India's players celebrate their win at the end of the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match against Netherlands at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. (Photo | AFP)
India's players celebrate their win at the end of the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match against Netherlands at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. (Photo | AFP)

India on top as World Cup takes final turn

The event may have clashed with festivals and big film releases but the appetite for cricket in this country remains unmatched.

With the group stages of the cricket World Cup done, one thing is clear. India, the hosts and the favourites, remain the team to beat even after 45 games. They have used a generational bowling attack to pulverise teams. With Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in their line-up—two cricketers who will be in the conversation about this format’s GOATs—their batting department has resembled a well-oiled battering ram. As we enter the last stretch, India look good but there are three other good teams too—South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. India may have beaten all of them, but the three can be as merciless on any given day.

There was much noise that there is no space for 50-over cricket in the calendar when the event began. That sentiment may well be true—with too much cricket, this format may suffer the most—but fans have lapped it up. Even if the response was a bit lukewarm to begin with, the turnstiles have not stopped rotating the last few weeks. The event may have clashed with festivals and big film releases but the appetite for cricket in this country remains unmatched. During the South Africa vs Afghanistan game at Ahmedabad, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that more than one million fans had watched the games at the 10 stadiums that are hosting the extravaganza. The 50-over game may not be in rude health but it is perhaps not on life support either. This World Cup has shown that there is interest for quality white-ball cricket.

Even if the games have by and large been one-sided, some of the performances will be remembered for years. Australian Glenn Maxwell against Afghanistan was a true reflection of sporting grit and uncertainty. Rohit and Kohli are among the top five run-scorers. Adam Zampa is flying the flag for spinners. Rachin Ravindra, a new kid on the block, has emulated Sachin Tendulkar. Sri Lanka may face a rocky road back but Dilshan Madushanka has shown the talent that is available. Pakistan, the hosts of the next 50-over ICC event, the 2025 Champions Trophy, blew hot and cold but brought their own uniqueness to the event. Defending champions England were one of the few genuine disappointments. With just three games remaining, including a rematch of the 1999 semifinal between South Africa and Australia, the stage is set for a grandstand finish.

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