The ICC World Cup 2023 witnessed the highest standards of cricket. In the upsets, heroics and sheer sporting excellence that it had to offer, this World Cup stands out as among the best. To borrow a cliche, the winner was the game, not just the fiesty Australians. The tournament has provided a lease of life to one-day cricket, which seemed to be turning into a poor cousin of the T20s.
India were superb all through, with Virat Kohli and Mohammad Shami playing out of their skins, Rohit Sharma showing excellent leadership skills besides giving rousing starts, and KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer playing key roles. If it was a heartbreak at the finals for millions of Indian fans all over the world, it was because Australia reserved its best, as always, for the last. The Afghanistan-Australia match captured the spirit of the tournament. Australia were staring down the barrel at 91 for 7 and then Glen Maxwell played an innings for posterity. There was no turning back for Australia after that. But Afghanistan and The Netherlands lit up this tournament with their spirited performance. This festival of cricket has shown that ODIs are not a dull affair, particularly when the bowling is top class. For the discerning, there are nuances on offer in this format which the T-20 lacks with its uniformly blistering pace.
But more needs to be done to keep ODIs going, and expand the outreach of the game itself. One way forward is to have more tournaments featuring just the top teams to revive spectator and advertising interest. The revival of the ICC Champions Trophy to be held in 2025 in Pakistan, which features eight teams, could help. That said, it is best to have more participants in the long run. It is just as well that the next World Cup in Africa is expected to feature 14 teams, against 10 this time.
But there can be no getting away from the fact that India is the game’s biggest money-spinner, and sadly the only one. According to reports, India will corner over 38 per cent ICC’s revenues for the 2024-27 period, or about $230 million per year. Australia and England come way below at 6.25 per cent and 6.89 per cent, respectively. BCCI’s pitch here is straightforward: the viewership on air and on the ground is strongly linked to India’s presence. Disney Hotstar, the official broadcaster, is estimated to earn ₹3,500 crore in ad revenues. The Big Three will have to play more tournaments in newer countries, with their respective boards managing the players’ workload well. Unlike football, cricket still draws its sustenance as a game played between countries; an IPL cannot match the stature of a World Cup. But league cricket can be used as a stepping stone elsewhere. The BCCI can take the initiative, along with ICC. Cricket has the funds to grow to newer realms. An exciting World Cup has created that possibility — even as Kenya, Ireland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and sadly, the West Indies missed out on this one.