The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is exactly 6 months away and all the teams have started preparing for the mega event which will be hosted by England. 10 teams namely Afghanistan. Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies and England have made it to the tournament. The World Cup will be played in a new format as we will see all the teams play against one another at least once in the entire course of the competition.
The last World Cup was played in 2015 which saw Australia becoming only the second team in the history to win the World Cup on their own soil. Michael Clarke's men defeated New Zealand to win their 5th World Cup. However, a lot of things have changed since the last World Cup. Here are the 10 changes in the cricket world ever since the 2015 World Cup:
#1 Number of Test Teams
The number of test playing nations was 10 in the year 2015. But, the International Cricket Council (ICC) granted test status to more teams namely Afghanistan and Ireland to increase the number of test playing teams to 12. Both the teams have already made their test debuts albeit in losing causes.
Ireland came close to defeating Pakistan in their maiden test while Afghanistan were squashed by the Indian team on their test debut. Nevertheless, both the teams are expected to do well in the future as they are bound to receive more opportunities. This was a great step by the ICC to introduce more teams to the test format since the evolution of T20 cricket has led to the burial of test format in the upcoming cricket nations.
#2 India's no.4 batsman in the ODIs
The no.4 position in the Indian ODI team has always been up for grabs ever since the exit of V Sehwag, S Tendulkar and G Gambhir from the team. Ajinkya Rahane was the team's no.4 batsman in the 2015 World Cup but is nowhere in the squad now. The selectors tried KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and even demoted Virat to no.4 to solve the issue. However, the problem has persisted with the Indian team.
Ambati Rayudu seems to have sealed this spot now but one should not forget that he performed well against a depleted no.9 side Windies that too in home conditions. It would be interesting to see if team India gets their no.4 batsman before the 2019 World Cup in England.
#3 Cricket now has 4 formats
The sport of cricket had only 3 formats - Test, ODI and T20 when the 2015 World Cup was played. However, the birth of the T10 league has given the cricket fans a new format to enjoy. The T10 format is the shortest format of the game which has both the teams play 10 overs each. The match finishes inside 2 hours and guarantees the viewers a fantastic experience.
Popular cricketers like Zaheer Khan, S Badrinath, S Afridi, Rashid Khan, M Rahman, M Nabi are a part of this league which has gained a huge number of fans. Eight teams battle in the league which is hosted in the U.A.E. The first season of this league was played in the year 2017 and the overwhelming success prompted the organizers to conduct another season.
#4 England's status as ODI team
In the 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh knocked out England from the group stage itself which questioned England's relevance as an ODI team. However, the team has improved a lot in the past few years and is currently the no.1 ranked ODI side in the world. The Englishmen who crashed out of the group stage in 2015 are expected to better their 2015 performance in 2019 and a lot of fans are even picking England as the favourites to win the World Cup.
England has defeated several top teams including India and Australia this year and their batsmen also broke the record for the highest total in ODI innings. With a plethora of match winners like Chris Woakes, Jos Butler, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Sam Billings in the side, England are certainly not the team they were in 2015.
#5 AB de Villiers' relation with international cricket
AB de Villiers shockingly announced his retirement from international cricket earlier this year which surprised a lot of cricket fans. Mr.360 was expected to play at least till the 2019 World Cup as he was the Proteas' key man in the ODI format. However, he informed his fans that he has run out of fuel and so would not play international cricket any further.
AB de Villiers had played exceptionally well in the 2015 World Cup where he helped his team make it to the semi-finals. The middle-order batsman also played one of his most memorable knocks against the Windies during the tournaments. Nevertheless, AB has continued playing in the leagues and is also a part of the ongoing MSL in South Africa.
#6 The position of the Afghanistan Cricket team
Afghanistan who were ranked outsiders in the 2015 World Cup have the potential now to beat any team of the world on any given day. They defeated the Sri Lankan team in the Asia Cup, upset the Bangladesh side, came close to defeating Pakistan while almost won the match against India a few months ago. The Afghan team is no longer what it used to be in 2015.
They also won the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe earlier this year in Zimbabwe, a tournament which even featured 2-time World Champions West Indies. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Rahman, M Nabi, M Shahzad and A Stanikzai have played an important role in team Afghanistan's rise and the Blue Tigers can be expected to cause some major upsets in the upcoming World Cup.
#7 The importance of leg-spinners
The leg-spinners have become an important part of the limited overs format as each and every international team features at least 1 or 2 leg spinners in their squad. The Indian team has Kuldeep Yadav and Y Chahal, the South African team have Imran Tahir, the English team have Adil Rashid, the West Indian team have D Bishoo, the Afghan team have R Khan, the Australian team have A Zampa while Sri Lanka are known to produce mystery spinners every second day.
The leggies occupy a majority of the top positions in the ICC Rankings for bowlers which show their importance in a team. This was not the case during the 2015 World Cup as the finger spinners and pacers were considered to be superior to the leg spinners to play in a match.
#8 Pakistan end their losing streak to India at ICC events
Pakistan had lost each and every match at an ICC event against India since the 2009 Champions Trophy. They lost to India at the 2011 World Cup, the 2015 World Cup, the 2012 WT20, the 2014 WT20, the 2016 WT20, the 2013 Champions Trophy and also in the first match of the 2017 Champions Trophy.
However, the arch-rivals of India finally won a game against India and won it when it mattered the most. They defeated India by a huge margin in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 and snapped a long-standing losing streak. The Pakistani team is yet to beat India at the ICC World Cup and given that the two teams will battle once again in England, there's a slim chance that they can end that streak as well.
#9 No. of teams in the World Cup
ICC World Cup 2019 will only have 10 teams down from last year's 14 teams. This edition will not have the teams of Scotland, Ireland, Zimbabwe and U.A.E who had played the 2015 World Cup. While it is disappointing to see a fewer number of teams in the World Cup, ICC did have a valid reason for that.
The associate teams were one of the most exciting parts of the World Cup since they could upset any big team on their day. But, the ticket sales for a match between two associate teams was relatively very low. In fact, the ticket sales for the Zimbabwe vs Kenya match in the 2011 World Cup in a 68,000 strong Eden Gardens was just 15. However, the cricket fans will miss the test playing teams Ireland and Zimbabwe at the World Cup.
#10 The ODI captains of Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Africa
At the 2015 World Cup, M Clarke was the leader of Australia, MS Dhoni was captain of India, Misbah Ul Haq the skipper of Pakistan, Sri Lanka was led by Angelo Matthews, South Africa was captained by AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum led New Zealand while Mohammad Nabi was the Afghan captain.
3 years later, a majority of the former captains have retired while some have been replaced by their younger compatriots. Virat Kohli is the captain of team India, Aaron Finch is leading Australia, Dinesh Chandimal is the Sri Lankan skipper, Du Plessis is the captain of South Africa, Asghar Stanikzai is leading the Blue Tigers, Sarfraz Ahmed is captaining the Pakistani side while Kane Williamson has taken over the reins from Brendon McCullum.
Certainly, a lot of things have changed since the last World Cup but one thing which has remained constant is our love for cricket. The 2019 World Cup is set to commence from 30th May 2019. Which team do you think will win the mega event in England?