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

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

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.


Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis

Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis
Updated 1 min 12 sec ago
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Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis

Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis
  • All is not lost for Saudi Arabia in Group B, and they will look to their match with Bhutan on Wednesday as a chance to get their qualification campaign back on track

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia’s International Cricket Council U19 World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a bad start on Monday when the team were beaten resoundingly by Oman.

The Omanis became the first side in the Asian qualifying tournament so far to bat their full 50 overs as they hit 222 for the loss of eight wickets.

In reply, Saudi Arabia could not mount a serious challenge to their target of 223 and they were bowled out for 81 in less than 20 overs.

Oman started their innings steadily, but Fahad Munir claimed the first wicket in the eighth over when he bowled Thineth Sumanasekera for seven, which left the Omanis on 29 for one. The other opener, Jeet Shah, steadied the nerves, hitting 55 from 92 balls.

As more wickets began to fall to the Saudis, Oman, on 93 for six in the 29th over, were looking likely to be bowled out for a modest total.

Shah was still at the crease but No. 8 batsman, Nitish Nadendla, changed the course of the innings with a superb 60 from 65 balls — including three fours and two sixes — as he added 56 in nine overs before departing with the score at 149 for seven.

Prathiesh Ramesh also made a half-century, adding 61 runs for the eighth wicket partnership with Nadendla before being the eighth wicket to fall with the score on 210.

Saudi Arabia could not bowl out Oman who reached 222 for eight, a total which also included 43 extras and had the Saudis feeling the heat of the sun for more than three-and-a-half hours.

The Saudi team’s response was to lose five wickets for 32 inside the first 10 overs. Opening bowler Puladith Medagoda took two wickets but it was the left-arm spin bowling of Arya Sampat that did most of the damage as he took four wickets for 21 runs.

Munir made the highest score of the innings with 15 and Ahmed Faisal was the only other batter who managed double figures, scoring 12.

All is not lost for Saudi Arabia in Group B, and they will look to their match with Bhutan on Wednesday as a chance to get their qualification campaign back on track.

Bhutan were bowled out for 85 in their match against Hong Kong, also on Monday, but pushed their opponents all the way, forcing the loss of six wickets as they reached their total of 86 within 25 overs.


Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
Updated 26 February 2024
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Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
  • Now require favor from Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure Saudis progress

LONDON: Saudi Arabia fell to an agonizing defeat to Bermuda in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League play-off in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday as they lost by four runs.

The defeat is the second in a row for the Saudis and leaves their qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament hanging in the balance and out of their hands.

They now require a favor from their Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure the Saudis progress.

It was a crucial win that kept hopes alive for Bermuda — who had lost their opening group match by 157 runs to Italy — and ended their 16-game losing streak in the 50-over format.

Bermuda won the toss and scored 227 all out from 44.3 overs, with captain Delray Rawlins top-scoring with 75 runs from 95 balls.

He was ably supported by Dominic Sabir, who hit 51, including five fours and a six, off 45 balls.

The Saudi bowling attack was led by Usman Najeeb and Zain Ul-Abidin, who both claimed three wickets and finished the match with economy rates below five runs.

In reply, Saudi Arabia’s batsmen made their way to 223 for the loss of nine wickets, with captain Hisham Shaikh top-scoring with 45 and Waji Ul Hassan hitting 41 in the middle order.

Needing to score five runs off the final three balls for victory, Ishtiaq Ahmad was run out by Allan Douglas Junior as he attempted to come back for a second run with just two balls of the match remaining.

Sabir, whose exploits with the bat were backed up with three wickets for 33 runs with the ball, was awarded the player of the match.


Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
Updated 26 February 2024
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Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
  • Saim Ayub (88), Babar Azam (48) and Rovman Powell (46) guided Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs
  • In response, Rassie van der Dussen scores first century of season, but fails to guide Lahore to victory

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi defeated Lahore Qalandars by eight runs in a thrilling match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday.

Lahore won the toss and decided to field first in the match. Saim Ayub played a brilliant innings of 88 runs from 55 deliveries, strengthening Peshawar’s position in the game.

Captain Babar Azam struck 48 and Rovman Powell hit 46 to take Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs at a loss of four wickets. In return, Lahore could only score 203 runs despite Rassie van der Dussen’s first century of the season.

“Another day, another thriller,” read a post on PSL official account on X. “Rassie van der Dussen’s spirited century goes in vain as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a hard-fought 8-run win.”

Shaheen Afridi dismissed three Peshawar batsmen for 33 runs.

Chasing a 212-run target, van der Dussen hit an unbeaten 104 runs from 52 deliveries, but could not lead his side to victory. Shai Hope and Ahsan Bhatti chipped in with 29 and 20 runs, respectively.

Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed two for 50 runs, while Salman Irshad and Paul Walter took one wicket each.

This was Lahore’s fifth consecutive loss of the season, while Peshawar have registered two back-to-back wins in their four matches.


Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok

Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok
Updated 25 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok

Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok
  • Saudi Arabia will be hoping they can get a good result against Oman, arguably their toughest fixture, and put themselves in a strong position for qualification

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia U19s will be looking to emulate the senior team, who recently completed nine consecutive wins in Bangkok to win the ACC Challenger Cup and the Thailand Quadrangular T20 competitions, as they get their ICC World Cup campaign underway.

The qualification pathway for the next ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, which will be held in Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2026, started on Sunday and Saudi Arabia’s first match against Oman gets underway on Monday.

The long qualification process has begun just two weeks after the final of the 2024 tournament was won by Australia U19s, who beat India U19s by 79 runs at Benoni in South Africa as the packed schedule of international cricket starts its next cycle.

The Division 2 Asia Qualifier serves as the first stage in the qualification program for the 2026 tournament, which will see teams from Africa, the Americas, Asia, East Asia Pacific and Europe attempt to reach the tournament proper and join the pre-qualified teams.

The division will see eight teams compete in 50-over matches for two places in the Division 1 Asia Qualifier. Bahrain, Thailand, Kuwait and Malaysia play each other in Group A while Oman, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Bhutan play each other in Group B.

After their fixture with Oman, the young Greens will face Bhutan at Terdthai Cricket Ground on Wednesday and Hong Kong at the same venue on Friday.

Saudi Arabia will be hoping they can get a good result against Oman, arguably their toughest fixture, and put themselves in a strong position for qualification for the next stage and the chance to play some of the strongest sides in Asia.


Table-topping Multan round off home leg of PSL by handing Quetta first loss

Table-topping Multan round off home leg of PSL by handing Quetta first loss
Updated 25 February 2024
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Table-topping Multan round off home leg of PSL by handing Quetta first loss

Table-topping Multan round off home leg of PSL by handing Quetta first loss

MULTAN: Table-topping Multan Sultans rounded off their home leg of the Pakistan Super League by handing Quetta Gladiators a first defeat on Sunday.
Half centuries by Reeza Hendricks (72) and captain Mohammad Rizwan (51) provided Multan with a strong total of 180-4 with Tayyab Tahir also contributing a meaningful 35 off 22 balls in his first game of the season after Dawid Malan fell ill.
Quetta failed to capitalize on good starts and were restricted to 167-9 as fast bowlers Mohammad Ali (3-19) and David Willey (3-37) led Multan to a convincing 13-run win.
Ali, who thrived with both the new and old balls, is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 13.
Multan’s four wins in five home games gave last year’s finalist eight points while Quetta, who won three successive games before Sunday’s loss, are second with six points. Multan’s only setback to date came at the hands of Peshawar Zalmi.
“You can’t get satisfied because it will be a different challenge when we play our five away games,” Rizwan said.
Ali hit the top of Jason Roy’s (12) off stump in his second over as the Englishman exposed his stumps while attempting a big shot. Willey also struck inside the power play when he had Saud Shakeel (24) caught at long-on before captain Rilee Rossouw (30) and young Pakistan batting sensation Khawaja Nafay (36) dragged Quetta back into the game.
Rossouw fell to a brilliant low catch by Khushdil Shah in the covers that ended a threatening 62-run stand and Ali had Nafay caught off a slower ball in his return spell as Quetta’s chase got derailed after it slipped to 124-5 in the 15th over.
Willey plucked a brilliant skier off his own bowling to dismiss Sherfane Rutherford and Ali capped another impressive day by having Mohammad Amir clean bowled off a full-pitched delivery.
Earlier, after being sent in to bat, Hendricks featured in two solid partnerships and scored his third half century of the season in five games.
Hendricks added 79 runs with Rizwan for the second wicket and contributed a further 77 with Tahir by counterattacking pacers Amir (2-46) and Mohammad Wasim (0-41) in the death overs.
Rizwan was dismissed soon after completing his half century when he holed out at deep mid-wicket. Hendricks’ robust 47-ball knock that featured four sixes and seven fours ended in the last over when he was caught in the deep while going for a big shot against Amir.