ICC World Cup 2019: Will the format and fixtures favour Team India?
- While the new format will suit a consistent team like India, the fixtures are tough to start with
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 starts on 30th May 2019 with a match between host England and South Africa at the Oval, London. The final is slated to be played at the iconic Lord’s cricket ground, London on 14th July 2019. A total of 48 matches will be played over a period of 46 days across 11 venues in this 10-team tournament.
The format for the ICC World Cup 2019 is a simple one in which all participating 10 teams play each other once in a round- robin format. Each team gets to play 9 matches and the top four teams will qualify for the semi-finals.
Fixtures for Team India
Team India’s World Cup campaign begins with a match against South Africa at Southampton. India plays unpredictable South Africa, defending Champions Australia, dark horses New Zealand, arch-rivals Pakistan, giant-killers Afghanistan, two-time champions West Indies, hosts England, buoyant Bangladesh and rejuvenated Sri Lanka in that order.
The effect of the current format
Since the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the ICC had adopted a variety of formats involving league matches in groups followed by super six matches leading up to the semi-finals. The super-six format was followed in 1999 and 2003. In the 1999 format, points were carried forward from the league stages.
In the 2007 format, two top teams from the four league groups made it to the super-8 stages. 1996, 2011 & 2015 World Cups had the traditional format of the group matches followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the finals.
After trying out mixed formats over the years, the ICC is back with the 1992 World Cup format. To make that happen, the total number of participating teams have been trimmed to 10. This has resulted in teams like Zimbabwe, Ireland and Netherlands missing out on the tournament.
Will the current format of playing a total of 9 league matches with one match each against each participant suit India? Well most certainly, it should. India is the No 1 ranked ODI team in the world for its consistent performance over the years. Besides, India is the third most successful team in World Cup history after Australia and South Africa.
A lengthy round-robin stage like the one in World Cup 2019 would certainly test the skills and endurance of teams like the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. In this format, there will be no flash in the pan and no-sudden death in the league stages of the tournament as it happened in World Cup 2007.
Similarly, there will be no shoot out in the form of quarter finals. Hence the format of World Cup 2019 should suit a consistent team like India. In this format, the four most deserving teams are expected to reach the semi-finals and India on current form is expected to be one among the four. In fact, India has a balanced team on English conditions to go all the way.
Effect of India’s fixtures
In terms of fixtures, India are meeting tougher opponents like South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Pakistan in the first half of the tournament. These four teams along with hosts England and of course India are more likely to eye for a spot in the last four stages.
It is a double-edged weapon for Team India to meet tougher opponents in the beginning. A cluster of wins in the first few matches would launch Team India’s World Cup campaign in grand style as it happened in the last World Cup in Australia.
On the other hand, a few reverses followed by matches against equally tougher opponents could take the team down the hill. In other words, with the sort of fixtures, India just cannot ease into the tournament. The Indian players will have to be on their toes right from the first ball of the first match.
Once the initial hurdles are gone past without causing much damage, the Indians will get to meet relatively less stronger opponents like Afghanistan, West Indies, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in the second half of the round-robin stage. This should help India to improve their net run rate if need be.
For India, meeting Sri Lanka in the last league match is better than meeting England or Australia. The fact that India will be playing Sri Lanka on the last day of the league stage helps the team to plan to regain the lost grounds.
To sum up, the format of World Cup 2019 does not allow early predictions since it involves a lot of permutations and combinations. It might be tough to predict the top 4 even at the halfway stage of the tournament. But the hard format of the competition would certainly be in favor of a consistent team like India.
As far as the fixtures are concerned, India should make use of the warm-up games against New Zealand and Bangladesh to ease into the tournament proper and be geared up for tougher opponents like South Africa and Australia. The early form of the players is crucial for Team India to go past the initiation by fire.
Once India reaches the semi-finals, it is only a matter of two wins as is the case with the other teams.
Published 19 Feb 2019, 09:13 IST