how the Australian cricketers rained during India’s parade

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The official motto of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup was It Takes One Day. If this sounded grudging – less eight hours of sustained sporting excitement, more parental persuasion before a rainy trip to a stately home – then the reality was more tiring.

But after 46 days, 48 ​​matches, 10 cities and endless, endless flying miles, the tournament had provided a fitting stage for the sport’s pinnacle and a dramatic plot twist at the end: Australia broke the hearts of an expectant India with victory. in the final, the underdogs were victorious on the day, even though it was also their sixth men’s title.

The good

The tournament kicked off amid existential angst over the future of one-day international cricket and saw record attendance and TV viewership. Wikipedia – admittedly an unusual barometer – even reported that it was the third most viewed page worldwide in 2023. In short, the format may be losing its traction as bilateral fodder, but the quadrennial meeting is still of paramount importance.

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A lot of this came down to dizzy spells tamasha that’s cricket in India and a home team that charged like a bull through the streets of Pamplona. That was until Australia waved the matador’s cape on the final straight, denying Narendra Modi the photo opportunity the Indian prime minister craved. He reluctantly handed the trophy to Pat Cummins and — at least in the resulting memes — shuffled off to the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme tune.

The good was mainly Australia in the knockouts and on the day, whether it was Cummins’ impresario captaincy, a wing-heel fielding or a marksmanship from Travis Head. It also ended a run of three consecutive home champions – another blessing for a competition that was in danger of becoming too predictable, even if the 92,000 visitors and millions of people watching at home would probably not have been comforted by that.

Had India been lifted by their own petard? Schadenfreude was certainly plentiful in this regard following reports that their team management had an input into the moonscape of a field in Ahmedabad. Be that as it may, it was a cruel end for a side that had shone so brightly. And in fairness to the grounds crew at the ten locations, the variety of surfaces and conditions over seven weeks was excellent.

They had technicians like Virat Kohli showcasing their class, and so did a Twenty20 maverick like Glenn Maxwell, whose unbeaten 201 against Afghanistan was seen as one of – for mine, the – best ODI innings of all time. But bowlers entered the match, and India’s attack was the unstoppable option until the end. Mohammad Shami delivered a blow to purveyors of seam precision in a world of T20 Bertie Bassetts; so did Australia’s big three quicks.

South Africa’s run to their inevitable semi-final heartbreak was accompanied by wonderfully dynamic batting, while Afghanistan’s four wins – including England’s debacle in Delhi – provided an encouraging result (even if offset by the ban on women’s cricket in own country). After brushing aside the West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe in the qualifiers, the Netherlands also picked up two juicy group stage games: South Africa and Bangladesh.

New stars announced themselves, such as Rachin Ravindra, the shining left-hander from New Zealand, the South African hell-raiser Gerald Coertzee, or Azmatullah Omarzai, a fearless opener in an Afghanistan side with a series of waspish bowlers. And if this was a final World Cup outing for Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the pair at least signed off with individual claims to their ODI greatness, if not the silverware.

The bad

The parameters of a “good game” are often a bit too demanding, but there were still few exciting matches. Perhaps the global decline in bilateral ODI cricket in the intervening years was a factor, with Twenty20-grooved players losing heart a little too easily despite the much wider 50-over canvas.

It took some 26 matches for the first fingernails to be nibbled, with South Africa taking one wicket home against Pakistan in Chennai. But that result also underlined concerns about the structure of the tournament, with places for the semi-finals currently appearing – and ultimately proving to be – settled with 19 group matches to play and plenty of ifs, buts and maybes after that.

Afghanistan briefly threatened to shake things up here – halted by Maxwell’s tight miracle of Mumbai – and the all-plays-all format is not without merit. But even if there are no quarter-finals – knockout ODI cricket is by far the most compelling, folks – the proposed move to 14 teams and two groups in 2027 should hopefully bring more danger.

This being 2023, the discourse turned a little sour at times, not least during India’s semi-final victory over New Zealand. The Daily Mail had raised concerns from International Cricket Council pitch consultant Andy Atkinson about possible interference from the home side in the preparation of the Wankhede Stadium surface. And yet what seemed like a valid story – Atkinson quoted in a leaked email no less – was met with an avalanche of Indian outrage and talk of “propaganda”. Sunil Gavaskar called reporters ‘idiots’.

Traveling supporters were thin on the ground, with matches announced only 100 days before the start and, after some further adjustments to the schedule, tickets not on sale until six weeks later. After a poor start, an increasingly engaged Indian crowd created an exciting atmosphere, with Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens a personal favourite. But if a little more attention had been paid to it, the pockets of the ‘away shirts’ could perhaps have been bigger (for everyone except the Pakistani followers of course, who were not granted visas).

And even without large numbers of visitors, the carbon footprint of a tournament that required teams to fly back and forth across India was clearly enormous. The ICC at least spared us the lofty claims to the contrary – unlike its Fifa counterparts in Qatar a year earlier – even if the governing body’s continued partnership with Aramco told its own story.

The ugly one

And that includes England, which can claim some kind of moral victory by including an entire category here. And they were pretty ugly, they planned to be there at the end of the party but ended up in a puddle of their own well before midnight.

Jos Buttler insisted his reigning champions had no intention of defending anything. And after defeats in six of their first seven games, mission was more than accomplished for a team that had climbed the mountain in 2019, barely played in between and was now tumbling down the other side.

The alarm was raised before departure after mixed reports about the provisional squad – especially the absence of Harry Brook before he made the squad. Ben Stokes was also retired but suffered a hip injury on arrival in India. Uncertainty permeated tactics and by their fourth match – a grenade attack by South Africa in Mumbai, when Buttler cooked his men by bowling first into an oven – England had used all fifteen players in the squad.

They had arrived later to prepare than those of Australia and New Zealand and their bowlers – already the weaker set – struggled to find the right lengths until it was too late. The batsman also suffered a collective loss of form and identity, summed up by Buttler averaging 15 and, like his old Test avatar, forever unsure whether to hold or spin.

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In the end, his face only slightly saved by two late wins and qualification for the Champions Trophy, the team director, Rob Key, accepted that complacency had set in on his part; the belief that everything would be fine on the night, that old habits would set in after priority was given to the revival of the Bazballing Test and the T20 World Cups in the intervening years.

Key protected Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott – the latter’s message was questioned by Eoin Morgan from the touchline – and it felt like a card that could only be played once. With India’s fearsome Test tour starting in January, it may also be too early.

Lesson learned

For England it was a reminder that the world had moved on after 2019; for India, being the best team counts for little until the final. As for the tournament as a whole – its length is unlikely to change, but the cricket is still compelling – it remains to be seen whether this was a timely flexing of the muscles in the ODI format, or a twitching of the corpse like the red weeds of T20. floods the landscape.

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