India, England, Australia, or a surprise winner? Sportskeeda writers pick their 2023 World Cup favorites

2023 World Cup
The 2023 World Cup captains pose ahead of the competition. (Pic: ICC)

The 2023 ODI World Cup is all set to get underway on Thursday with a rematch of the 2019 final between England and New Zealand at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. Over the course of the tournament, a total of 48 matches will be played across 10 venues in India.

The World Cup will be held in a round-robin format with each of the 10 teams playing the others once in the group stage, with the top four sides qualifying for the semi-finals. While the first semi-final will be played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on November 15, the second will be hosted by the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on November 16.

The grand finale will be held at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on November 19. Who will lift the 2023 World Cup trophy? Which sides will make it to the Top 4? And can we expect some upsets? Here are some predictions for our in-house experts at Sportskeeda.

Shashwat Kumar: A World Cup in India, because of the sheer number of people that will turn up at various venues, just feels different. The dancing in the aisles, the cacophony of noise, the billions gorging their eyes on the action - this could be an ODI World Cup like no other (and one the format really needs).

As for predictions, well, this has got to be India’s year, right? Back on the shores where they last won the World Cup, with a captain perhaps captaining for the last time in a major ICC white-ball tournament. A batter who has defined a generation, and several stars who are the gold standard for the roles they perform - India have everything, and that makes them outright favorites, irrespective of whatever anyone says.

But here’s the thing. The nine other teams are not here to take in the sights. Australia and England have more white-ball title-winning pedigree than the Indian side, and India’s record against New Zealand in ICC tournaments is bordering on becoming a foregone conclusion. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa also arrive much stronger than they did in 2019.

While I still reckon India will go all the way, there will be upsets, drama, social media dissection (is a World Cup in 2023 even worth it without the social media buzz) and riveting action - everything that might (or rather should) light up a format that threatens to drift away.

Rudransh Khurana: I think it would be an England vs. India final, with Jos Buttler's team taking the cup again. India have everything going on for them right now but even after so much cricket, I haven't seen the ruthlessness in them that teams usually need for tournaments like this.

England do have a spin disadvantage but their team depth, balance and experience are just way too good. The defending champions will blow teams away even when they are not at their best or while rotating players. If the toss doesn't play a freakish advantage like the 2021 T20 WC, no one's stopping England.

Sai Krishna: A home World Cup only adds to the belief that it's tough to look past India. No other team combines spin-bowling variety, fast-bowling potency and top-order reliability in the way the Men in Blue do.

There are concerns, of course, with the lower-middle order and injuries being particular problem areas over the last year. Excessive travel thanks to a rather bizarre schedule and its potential implications could also take their toll over the course of the tournament, and the suffocating pressure India are bound to face everywhere they go is often brushed under the carpet when it arguably shouldn't be.

But on paper, India have a side tailor-made to go all the way, both skill-wise and mentally. Australia and England, who have barely any weaknesses, will be the obvious opponents to beat. South Africa and New Zealand are always capable underdogs, and Pakistan are Pakistan, but it could be Rohit Sharma lifting the trophy on November 19.

Venkatesh Ravichandran: This World Cup could come down to the selection of the right playing XI for that particular venue and opponent along with teams being flexible in-game. Almost all the contending teams seem to have 12 or 13 that warrant selection, so something as small as leaving the right one or two according to the need of the hour could have a significant bearing on the outcome.

In that sense, it is hard to look beyond England as one of the finalists, as they seem to have gotten those finer aspects better than the other sides over the last few years!! ( Like picking Archer in 2019 or the usage of Wood in the T20 World Cup and Stokes as the opening bowler, etc.).

Yet, defending a title is often much harder than winning it so Australia and India will be right there with them. But India has to show that they can overcome the big game nerves and their timid batting on the day to be believed completely. The Aussies have never endured two consecutive World Cups without at least making the final since 1983 so they should be the other finalist.

So, I am going for an England vs Australia final on an Ahmedabad pitch that should negate the batting of both sides and the Aussies coming out on top thanks to their bowling.

Also, have a feeling that the team that drops the least number of catches of top-order batters will be hosting the trophy in the end. So amidst all the leading run-scorers and wicket-takers lists, this is the one my eyes will be fixated on.

Gokul Nair: More so than anything else, the 2023 edition of the World Cup comes across as a baptism by fire for the ODI format. The tournament comes at a time when franchise cricket has shown its dominance but has left a bit of breathing space for the 50-over format.

As far as the teams are concerned, the predominant flat conditions will dictate the playing XI combination and it might prove to be the key in this tournament. Sides like Australia and England are relying on their all-rounders to deliver in the spin department with their part-time bowling, whereas the subcontinent sides have an established and structured spin unit.

Another factor which could potentially dictate the proceedings at the World Cup is dew. With the temperatures generally being cooler in the subcontinent in the latter parts of the year, its onset could have a huge say

Considering all of the factors, it is just hard to look past Team India’s home advantage (which could be their undoing in the blink of an eye), as well as England’s sheer strength from top to bottom.

The 2023 edition could deliver the final that was missed out narrowly four years ago. England's experience of having excelled in crunch matches gives them a slight advantage over the Men in Blue, should such a final come to fruition.

Anuj Prabhu: It's been 10 long years since India won an ICC Trophy. The semi-final defeat in 2019 still hurts me sometimes. Hopefully, this is India’s year, as things have started to fall in place for captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid. After the ODI series in the West Indies earlier this year, I didn’t have much hope. However, the way they played in the Asia Cup has reignited that hope a bit.

KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav all being among the runs have been absolutely brilliant for us. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj continue to breathe fire with the ball and Kuldeep Yadav continues to reach new heights in his redemption arc.

I just hope that this is India’s year. I think England too have all the bases covered to defend their World Cup crown. But if not India, I would like to see a new World Cup winner, preferably one between New Zealand and South Africa.

Sooryanarayanan Sesha: You think of the ODI World Cup and the first team that pops up in mind is Australia. Granted that they enter this edition having lost five games on the bounce at one stage but when the big occasion comes by, they’re a different entity altogether. A glance at their squad on paper suggests that they still remain one of the better-balanced outfits with plenty of quality all-round options to turn to.

India playing at home would tempt one into picking them as favourites and a possible triumph this time should not surprise many. But for what it’s worth, Australia have this subtle knack of following the mean reversion philosophy and on the back of consecutive ODI series defeats, you’d think the only way ahead is upward.

Very few teams hold their nerve as well as the Aussies do in the crunch moments - a fact reflected in something as basic as the many safe catchers that they have in their ranks. They have a proud record in the tournament to defend and having lost their crown in England in 2019, will come out a more determined lot, especially given this could well be the World Cup swansong for some of their finest players.

Aditya Desai: In my humble opinion, India go into the World Cup with the fewest headaches, barring the problem of plenty, of course. Roster-wise, they have all their boxes ticked, having enough backups that will undoubtedly come in handy, considering the long duration of the tournament.

Yes, playing at home will be a double-edged sword, but the unwavering support of this cricket-frenzy nation will almost certainly outweigh the pressure of expectations. Being well aware of the conditions has benefited host nations in the past three editions, a trend unlikely to die down very soon.

The biggest strength India have is the presence of accumulators in their batting lineup. While power-hitting has been the flavour of the season in white-ball cricket, the art of pacing the innings shouldn't be discounted. India have faced the heat for their underwhelming performances in ICC events, but isn't the thrill of the first rain after a drought unparalleled?

Vinay Chhabria: To me, India seem to be the favourites to win the ICC World Cup 2023. Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid and Ajit Agarkar have worked hard to assemble a squad which has all the bases covered. The batting lineup looks stellar, the bowling is lethal, and for the first time in a long time, India has multiple reliable options for the middle order. All-rounder Hardik Pandya should be the X-factor for India.

I think Afghanistan and Pakistan will surprise many fans in the tournament. Afghanistan should make it to the World Cup semifinals for the first time. Their spin attack is probably the best in the tournament, and their batting has been firing on all cylinders in recent matches.

Pakistan have shown great consistency at ICC events, having won the Champions Trophy 2017, narrowly missing out on the semifinals in the 2019 World Cup, topping the group stage in T20 World Cup 2021 and finishing runners-up in the 2022 T20 World Cup. They should make it to the top four this time.

The fourth team in the semifinals could be New Zealand or Australia. Both teams know how to lift their game when it matters the most. Their players have a great idea of the conditions in India. So I feel India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia will be the Top 5 teams, with India winning the title on November 19.

Srinjoy Sanyal: Wankhede has bounce. Eden Gardens enables seam and swing. Motera aids power-hitting. These three venues will host the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup knockouts - India’s bugbear for 10 years.

Rohit Sharma’s men are one of the most balanced units on paper. But question marks remain over their ability to flick the psychological switch in the games that matter. Please note, that a home World Cup brings with it excruciating pressure, compounded by some even having a potential farewell.

There’s little doubt over the four favourites for the semi-finals.

But to me, England look primed to successfully defend their crown. A left-right opening combination, a Joe Root tailor-made for this format, that middle order, a plethora of all-rounders, a liquorice allsorts bowling department - seeds that have been sown over the years for generations to reap.

Renin Wilben Albert: A lot of critics and fans reckon that India are the favorites to win the World Cup at home. They are undoubtedly one of the top sides in the competition, as are defending champions England. But Australia is another side that can emerge on top if they play to potential.

A couple of cricket pundits have proclaimed that the team that beats India will go on to win the 2023 World Cup. Australia is one team that has consistently troubled India in India in white-ball cricket. They did go down in the recently concluded ODI series, but had registered an impressive win earlier in the year.

Australia might not be the strongest side on paper, but have a number of impact players - from Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell to Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Most of they have plenty of experience of playing in Indian conditions.

We haven’t spoken about David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne. If they come off, they can single-handedly win games. And while Australia have only one frontline spinner in Adam Zampa, he is an X factor in the team, his recent struggles in South Africa notwithstanding.

India have a fantastic side as well and will go into the World Cup with some excellent performances. But there have been phases where they have struggled at home in white ball cricket. As for England, it remains to be seen whether Bazball magic works in India.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar