ICC Cricket World Cup 2023: Australia rules the world … again!

Published November 25, 2023
Australian skipper Pat Cummins with teammates lift the sixth World Cup trophy after winning the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 against India in Ahmedabad. — AFP
Australian skipper Pat Cummins with teammates lift the sixth World Cup trophy after winning the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 against India in Ahmedabad. — AFP

The 13th ICC Cricket World Cup ended with a bang last week, with Australia bagging the champions’ tag yet again. They not only defeated the ‘invincible’ India by six wickets in the final in Ahmedabad, but also extended their tally of World Cup titles to six.

Captain Pat Cummins impressed all with his leadership skills and followed Allan Border (1987), Steve Waugh (1999), Ricky Ponting (2003 and 2007) and Michael Clarke (2015) into the august company of the World Cup winning captains. It was his acumen that helped Australia extend its run at the top and one must commend him for his decisions — his bowling changes, field placing and perfect coin call were the reasons hosts India were unable to post a huge total on the board.

The rest was done by Travis Head, who became the sixth batter after Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Aravinda de Silva, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Mahela Jayawardene to score a century in the finale of the mega event. However, the tournament was anything but worth remembering for fans of the Pakistan cricket team, who ended with four wins in nine matches and were knocked-out of the semi-final stage for the third time running.

The only memorable stat in Pakistan’s journey was the return to form of Shaheen Shah Afridi, who ended the tournament as the sixth-best bowler, taking 18 wickets in nine matches and helped Pakistan win four matches to end the event at number five, just like the last World Cup.

Let’s take a look back at the mega event that lasted for one and half months, and saw batters and bowlers engage in a fight for supremacy, which was eventually won by those from Down Under.

Where the bat dominated the ball

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 would be remembered more for its high-scoring encounters than its low-scoring matches. South Africa, New Zealand and hosts India were able to score in excess of 400 runs in an innings, and Pakistan managed to chase 345 runs for the first time.

The highest innings total was scored by South African batters who decimated the injury-hit Sri Lankans at Delhi, taking their 50 overs for 428 runs, for the loss of five wickets. India treated the Netherlands the same way by scoring 410 runs for the loss of four wickets in Bengaluru. However, despite scoring as many as 401 runs against Pakistan in Bengaluru, New Zealand lost the match to the heroics of Fakhar Zaman and rain, who combined to ensure that the Greenshirts won the match and stayed in the race for the knockout stage.

The team with the lowest innings score were Sri Lanka, who were bowled out for just 55 runs in reply to India’s 357 runs for the loss of 8 wickets. Mohammad Shami’s five wickets in the innings were the reason why India was able to register a victory in excess of 30 runs!

Australia’s tournament all the way!

At one time Australia had lost two matches and were in danger of not qualifying for the top four position of the points table, but they changed gears in time. Two of their closest encounters were when first they kept their nerves to defeat New Zealand by just 5 runs, and in the second match, Glenn Maxwell defied all odds to score an unbeaten double century against the Afghans and take his side to victory from a precarious position of 91 runs for the loss of 7 wickets.

Not only did he end up scoring 201 runs off 128 deliveries, his innings were laced with 21 fours and 10 sixes, a few of which were hit with Maxwell standing on one foot. His eighth wicket partnership of 202 runs with skipper Pat Cummins was the highlight of the match.

India lost just one match

Despite losing the final of the World Cup, India ended the tournament with the least number of losses; they won ten straight games before losing their first and only game, the final. Virat Kohli managed to score his 50th ODI ton whereas Captain Rohit Sharma broke the record for most World Cup centuries by a batter when he scored his 7th century during a World Cup match.

It was a dream tournament for fast bowler Mohammad Shami, who ended up 24 wickets, the most by any bowler during the event. His figures of 7 wickets for 57 runs against New Zealand in the semi-final was not just the first time an Indian bowler sent back seven batters in an innings, but also ended up as the best bowling figures of the event.

South Africa choked again

South Africa continued to disappoint in crucial matches and choke when it mattered the most. Despite Quentin de Kock’s four centuries, they were unable to shrug off their chokers’ tag. They lost to Australia in the semi-final, despite dismissing their 7 batters for 193, while they were chasing 213 to win.

Experts of the game were critical of their skipper Temba Bavuma, who first became a laughing stock for dozing off during the captains’ presser and later was found to be out of form. His replacement Reeza Hendricks played two matches in his absence and was able to contribute 97 runs in the two matches that were won by the Proteas.

The Kiwis couldn’t beat India to reach the final

New Zealand reached their fifth consecutive semi-final in World Cup, but could not make it to three finals in a row, because they couldn’t beat India, which was disappointing especially since they had a better tournament than most teams.

It was the tournament that they discovered the batting prowess of left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra, who amassed three centuries at the top order; Daryl Mitchell wasn’t far behind with two tons, whereas Kane Williamson defied the odds to come back from injury twice during the event to lead the Blackcaps.

Pakistan didn’t have a great outing

The Greenshirts were hopeful of a good show when they embarked on their World Cup journey, but their performance suggested otherwise. Led by Babar Azam, the team faltered in front of the huge crowd that supported the hosts in Ahmedabad, lost their relatively easier encounter to Afghanistan, and even struggled against minnows Netherlands.

Two memorable performances ensured that they came out victorious in encounters against Sri Lanka and New Zealand from impossible positions. Thanks to Mohammad Rizwan’s century, Pakistan managed to chase a target of 345 runs against Sri Lanka, whereas Fakhar Zaman’s quickfire 126 not out in 81 deliveries ensured that Pakistan were on the right side of the DLS method when rain intervened for the second time in their match against New Zealand.

Shaheen Afridi might not have had the best of tournaments but even then, he ended with 18 wickets in 9 matches, reaching the number one position momentarily at the ICC ODI Rankings.

England disappointed big time

They were the defending champions, but a lacklustre performance from England resulted in their elimination from the semi-final stage long before others. Neither their bowlers nor their batters were able to provide a glimpse of the performance which saw them take the trophy four years earlier.

Dropping Jason Roy in favour of Harry Brook and recalling an unfit Ben Stokes who had retired from ODIs, were two of the major decisions that didn’t help the English side. They were the first team to lose to Afghanistan, while the injury-hit Sri Lankans also decimated them in the group stages.

By defeating Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Netherlands, they ended up in the top seven teams of the event, guaranteeing them a place in the next Champions Trophy.

Afghanistan and the Netherlands upset better ranked sides

Afghanistan came out as the most improved side in this World Cup. They defeated defending champions England, former champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and at one time were in contention for the semi-finals, which is a huge improvement considering they had won just one World Cup match before this event.

Afghanistan team used India as their home when they had to play hosts and their bowlers had played IPL, so they used that experience to up the ante but ended up at number six, despite having the same number of points as Pakistan.

As for the Netherlands, they not only upset South Africa in their league match, but also destroyed Bangladesh to claim two unlikely victories during the event. They panicked against Pakistan after dominating the match, otherwise it might have been three wins for the qualifiers who don’t have a professional team to begin with.

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka disappointed

Two teams that didn’t live up to the expectations were Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Bangladesh ended up at number eight; but to see three-time finalists and one-time champions Sri Lanka end up at number nine was disappointing.

While Bangladesh’s two victories came against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the islanders were able to beat only the Netherlands and England. Dilshan Madushanka’s emergence as a top bowler was their only achievement and ended up as the third-highest wicket-taker with 21 wickets.

The match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka ended on a sour note as players of both sides refused to shake hands after the match. The reason was Bangladesh Captain Shakib Al Hasan’s decision to appeal for a timed-out dismissal after the Sri Lankan batter Angelo Mathews asked for a change in the helmet. The former skipper might have overstayed his welcome without facing a delivery, but after the umpires gave him out, Sri Lankan supporters criticised Bangladeshis for their unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Players who dominated with the bat

World Cup 2023 would be remembered for its batters who extracted advantage from the friendly pitches in India. The top two scorers were from the host, followed by some exceptional players who used their IPL experience to their advantage.

India’s Virat Kohli, who first equalled Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most ODI centuries during the event, also became the first player ever to score 50 ODI centuries. He made a record 765 runs at an average of 96, with the help of three centuries and six fifties. His skipper Rohit Sharma and South Africa’s Quentin de Kock were 597 and 594 runs respectively. Rohit had just a century to his name, de Kock scored four tons in a single World Cup.

However, the award for the highest individual score of the event went to Australia’s Glenn Maxwell, who scored the only double century of this World Cup, the third in World Cup competition. His unbeaten 201 not out off 128 balls, featured 21 fours and 10 sixes and helped his side end up victorious from a rather embarrassing position against lowly-ranked Afghanistan.

Players who stood out with the ball

There was not much bowlers could do in the recently-concluded event, even then India’s Mohammad Shami took 24 wickets to lead the pack. He played just 7 matches during the event, because he wasn’t in the first-choice XI, and after impressing the selectors with his accuracy and pace, he wasn’t dropped once after making his comeback.

His figures of 7 wickets for 57 runs were the event’s best bowling figures; no other bowler took more than five wickets in an inning! Australian leg spinner Adam Zampa came second, with 23 wickets, while Sri Lankan Dilshan Madushanka began his World Cup career with 21 wickets. India’s Jasprit Bumrah, and South Africa’s Gerald Coetzee got 20 wickets each, and Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi made his presence felt with 18 wickets in nine matches.

Youngsters who raised the bar on their debut

The World Cup might have ended, but it gave the followers of the game a few players who might make the difference in the coming years. Sri Lanka’s Dilshan Madushanka leads the pack with 21 wickets, followed by South Africa pacers Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen who ended with 20 and 17 wickets respectively in batter-friendly grounds.

Then there are the batters who defied the odds in their debut World Cup. Rachin Ravindra struck three centuries and ended up as the fourth-highest run-getter, with 578 runs at an average of 64 runs per innings. He backed his centuries with two fifties which speaks volumes about his consistency.

Shreyas Iyer’s 530 runs at 66 in 11 innings and Shubman Gill’s 354 runs in nine appearances stand out. While Iyer managed two centuries and three fifties in his 11 matches, Gill’s four fifties ensured India got off to a flier in every match.

Finally, there were Pakistan’s two stars who shone when the rest of the batters didn’t — Abdullah Shafique and Saud Shakeel. In his eight matches, Shafique managed 336 runs at an average of 42, which included one century and three fifties. In fact, his nine sixes were one of the reasons Pakistan got off to a flying start when it was needed.

Saud managed 241 runs at 34, but displayed his flair for attacking bowlers, be it pacers or spinners. He managed two fifties during the event, while playing with the lower order which was not a small achievement.

The next 50-over World Cup will be played in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia in 2027, and one hopes to see these youngsters develop into better players so that they can help their sides win the mega event, and set the bar high for others to follow.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 25TH, 2023

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