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Who Will Win the ICC World Cup?

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Predicting the winner of a global tournament in any sport is not a very wise thing. Many things could go wrong, even for the pre-tournament favourites, and many unforeseen things can emerge. Especially in a game like cricket, there are multiple factors that may come into play, including luck. Remember the final moments of the 2109 World Cup?

However, there is one way to approach this. We could identify a few important factors that are proven to have an impact on successful teams in the past, which might have a bearing on deciding who the ultimate winner would be and then analyze which team would have the advantage based on those factors. That is, perhaps, a logical way of predicting the winner.

With the kind of influence T20 cricket has on ODIs nowadays, one of the biggest factors to be considered is which team can pile up huge totals and score runs at a rapid rate on a consistent basis. There is no guarantee that a score of 300 would be defendable, especially on these flat Indian wickets. On the contrary, you would need the batting power to chase even 350 runs. To do that, your batting line up must have the ability to score runs at a brisk rate throughout the innings. On this aspect, England stands head and shoulders above the other teams. In the past 2 years, England have maintained an astonishing run rate of 6.24. England’s hitting ability is not merely confined to the top order; even their middle and late-middle order have been scoring runs rapidly on a consistent basis, with the top 7 maintaining a strike rate of 99%. England has been able to maintain a run rate of over 6 runs per over even in the middle orders, which is very impressive. South Africa and India come next in terms of the run rate.

Who could do well in the Indian conditions will be another major factor to be considered. The last 3 World Cups were all won by the hosts and the last 2 times the World Cup was held in the sub-continent, the hosts (India in 2011) or the joint host (Sri Lanka in 1996) won it. This is where India has the biggest advantage. India is an extremely dangerous side at home. They have always dominated every bilateral series played at home in the recent past, winning 6 of the last 7 series played at home. In fact, it is nearly impossible to win against India on these pitches, and they proved that in 2011 too. The same could happen in 2023 as well.

The team strength is always a huge factor in any tournament. It boils down to the presence of how many heavyweights are in the side who can be match-winners at different stages of the tournament. It also relates to the team composition, the quality of the players, their level of experience and the current form. Again, India comes on top here, with so many world-class players in the side. India has enough strength in all areas of the game and seems to have pretty much covered all their bases in the squad. Indian batting line up is a wonderful blend of aggression and seasoned expertise. Their top order makes runs at a brisk pace and the middle order has also been able to maintain a healthy run rate during the middle overs, especially against spinners, which is another important factor to be considered on Indian pitches. In the recent Asia Cup, India was tested on a couple of occasions, but they were able to triumph, mainly due to their impressive batting and bowling prowess. They have match-winning batsmen and bowlers who could chip in any at any given moment. The return of K L Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah couldn’t have come at better time too. This Indian side is an excellent combination of experience and youth who are on top form of their game at this moment.

England and Australia come second on this count. England have a strong and a well-balanced side too. Their formidable top order could take any bowling attack apart. They haven’t been tested on Indian conditions lately, but England has shown that they could quickly adapt to the conditions. In the bowling department, England has some of the best pace bowlers and spinners in the circuit. It is difficult not to consider England as one of the top favourites.

Australia has a well-settled combination with some top-notch performers. They could always show up with some spectacular performances, which they are renowned for in ICC events, on a consistent basis. It will not be an easy task to win in these conditions, but with the kind of squad depth they possess with several game-changers, the Aussies remain a huge threat to all other teams. It is a side many would want to avoid.

Then, how would the other teams fare against these criteria? Without a doubt, South Africa is one side which has the batting firepower. They have also maintained a run rate of more than 6 runs per over during the past 2 years with their top 7 striking at 100+ since 2022. They have a potent battery of pace bowlers who possess adequate exposure to Indian wickets. South Africa’s recent form has been noteworthy too; they have lost only one of their last 5 ODI series. They won a 5-match series against Australia 3-2 a few days ago, after trailing 0-2. Who knows, the Proteas may have peaked at the right time!

The Kiwis are a well-rounded side with a combination of experienced and young players. New Zealand has made it a habit of reaching the semi-finals of ICC events. They were the semi-finalists of the last 4 ICC World Cups and may be a team to watch out this time too.

Pakistan’s batting is top-notch, but their bowling attack is somewhat depleted without the talented Naseem Shah. But, Pakistan remains a team shrouded in mystery. It is a team renowned for its unpredictability and flair and could always make a comeback when you least expect it.

Then what of Sri Lanka? It’s simple: This Sri Lankan line up doesn’t look adequately equipped to offer a serious challenge to the big teams on a consistent basis. Having ‘X factors’ can be exciting, but they don’t necessarily ensure a semi-final berth anymore! It is the overall professionalism of the team that will take a team to semis, as amply demonstrated in the last few World Cups.

In the first Round of the ICC World Cup, the 10 teams will play against each other in a grueling Round Robin. The ICC seems to be happy with this format which ensures that India remains in the competition over a lengthy duration. (They leant their lesson in 2007!) Playing in different conditions and the vast amount of travel within India could be challenging for all the teams.

Considering the factors mentioned above, India seems to have the best chance of winning the World Cup in 2023. The conditions and the team strength are some of the major factors that may tilt the scale in India’s favour. However, one factor that may still go against them is their poor track record in ICC events since 2011. India has consistently failed at the knock-out stage of all ICC tournaments recently. May be the team takes too much pressure heading into these big games!

England are a top contender to defend the World Cup as well. Or, will it be the 5-time winners, Australia with their experience and proven firepower? Can South Africa finally drop the chockers’ tag?

It will be an absorbing World Cup.

 

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