How Australia crashed India’s expected 2023 Cricket World Cup party

Australia's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) final match against India at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. (AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2023
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How Australia crashed India’s expected 2023 Cricket World Cup party

  • Host nation were on top form and set for procession toward the title until final act of a tournament of many landmarks

So, it came to pass. As soon as I set foot in India on Oct. 4 in Ahmedabad, I detected an inexorable momentum toward India being crowned ODI World Champions on Nov. 19. It was an orderly procession for the team with few bumps in the road toward what always felt like a coronation. Enrapt, noisy, fervid Indian supporters filled the stands when their heroes played. Other teams were a sideshow, there as a necessary irritant to be swatted aside as quickly as possible.

All of them were, until the final act.

In that moment, it did not come to pass. The coronation was jilted, the stadium quietened and half emptied well before the final’s end, an Australian’s masterly century received in near silence, the trophy presentation ceremony conducted in perfunctory manner. What would one give to have been privy to PM Modi’s inner thoughts as he handed the trophy to Australia’s captain?

Within India, post-mortems abound. In the final reckoning, the overall objective of India’s desire to triumph was not achieved. On the day, Australia planned, riskily it appeared, even rashly, to bowl first. The response from bowlers and fielders was superb. If the objective was to restrict India to anything under 280, it worked so well that 241 was the target. India lost because its innings was bogged down and because it could not break Australia’s fourth wicket partnership.

Yet, what of the tournament itself, the vehicle for India’s anticipated success? It witnessed the breaking of records, too numerous to list. Notable among them was the fastest ODI World Cup century, broken not once but twice, the highest match aggregate, the highest number of sixes hit and the highest innings total. This latter record is now held by South Africa, who amassed 425 for the loss of only five wickets against Sri Lanka in Delhi. The total surpassed Australia’s total of 411 for six against Afghanistan in 2015. Five of the ten highest ODI World Cup totals were scored in the 2023 edition.

Off the field, the International Cricket Council is claiming a record for the highest number of people attending an ODI World Cup. It estimates that an aggregate 1.25 million spectators attended the 48 matches, an average of 26,000. This exceeds the previous record of 1.016 million set in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, across 49 matches, an average of 20,734. In England and Wales in 2019, 0.75 attended across 48 matches, an average of 15,625.

It should be no surprise that the attendance record was broken in India. What ought to be a surprise is that it was not broken by more. Official figures indicate that 92,500 turned up for the final. If a similar number or more attended the India v Pakistan match at Ahmedabad, then it is reasonable to assume that these two matches accounted for 20 percent of aggregate attendances. If India’s other nine matches attracted, say, 60,000 each, then attendances for the home team’s matches represented more than half of total attendances. As may be deduced from the sea of blue shirts at India’s matches, it is reasonable to assume that almost all of them were supporting India.

If the above assumptions are correct, then 0.6 million people attended the other 37 matches, an average of about 16,000. Matches early in the tournament had swathes of empty seats. This was true of the opening match between England and New Zealand in Ahmedabad, despite the official estimate of a 45,000 attendance. It certainly did not feel that number to your columnist, who was present. If official estimates have been shrouded in mystery from day one, then revenue even more so. If discussions with people around me were any guide, then not everyone had paid for their ticket.

A prime example of this occurred in Delhi. At first, the zone where I was seated was sparsely populated. Uniformed senior police appeared, a prelude to the arrival of dozens of men, women and children, who turned out to be representing a police families welfare society. Cricket was incidental to the display of banners, consumption of freely available food and picture-taking. Their presence swelled the attendance but only a few will know the extent to which it swelled income. This is not meant to be churlish. More spectators heighten the atmosphere and Indians certainly know how to party. Those who turned up to neutral fixtures raised the noise levels.

The tournament also broke multiple broadcast and digital viewership records. Final numbers have yet to be announced but at the halfway stage the ICC reported a 43 percent rise in viewing minutes compared with 2019. Hotstar, India’s digital streaming service, saw its record for the number of concurrent viewers broken four times. 

Emphasis on records deflects from more fundamental issues. One is existential — will the ODI format survive and has this tournament been a help or a hindrance? Second is the relationship between the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Thirdly, how inclusive was this event? The next ODI World cup is set to be hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027, followed by India and Bangladesh in 2031, both involving 14 teams. Its medium-term existence appears secure. Whether the demands of broadcasters, for whom matches involving India is the biggest draw, will cause any changes to the format remains to be seen.

This issue is likely to further test the ability of the ICC to withstand the power of the BCCI. This is not a given. On the day after the final, the ICC issued a statement thanking the BCCI for successfully hosting the 2023 World Cup, the biggest ever. This glosses over a number of issues pertaining to the spectator. Your columnist has reported previously about difficulties of access and egress at grounds, about high-handed security checks, pettiness over banned items, all of which detract from the live viewing experience. None of these appear to matter to the authorities. It seems that television and streaming audiences are the golden egg that shall not be broken.


Karachi Kings clinch thrilling victory over Lahore Qalandars in PSL nail-biter

Updated 24 February 2024
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Karachi Kings clinch thrilling victory over Lahore Qalandars in PSL nail-biter

  • Qalandars gave 176-run target to the Kings, but it seemed slightly low for a batting track
  • Karachi struggled against Lahore’s pace attack, yet they reached the target in the last over

ISLAMABAD: The storied rivalry between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars culminated in an electrifying Pakistan Super League (PSL) showdown at Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore, with the former’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss playing a crucial role in their two-wicket victory in the match.

The Qalandars faced an early setback when opener Fakhar Zaman was caught by Shan Masood with the team’s total at just 9. However, Sahibzada Farhan rose to the occasion with an unbeaten 72-run knock off 45 deliveries, including four 6s and four 4s.

Despite consistently losing wickets, Lahore managed to post 175/6 by the end of the first 20 overs. Contributions came from Rassie van der Dussen (26), Shai Hope (21) and George Linde (26), but the 176-run target seemed slightly low for the batting track.

Lahore’s pacers, however, put up a strong defense of the total, with all seasoned bowlers taking at least one wicket.

 

 

Zaman Khan stood out, dismissing two batters and finishing his four overs with an economy rate of 6.25.

The Kings faced challenges from Qalandar’s bowling but ultimately reached the 176-run target, clinching the match by two wickets.

Kieron Pollard was the standout batter for the Kings, scoring 58 runs off 33 balls.

“Pulled out a thriller,” Karachi exclaimed in a post on platform X. “Another win in the bag.”


Italy, bad weather hand Saudi Arabia’s cricketers first defeat of 2024 in CWC Challenge League playoff

Updated 24 February 2024
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Italy, bad weather hand Saudi Arabia’s cricketers first defeat of 2024 in CWC Challenge League playoff

  • A top-three finish and qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament is still within Saudi Arabia’s grasp

LONDON: Saudi Arabia suffered their first defeat of 2024 on Friday as they fell to Italy in a weather-affected match in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League playoff in Kuala Lumpur.

The 50-over competition is a step on the qualification route for the World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.

The Greens, who recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand as well as a quadrangular T20 series in Bangkok against the hosts, had notched up a win in their first match against Kuwait on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia were chasing a total of 285 for victory after the Italians had notched up 284 runs for the loss of seven wickets from their 50 overs.

South African-born Wayne Madsen high-scored with the bat for Italy, bringing up 103 runs from 92 deliveries.

The Saudi bowling attack shared the load and six players grabbed wickets, while Usman Najeeb ended up with the best figures with two wickets for 40 runs.

Saudi Arabia were hampered by inclement weather, which cut short their innings with just over 12 overs left to bowl.

Despite the best efforts of captain Hisham Shaikh, who scored an unbeaten 60, and lower-order batsman Waji-ul-Hassan, who contributed 43 runs from 38 balls, the Greens were well behind the run-rate when the match fell victim to the weather, and lost the match by 52 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.

A top-three finish and qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament is still within Saudi Arabia’s grasp, especially if they can get a positive result in their final group match against Bermuda on Sunday.


Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

Updated 23 February 2024
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Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

  • Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi ended Multan Sultans’ winning streak in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament on Friday by clinching a five-run victory in a closely fought contest that was decided on the last ball of the match.

Batting first, Zalmi finished with a respectable total of 179/8 at the end of the first 20 overs.

None of Peshawar’s batters were able to score a half-century, with Haseebullah Khan top-scoring with 37 runs from 18 balls while skipper Babar Azam hitting 31 runs off 26 balls.

Rovman Powell scored a quickfire 23 from 11 balls while Luke Wood contributed with 17 runs off 12 deliveries.

Sultan bowlers David Willey, Mohammad Ali and Usama Mir took two wickets each while Shahnawaz Dahani and Abbas Afridi only got one.

When they came to bat, the Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0 but opening batter Yasir Khan and Reeza Hendricks contributed with 43 and 28 respectively to give the Sultans some support.

Dawid Malan smashed a 25-ball 52 runs knock but after his dismissal, the Sultans buckled.

Khushdil Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed and Usama Mir failed to hold on to their nerves, scoring only 5, 16, and 12 runs respectively, as Zalmi bowled out Multan for 174 runs on the last ball of the match.

Zalmi’s Arif Yaqoob returned figures of 3/43 while Salman Irshad, Naveen-ul-Haq and Luke Wood finished with figures of 2/39, 2/44 and 2/13 respectively.

“Catches win matches,” the team exclaimed on its social media account after displaying brilliant fielding performance.


Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

Updated 23 February 2024
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Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

  • In low-scoring match, Rilee Rossouw holds his nerve with 34-run inning to guide Quetta to victory
  • Gladiators’ Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim take three wickets each to keep Islamabad at bay

ISLAMABAD: Despite a valiant fightback by Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators continued their impressive run of the tournament by beating the former by three wickets at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Thursday.

“Continuing our winning streak,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after the match ended.

Batting first, United scored a lackluster 138/9 at the end of their 20 overs courtesy of a stellar bowling performance from the Gladiators. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/18 while Mohammad Wasim finished with 3/20. Akeil Hosein finished with 2/32 while pacer Mohammad Hasnain returned figures of 1/35.

United’s only resistance in the batting department came from Agha Salman, who top-scored with a decent 33-run knock from 23 balls while opener Alex Hales scored 21 from nine deliveries.

What should have been an easy chase for the Gladiators turned into a difficult one when United took quick wickets to put the pressure back on Rossouw’s squad. United skipper Shadab Khan returned figures of 2/24 while pacer Naseem Shah finished with 2/34.

Rumman Raees and Hunain Shah took a single wicket each before Rossouw guided United to victory with a composed 34-run innings that came off 38 balls and featured only three boundaries.

Opener Jason Roy provided the Gladiators an impressive start to the game by smashing 37 runs off 18 balls while Sherfane Rutherford held his nerves to score 29 runs from 23 balls before Naseem rattled his stumps.

The Gladiators and table-toppers Multan Sultans both have three wins from the tournament so far. Islamabad, with a single win and two losses, is at number three on the PSL points table.


Saudi Arabia continue fine form with ICC World Cup Challenge League win over Kuwait

Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia continue fine form with ICC World Cup Challenge League win over Kuwait

  • The 50-over competition serves as a preliminary qualifier for the World Cup
  • The Greens went into the opening Group B match full of confidence, having recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s cricketers beat Gulf rivals Kuwait on Thursday in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League play-off in Kuala Lumpur.
The 50-over competition serves as a preliminary qualifier for the World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.
The Greens went into the opening Group B match full of confidence, having recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand as well as a quadrangular T20 series in Bangkok against the hosts, Maldives and Bhutan.

Saudi Arabia posted a solid total of 231 all over off the back of valuable contributions from Kashif Siddique, who scored 71 runs, star batter Abdul Waheed (40) and captain Hisham Shaikh (40).
Mohamed Shafeeq was best with the ball for Kuwait, finishing his innings with three wickets for 37 runs from his six overs.
In response, Kuwait’s batting line-up had little to offer in the face of efficient bowling from the Saudi attack.
Kuwaiti captain Mohammad Aslam showed some mettle and grit by batting for a 57-run half-century from 84 balls, but he was the only one to offer any resistance as Kuwait were bowled out for just 134 runs, some 97 runs short of the Saudi total.
Usman Najeeb was the pick of the Saudi bowlers as he picked up three wickets and conceded only 23 runs, while Ishtiaq Ahmad and skipper Shaikh claimed two wickets apiece.
In their next Group B encounter, Saudi Arabia face an Italian side riding high after beating one-time World Cup participants Bermuda by a commanding 157 runs.