Hello everyone. Or, to put it another way, aaaaaaahhhh! Yep, after four years of ever-increasing excitement, the World Cup is finally about to begin. As any tournament veteran knows, you don’t watch World Cups so much as live them, so for the next 45 days we will be in cricket mode. Meal times, household chores, professional productivity, twitter frequency, liver compromise: all will be determined by what’s going on in the crickYOU’VE MISSED THE BLOODY RUBBISH COLLECTION, HAVEN’T YOU?! I GIVE YOU ONE JOB FOR THE DAY AND YOU SIT WATCHING BLOODY CRICKET AGAIN! I WOULDN’T MIND IF IT WAS THE WORLD CUP FINAL BUT THIS IS BANGLADESH V AFGHANISTAN! AND IT WAS RAINED OFF THREE HOURS AGO!et
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been this excited about a World Cup since the last time I tried to remember when I was so excited about a World Cup. But seriously, this does feel different. The main reason for that, certainly if you are English, is the joyful cognitive dissonance of a superb England ODI team. They begin the tournament against South Africa at the Oval today, and we’ll discuss their unnerving excellence anon. But there’s a reason God provides two eyes per person, and that reason is cricket. One for loving your team, one for loving everything about this sport. You’ll need both in this tournament.
This might be a delusion of hindsight and/or giddiness, but I can’t remember the last time a World Cup felt so open. There are seven potential winners; eight if you include Australia (ho-honk!). And the round-robin format, while having the potential for some dead rubber down the line, does bring back the best thing about any major tournament: jeopardy. In most of the World Cups since 1992, the big teams have only had to turn up and spell their name correctly to get past the group stage (a-hem). That’s certainly not the case this time.
A year ago I’d have said England were certainties to make the last four, but the renaissance of Australia and the West Indies has made it a much stronger competition. England are the favourites – rightly so, weirdly so, say it ain’t so – but some very good teams won’t make it past the league stage. I’d be loath to belt out “cricket’s coming home” in your local just yet, and not only because it isn’t entirely consistent with the established vibe of JD Wetherspoons.
The one thing we can say without fear of being publicly shamed is that England are capable of winning the World Cup. And it’s been a long time – 9927 days, to be gratuitously precise – since that was the case.
Although the official ODI rankings say otherwise, I suspect most folk would split the 10 teams into three categories.
- Favourites England, India, Australia
- Potential winners New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa
- Outsiders Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan
Those 10 teams will be involved in 48 matches over the next six weeks, and all their batsmen should enjoy guilt-free thuggery. On recent evidence, it will be a surprise if all the major World Cup batting records are not broken. There will be thousands of fours and hundreds and hundreds of sixes, and the first will be struck at approximately 10.31am this morning. Let us flay.