The cricket world has much to cheer for despite the men’s 50-over World Cup taking off in cavernous, half-empty stadiums with all the grandeur of a deflating party balloon.
The first eight matches of the tournament have been an absolute run-fest, leaving fans to wonder if the grounds have suddenly shrunk to the size of a shoebox. Ahead of the 48-match event, the International Cricket Council had reportedly directed the curators of the Board of Control for Cricket in India to employ longer boundaries — at least 70m — and use wetting agents to nullify the dew factor in the second innings to ensure a level playing field between bat and ball.
The tournament, however, has already witnessed six 300-plus scores, with South Africa recording a mammoth 428 for five in its match against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis (14) outdid every other batter in the “Who Can Hit the Most Sixes?” competition. In eight matches, batters have hit 98 sixes and 405 fours, taking advantage of shorter square boundaries (61 sixes and 250 fours hit square compared to 37 sixes and 155 fours hit straight down the ground). Ten centuries have been scored, with Aiden Markram taking the honours for the fastest in a World Cup match.
While most of the 10 World Cup grounds have (between) 65-70m straight boundaries, the square boundaries are between 63-69m.
But the boundaries seemed to have stretched only as far as this author’s New Year Resolutions. Sri Lanka has been left particularly traumatised as Pakistan’s Abdullah Shafique and Muhammad Rizwan, chasing down 345 in Hyderabad, turned their bowlers into human yo-yos.
The 2019 edition in England had seen 27 300-plus totals in 48 matches, with England’s 397 for six against Afghanistan the highest.
The pyrotechnics on the cricket field have kept the fans entertained and, hopefully, will draw them to the grounds as the Cup progresses.
Cricket is also soon to hit the Hollywood stage at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Following the LA Organising Committee’s proposal to include the T20 variant of the game, baseball-softball, flag football (limited-contact version of American football), lacrosse and squash, the IOC’s executive board is set to table it for voting at the 141st IOC Session in Mumbai.
“With cricket, you’re in Americas, you’re in Asia, you’re in Europe, you’re in Africa, you’re in Oceania... so, you have a certain representation in all five continents. And this is not necessarily true for every sport that we’re taking on the programme. This is a good space then to develop it further within the continents. If we’re talking about 2028, there is time to grow,” President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, who tried his best to learn the sport ahead of the Session in Mumbai, said.
The potential broadcast rights windfall from the Indian market — reported to be upwards of $150 million — will surely help sway the votes cricket’s way.
Of course, with cricket squads the size of a small army, the IOC will have much to juggle to fit them into their 10,500-athlete quota per Games. But surely, cricket’s Olympic dreams won’t get bowled out by such minor details as logistics.
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