The 12th cricket World Cup, which began in London on Thursday, is certain to grab the undivided attention of the fans in India over the next 45-odd days. The passion of Indian fans has made India cricket’s economic superpower, and they have reason to be optimistic because the Virat Kohli-led team is a strong contender to win the tournament. After India’s first win in 1983, the wait lasted 28 years until MS Dhoni led India to a second win, at home in 2011. Fans and even analysts believe that the wait for the third title may end this year. Kohli’s team, ranked No. 2, is quite strong, with top-class batsmen and an effective bowling attack.
Yet, India are not the bookmakers’ favourites, England are. England, No. 1 in the ICC rankings, have taken power-hitting to a new high after the disappointment of 2015, when they failed to qualify for the knockout stage. Now they’ve got a bunch of aggressive strokeplayers who can smash any bowling attack into pieces — they’ve broken the 400-run barrier two times in the last 12 months. In the recent series against Pakistan, England effortlessly passed 340 four times in a row, winning each time. Among other teams, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan can never be counted out, while West Indies could turn out to be surprise package.
Sadly, ICC’s hopes of increasing the global footprint of cricket have not materialised — the World Cup will feature 10 teams, only two more than in the inaugural tournament 44 years ago. The number had touched 16 in 2007. Over the years, promising teams such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Scotland, UAE, Canada, etc. have fallen by the wayside. Commercial reasons — the need to have the largest possible number of India matches, which bring in most revenue — have led to format changes of the tournament. The commercially less appealing small teams — the ‘minnows’ — have been kicked out. They deserve better. For Indian fans, summer and a World Cup in England takes the mind back to 1983, when Kapil Dev’s team shocked the world; 36 years on, it will be far from shocking if Kohli’s team wins.