The Cricket World Cup 2023 concluded last Sunday, with Australia lifting the trophy for the sixth time and celebrating a convincing and much-awaited victory. The Aussies must be filled with pride and prowess to win the World Cup in the 13th edition of this masterpiece event. Scheduled every four years, the event is not only a challenge for competitive teams but also tests the fans’ patience, who keep counting and cannot contain their overflowing eagerness to observe the grand tussle. CWC23 is a tale of shattered records, tiffs, fluctuating hopes, astonishing outcomes, and disappointments.
No arguments can be made against the round-robin level, speckled with changing dynamics and a clear reflection of modern-day cricket, being mouth-watering and fantastic. While it was nearly a fairy tale journey for some teams, a few had nightmares in the form of elimination. Weak opposition bulldozed the fighters, and the rest were left alone on the voyage of luck. The first round holds a unique ambiance, and the story would be colorless without reliving bittersweet moments.
Pakistan’s Highest Run-Chase
It was a fixture between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to bat first, challenging Pakistan with a massive total of 345 runs. “Could the green caps hit the target?” was a million-dollar question terrifying Pakistani fans, but a previous comfortable win over the Netherlands filled the air with hope around them. Hats off to the duo: Mohammad Rizwan and young Abdullah Shafique. Pakistan achieved their highest run-chase in the ODI format. Known for his adaptability to conditions, Rizwan went unbeaten with a total contribution of 126, and Abdullah took advantage of the opportunity to make his ODI debut memorable by hitting tons. The 23-year-old, widely regarded as a Test player earlier and as a substitute for Fakhar Zaman in Pakistan’s CWC23 campaign, won plaudits for his performance on the big stage, proving his mettle in the cricket arena. Noteworthy: shortly before the CWC23 kicked off, Pakistan suffered a narrow loss to Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup 2023. Therefore, a win this time was not only an addition to points but also a regaining of composure.
As Sri Lanka and Bangladesh faced each other in New Delhi, with both desperately fishing for points, a tiff added spice to the scenario. In the middle of the game, the 25th overtime turned things around on an ethical note. Matthews Angelos, all-rounder of Sri Lanka, as he struggled with the helmet, became the first cricketer in the 146 years of international cricket to be ‘timed out.’ Shakib-al-Hassan appealed to the umpire, and despite Matthews’s plea to Shakib to backtrack on his decision, he had to return to the dressing room without having faced a single ball. Afterwards, social media buzzed with posts as fans slammed Shakib for his ‘disgraceful’ act. The controversy became a discussion topic as it took everyone by surprise. Tensions have slightly escalated between the two teams since then.
Afghanistan sprang up, leaving fans frozen in utter surprise by playing with a different intent, aggression, and absolute finesse. As they took on Australia in a match in Mumbai, magical moments were yet to come. A miracle was to happen. Though the game seemingly was a humiliating defeat for the Aussies with 91-7, Glenn Maxwell was the man to turn the tables around. High in spirits and redefining the term “consistency,” he remained unbeaten by scoring an awe-inspiring double-century, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat, and rescuing his team from the dig of despair.
Pakistan’s fate vacillated in uncertainty: a tightrope walk to win and thrash England by 287 runs or the other way around, a run-chase in 2.5 overs to knock out the 2019 Champions. In this manner, a coin toss could shift Pakistan’s hope to infinity. England, positioned low in morale and points table, was preparing to exit the Indian soil gracefully. Contrarily, Pakistan, with four wins eclipsed by back-to-back crushing losses, was too late to book a slot in the semi-finals. England dominated the men in green by 93 runs. However, both teams had to return from India empty-handed.
Moving forward, as Pakistan suffered a heartbreaking loss to England with all hopes shattered, berths of the knockout stage were confirmed. India had qualified first with maximum points and credits for the team’s excellence in all three departments on the field. South Africa grabbed the second spot. Australia was disciplined in its campaign to sit in the third position. New Zealand secured the final place with special thanks to their better net run rate (NRR) compared to the Babar-led side. Both clashes were formidable, with India locking horns with New Zealand and South Africa coping with the rigid team of Australia.
The drama was over for South Africa as Australia leapt into the final stage by battering them. As the Aussies chased down a forgettable target of 212 by three (3) wickets, the bowling line was in sublime form, putting the picture together for the desired outcome. The century by David Miller and a fifty by Travis Head provided room for vibrancy. In the other clash, India maintained its winning streak, punching the Black Caps by a considerable difference. The run-chase target for the Kiwis was tremendous. Virat must have been proud to break his childhood hero’s record. Mohammed Shami had stolen the show with a 7-wicket haul to his name.
The finalists were all-time tough teams throughout the competition. India yearned to give it a dream finishing shot by snatching the title of “Champions.” Fans anticipated Kohli’s other century, and Shami’s spell with the ball was also in prospect. The Narendra Modi Stadium, bedecked with blue shirts and an insignificant proportion of yellow shirts, with ear-deafening chants of “India…India!” observed a deciding event. Priceless wickets by Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer, coupled with loose fielding leading to leaking boundaries, strained India’s capability. Restricting Rohit’s pack to an unexciting total of 241 with all outs, the men in yellow demonstrated adeptness, agility, and accuracy in the first inning. With the bat, they notched up the target with no herculean efforts. As the match ended, the wooden faces of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli and the tears of Mohammad Siraj revealed the story. India’s campaign did not wrap up immaculately idyllic.
Sports are ruthless, juggling with the emotions of millions. Awards were announced afterwards, with Travis Head being the player of the match and Virat Kohli entitled the “player of the tournament” as he amassed a gargantuan total of 765 runs in this ODI edition. Kohli’s happiness could have been amplified if his side had won. The 2023 World Cup absorbed historic strokes, highs and lows, and deadly competitions. The next grand rivalry will be the 2025 Champions Trophy, for which all the teams will have to heighten their performances. Powerful ones must not sit on their laurels, and struggling units need to scrutinize their recent performances and plan accordingly.