Will the format of the 2019 ICC World Cup help India?
The ICC 50-over World Cup is set to take place in England next year. Starting from the end of May, the tournament will go on until the middle of July. Running for almost 45 days, the mega event will be a crucial point in the future of the game.
In a decision that drew much criticism, the ICC decided that the 2019 World Cup would be narrowed down to a 10-team tournament. This meant that many associate nations would not get a chance to showcase their talent at the highest level.
Because of the reduction in the number participating teams, traditional cricketing nations such as Ireland and Zimbabwe have been denied an opportunity to take part in the World Cup next year. Afghanistan and West Indies qualified as the last two teams to the World Cup.
Since only 10 teams would be taking part in the tournament, the ICC has also decided to implement the round-robin format which was last used in the 1992 edition. This means that all the 10 teams would get a chance to face each other once in the initial stage.
After the completion of the 45 matches, the top 4 would qualify to the knockout stages. The 1st and 4th teams will face off in the first semifinal while the 2nd and 3rd will decide the second finalist. The finals would be played between the winners of the semis.
After failing to defend the title at the 2015 World Cup, the Indian team will look to bring the trophy home in the upcoming edition. Considering their dominance in international cricket in recent times, India look like the favorites to win the trophy. However, the hosts England are one big obstacle that Virat Kohli's men would have to work hard to overcome.
Since it has been a long time that the round-robin format was used, it would be interesting to see how the teams fare in the unfamiliar format. For India though, this could be the best format to bring back the trophy.
Unlike the previous editions where one loss in the group stages could put a team in danger, the round-robin format will objectively decide the overall best team in the tournament. In 2007, an unlikely loss to Bangladesh eliminated India at the group stages. It is unlikely that such a situation will be repeated as India will have nine full matches to come out on top.
English conditions are particularly difficult to adjust to, and just three matches would likely have not been enough for the players. Since India have had the experience of being in England at the same time as the World Cup, during their tour this year, the players can adjust faster to the playing conditions.
Players like MS Dhoni have been struggling with their confidence, and nine consecutive matches would mean that they can get back to form easily. Considering India's shaky middle-order, more matches will offer more time for the players to get into the groove before the important stages of the tournament.
The Indian eam management has a difficult choice to make as they have to decide whether Hardik Pandya will act as the team's third pacer or if a genuine pacer will be used. Also, one of Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal will have to miss out, and hence the form of both the players needs to be tested. Kedar Jadhav's role is still unclear in the team too, and all such decisions can be taken if more matches are given as leverage.
By the end of nine matches, India will likely have a decided team combination with match-fit players, who can then give their 100% to win the trophy.