The 2019 ICC World Cup has started and it’s quite clear that there is no team that can be considered the favourite. England which is the No. 1 ranked team in the world and which is the favourite to win its first ever World Cup has lost to Pakistan which had earlier lost to West Indies. So the upsets have come through in the first week of the tournament itself . There’s South Africa, which has lost all three World Cup matches it has played so far as also Afghanistan. The latter is still young in international cricket and so is not a real contender but can cause the odd surprise and beat a fancied team and spoil its party. It is clearly a team that is more in sync with T20, the ultra short format of the game than the 50-overs version.
India started its campaign well beating South Africa easily but has some big games which can make or mar its tournament.
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Australia has shown great resurgence and the manner in which it recovered after being four wickets down for 38 against the West Indies shows that the old combativeness is back. No Australian team is ever defeated till the last ball is bowled and this team with Steve Smith and David Warner back in Aussie colours is not going to surrender the trophy easily. Remember it is the defending champion and it can regain the respect of the cricketing world and more so its own countrymen by winning the World Cup.
The format where each team plays against the others is the best one. In a group format there is a possibility that one country’s bogey team may never play against each other and then go on to win the trophy. In this format you play everybody and so which ever team holds the World Cup on July 14 will be the world champion in the truest sense. There are a couple of aspects that were seen in the first few games, which could be tweaked to make things fair. The first is the calling of wides of the bouncer that goes above the head of the batsman standing normally in his batting stance. This has become important as the bouncer has come back as a real weapon in this tournament. With boundaries getting smaller and players getting stronger anything pitched up generally goes for a six even if it is not always well connected. The well-bowled bouncer negates this to a great extent and so this event has seen it used more liberally than in the last couple of editions. The bouncer that goes just above the head of the batsman should not be called a wide. Sure, if it is too high and a batsman can’t play a shot against it then by all means call it a wide but the one that barely goes above the head should not be called one. This negates the effectiveness of the short ball to a great extent.
The other aspect is the no-ball call. When a batsman is out then often the umpire tells him not to go till he cross checks with the TV umpire if it’s a fair delivery or if the bowler has overstepped the mark. If this is done and the batsman recalled if the bowler had overstepped, then why not have the TV umpire check every delivery and see if it is a fair one or not.
The umpire on the field can still call it a no-ball so that the batsman, if he hears the call early and reacts quickly, can score off it but even if he is unable to take advantage of it the free hit that comes after the TV umpire sees it can be used to hit the big shot. In the game against the West Indies, Mitchell Starc, the tall Australian fast bowler, clearly overstepped but was not called and Chris Gayle was dismissed next ball of what should have been a free hit. In a close finish, such errors can make the difference between winning and losing.
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The cameras that are placed square of the stumps at either end to decide on run-outs can be used by the TV umpire to check no balls too. This way there won’t be any heartburns. There could be a slight delay if a spinner is operating but that’s a small price to pay, for it is far better to ensure that an infringement does not go unpunished even if it means the game might be delayed.
The batting team could be asked to sit in dugouts on the ground so that on a dismissal the incoming batsman can get to the crease quickly. The two-minute allowance given for every wicket can thus be reduced to a minute or less and teams will necessarily have to finish their overs in time else they will be fined and their skipper can even be suspended for a couple of matches. This, of course, is hopefully for the future. Right now it’s time to enjoy the World Cup and see the best players in the world in action.
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