won 4 world cups between them. The fan following the cricketers have in this part of the world can be well appreciated from the fact that a former cricketer is the Prime Minister of a sub-continental nation and many cricketers have been ministers and legislators in all the major cricketing nations in the South Asian region..
The format for the tournament would be a single group of 10 teams, with each team playing the other nine once, and the top four at the end of the group phase progressing to the semi-finals. The 10-team tournament had gained criticism due to the lack of Associate teams in the tournament. Given the increase of the Test-playing nations from 10 to 12, with the admission of Ireland and Afghanistan in June 2017, it will be the first World Cup to be contested without all of the Test playing nations being present, and after the elimination of all the Associate teams at the qualifying tournament.
Sadly, England, where the game took its birth has till now not had the luck to win the World Cup. England are the home favourites this time being hosts, but, the Indian Team is something that all fans would be looking up to. India has won the World Cup twice, in 1983 and 2011. It was the runner up in 2003 and reached the semi-final stage in 2015 World Cup in Australia. The other teams to look out for would be the Australians, South Africans, New Zealand and the West Indians. Of course, at the World Cup, no team can be taken lightly.
India is led by the charismatic Virat Kohli, who is an inspirational leader and a tremendous fighter. India has depth in all the departments such as batting, bowling and fielding. Of course, Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps is a senior leader of the team and as captain of the 2011 and 2015 Indian teams, he would be playing a pivotal role for the Indian players. No cricket fan can forget his “winning” six at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai in 2011 against the Sri Lankans. That hit literally, was gifting the World Cup to Sachin Tendulkar, one of the greatest-ever cricketers in history.
India begin their World Cup campaign against the South Africans on 5th June at Rose Bowl, Southampton. The Indians then would play against the trans-Tasman cousins Australia and New Zealand on 9th and 13thJune respectively. Thereafter, India would take-on arch-rivals Pakistan on 16th June at Old Trafford, Manchester. The tickets for this particular match has already been sold out! India has never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup stage. This is a record that India would want to continue. India then would be playing against the latest cricketing minnows Afghanistan, the West Indies, the hosts England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The first Semi-Final game would be held in Old Trafford Manchester on 9th July between the First and Fourth Qualifiers. The Second and Third Qualifiers would face-off in the second Semi-Final on 11th July at Edgbaston, Birmingham. The Finals would see the winning team pick up the trophy and $ 4 million in cash. So, as the fans descend on the English isles, as they say, it promises to be a cracking English Summer.
Script: Kaushik Roy: Air: News Analyst