Many of us have been left stranded in our attempts to lay our hands on tickets for the upcoming cricket world cup in India. But the excitement is clearly building up in the country given that India is hosting the world cup and home advantage has proven to be big in recent times:

“The last three World Cups have been won by the host nations, the original big three. Until then only one home team – Sri Lanka in 1996 – had won the World Cup. Australia won without a spinner in 2015 thanks to home conditions that negated spinners. One of the big changes starting with the 2015 World Cup has been that the hosts get a pre-selected venue should they get to the semi-finals. If India make it that far, they will play theirs at Wankhede, where they won the 2011 final, unless they draw Pakistan, in which case they go to Eden Gardens.”

Whilst the 50-over format (or ODI) might neither appeal to the purists who prefer Test cricket nor those who enjoy the tamasha of T20, it does pose unique strategy and tactical challenges for players. Siddharth Monga helps us get up to speed on the changes in the game since 2011 and what challenges it poses for captains and coaches alike. The big change seems to be the middle overs (in between the first power play and the slog overs) which historically tended to slow down the pace of the game:

“It always helps to brush up on the rules about them because they change so often. In 2011, we had a mandatory powerplay of ten overs, and bowling and batting powerplays of five overs each. In the 30 non-powerplay overs, five fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle. Now we have three phases of an innings: first ten overs with just two fielders outside the circle, the next 30 overs with four fielders outside the circle, and the last ten with five fielders outside the circle. The big difference is the 30 overs with four fielders outside the circle, which results in more boundary options through the innings and makes the job of bowlers in the middle overs more difficult.”

More rule changes have made the game harder for bowlers:
“Because the white Kookaburra tends to get discoloured after 30 overs or so, the ICC has made sure not more than 25 overs are bowled with one ball. A ball is used at each end, and each spends time in the umpire’s pocket when an over is bowled from the other end. Added to just four boundary riders in the middle overs, this has made life more difficult for spinners. Teaming up with the dramatic over-reaction to Sandpapergate by Cricket Australia, and consequently the ICC, the use of two new balls has all but taken reverse swing out of the game.”

The period since 2011 has also seen the rise of wristpin in the 50 over format:
“Six spinners bowled 44 overs between them in the 2011 final. Only two overs were bowled by a wristspinner, part-timer Sachin Tendulkar. The 2015 World Cup was won by a side with no specialist spinner. Since then there has been a wristspin revolution that at one time threatened the very existence of fingerspinners. In the middle overs in ODIs between the top teams between the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, wristspinners picked up just 7% of the wickets; in the last two years they have taken 21% in that phase of the innings. That despite a mini resurgence from the really good fingerspinners in the last two years
…Another nail in the collective coffin of fingerspinners was the ball that they turned the other way. Saeed Ajmal, Harbhajan Singh, Muthiah Muralidaran, Johan Botha and Mohammed Hafeez used the delivery effectively in the 2011 World Cup, but that art has been legislated out of the game, much like reverse swing. The only delivery that turns the other way for fingerspinners now is the carrom ball.”

This world cup will also miss the OGs of One day cricket, the West Indies:
This is the first World Cup in any format without the team that has dominated cricket as much as any other side has. The ten-team format for this year’s World Cup meant that sides out of the top eight as on the cut-off date had to play the Qualifiers. In that tournament, West Indies lost to Zimbabwe, Netherlands and Scotland, to be knocked out. On the one hand, this upset shows how much the Associate sides have improved, on the other, we won’t get to see those sides (and West Indies) at the World Cup. Also missing are Zimbabwe, who were a constant at the World Cup ever since they defeated Australia on their tournament debut in 1983, through to 2019, when they first missed out. This time, they came heartbreakingly close after beating West Indies but lost to Scotland.”

The period since 2011 has seen the emergence of the greatest exponents of the format in Kohli and Starc:
“Only a rookie at the 2011 World Cup, Virat Kohli has not only become a legend of the format, but almost a template for ODI batting. He goes into the World Cup only four centuries short of going past Tendulkar’s record for most ODI hundreds, 49.A loosely similar bolter with the ball since that World Cup is Mitchell Starc. There are 33 men ahead of his 219 wickets, but he is seven away from setting a record for most ODI four-wicket hauls. He has taken nine five-fors in just 110 matches, the third highest. His 25.9 is comfortably the best strike rate among bowlers who have taken 200 wickets.”

The emergence of Ahmedabad as India’s preferred venue for any big game:
“The opening match, the final, India vs Pakistan, the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony. Move over, Eden Gardens and Wankhede, the new capital and power centre of Indian cricket is the shiny new Narendra Modi Stadium with capacity estimated to be anywhere between 100,000 and 132,000 (and roofs designed to throw rain water on people taking shelter from the elements).In less than three years of its existence in this new avatar, the stadium will have hosted a World Cup final, two IPL finals and an IPL opener, three Tests (against Australia and England), a Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final, a World Cup opener, and an India-Pakistan match.”

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