‘Anyone willing to bet on 500 runs being scored in an innings this World Cup? I’ll give 1:4 (Rs. 500: Rs. 2000) odds,’ a message pops in a WhatsApp group.
It’s that time of the year, or warming up to that time, when seasonal fans, the hardcore, armchair experts, analysts and bookmakers will stake a boisterous prophecy on the new champion of world cricket.
Investments will be personal, blind, bold, oddly articulate, and amply fortuitous.
For all the clamour about the burgeoning international calendar and mushrooming franchise leagues, ODI cricket has somewhat found its footing at the right time. England nailed down its preparations by annihilating New Zealand in a four-match series. The finalists of the 2019 World Cup will meet again at the world’s largest cricket stadium - the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad - in the opener of the 13th Cricket World Cup.
Elsewhere, South Africa thrashed Australia 3-2 in an engrossing run-fest while the Asian teams opted for a bout of depression in stormy Sri Lanka with the Asia Cup. India regained the continental title after humbling the host in the final. While the weather held back the Subcontinent teams, the quality of cricket that ensued on the tacky Lankan pitches was promising.
So, who is poised to win the 2023 Cricket World Cup?
Taking cues from English analysts and authors, Ben Jones and Nathan Leamon’s seminal work in the book ‘Hitting Against the Spin’, we arrive at three distinct factors that have historically backed successful teams in their performances at the World Cups.
Contrary to popular belief, batting depth trumps bowling and emerges as the most significant factor at the ODI World Cup. According to Jones and Leamon, teams’ habitual average scoring rates, considered from 24 months before a World Cup, emerged as the primary factor in determining the likely top four (semifinalists). It is followed by the winning form in the past two years and the overall distribution of match experience through the 15-member squad.
While the game and its followers have gone high on data and technique, three fairly straightforward concepts emerge as key in the high-pressure tournament.
Performance since 2019 World Cup
The World Cup comes at a time when the average scoring rates have fallen (from 5.32 between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups to 5.21 since the 2019 WC). The general interest and context of eight-hour engagements, with two T20 World Cups and the World Test Championship wedged in between, has also witnessed a dip.
Batting Strength (average scoring rates)
Assuming the historical trends continue into a seventh-straight World Cup, a period of two years - from September 5, 2021, to the last engagements before the tournament - is analysed.
Avg. scoring rates, winning form and match experience in 2019 World Cup cycle
Credit: Hitting Against the Spin