AHMEDABAD, India, Nov 20 (Reuters) – India played the tournament’s best cricket for nearly six weeks but it was the familiar sight of Australia celebrating with the trophy as fireworks exploded overhead when the 13th edition of the World Cup came to a close on Sunday.
Barely five months after beating India in the World Test Championship final at The Oval, the Australians outplayed the same opponents, this time in their own house, to claim the game’s most coveted knockout trophy.
It was a remarkable journey for Australia, who began their campaign with back-to-back defeats yet still finished with the 50-overs World Cup in their arms for the sixth time.
In addition to taking on India, the tournament’s only unbeaten team, in the final they were also up against the vast majority of the 93,000 noisy fans who thronged the colossal Narendra Modi Stadium.
Cummins took the bold decision to chase under the lights and was vindicated when Travis Head smashed a match-winning hundred in front of a silent sea of crestfallen Indian fans.
While the final match-up was not entirely unexpected, there were a few surprises along the way in a tournament taking place without twice champions West Indies, who failed to qualify for the first time in the tournament’s history.
England’s title defence evaporated after six defeats in their first seven matches, prompting demands for a complete overhaul of the Jos Buttler-led side, while fans feasted on Afghanistan’s giant-killing exploits.
Coached by Jonathan Trott, the Afghans upstaged three former champions — England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — before Australia’s Glenn Maxwell brought them back down to Earth with arguably the best ever ODI knock.
They left with their heads held high, but other teams’ failures to progress to the semi-finals triggered familiar knee-jerk reactions in the sub-continent.
Babar Azam stepped down as Pakistan’s all-formats captain, Shakib Al Hasan’s leadership was questioned in Bangladesh, while government interference in the functioning of the Sri Lanka board earned the country a suspension.
Shakib had already caused controversy over his appeal that led to Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews becoming the first player in international cricket to be ‘timed-out’.
THE CRICKET WORLD STOPS
More than a million fans attended the group matches and the governing International Cricket Council (ICC) reported record-breaking viewership even amid growing concerns about the future of the 50-overs format in a landscape dominated by T20 cricket.
Cummins, for one, had no doubts about the stature of the original World Cup.
“I think it’s the pinnacle of international cricket,” said Cummins, who was part of Australia’s victorious 2015 squad.
“Every international team comes together. You only get a shot at it every four years. Even if you have a 10-year career, you might only get two chances at it.
“The whole cricket world stops with this World Cup.”
India, barring the final, were all but flawless in their cricket but far from it as tournament hosts.
The schedule, usually announced a year before the event, was released only 100 days before the start with a subsequent revision further disrupting the travel plans of fans.
The early matches not involving India had plenty of empty seats, despite organisers declaring that tickets had sold out.
England skipper Buttler called the sandy outfield in Dharamsala “not ideal” for World Cup matches, while the toxic air in New Delhi forced Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to cancel practice sessions in the Indian capital.
Equally embarrassing was the boorish behaviour of the Indian fans towards Pakistan players during an Oct. 14 clash between the arch-rivals in Ahmedabad.
The commercial success of the tournament, however, has given the ICC reason to be optimistic about the health of 50-overs cricket ahead of their meeting in Ahmedabad this week.
“The news of the demise of ODI cricket has been grossly exaggerated,” chief commercial officer Anurag Dahiya said after the group stage in a reworking of Mark Twain’s famous response to reports of his death.
“We can clearly say that with what we have seen in the last one month.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in Ahmedabad; editing by Peter Rutherford
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