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Cricket World Cup 2019 | The Stage is Set, Build up Done - But the Noise is Missing

One dampener for locals over the course of the World Cup is the 10.30am starts for majority of the games. Buttler wanted fans to wear English jerseys and cheer for the team from pubs, but that's unlikely to happen with such timings, which understandably are targeted at Indian television audience. Only seven of the 48 matches in the World Cup are day-nighters, which too will start at 12.30. Not one of these seven games involve England.

Karthik Lakshmanan |May 30, 2019, 7:43 AM IST
Cricket World Cup 2019 | The Stage is Set, Build up Done - But the Noise is Missing

London: "Who is going to win it?" the immigration officer at the Heathrow airport asks me upon learning I'm in the country to cover the World Cup.

"Looks like it's going to be England," I reply. Partly to impress him and ensure I'm allowed entry, but definitely with plenty of cricketing logic.

"Correct answer," he smiles and opens the gate.

There's a sense of expectancy among the cricket following public in England like never before. What happened four years back is almost forgotten. What happened in the four years in-between is what's dominating conversations around the World Cup. Not a single press conference passes without the mention of England being favourites. Virat Kohli even joked about - or maybe he was serious - England being obsessed with becoming the first team to breach the 500-run mark.

On the eve of the tournament opener against South Africa, England captain Eoin Morgan was asked if opponents now find them 'intimidating'. He was also asked what a World Cup victory would mean for the country - questions that generally crop up in the latter stages. But yet again, questions with logic and reason.

Oval

That's how dominant England have been in the format in the last four years. A home World Cup, after 20 years mind you, in this backdrop should ideally have fans buzzing all over. But in some ways, the situation is quite the opposite. It's the players who are trying to 'impress and inspire' the fans with their brand of cricket. Jos Buttler called it the best opportunity ever for cricket in England to engage with new fans. Morgan said the World Cup was a platform for kids to have new inspirations. A gentle reminder that this is the country that created cricket.

ICC has done everything they could, upping their game on social media. Comparatively though, the on-ground build up has been rather quiet, in typical English fashion. There isn't much 'noise' around London as yet; no fans at practice sessions, no hoarders selling tickets around the ground. Not all are even aware that the country is hosting 'the world's greatest cricket celebration', as a banner at The Oval reads. Only a handful of fans at the opening ceremony, which tried hard to create an athmospehere, at the Mall in front of the Buckingham Palace didn't help the cause either.

Things might have been different if the opener involved an Asian team, but that's just the way it is in England. The overcast and gloomy weather adds to the serene atmosphere.

In many ways, this is precisely what players want ahead of a high pressure tournament. The calmness reflected both captains, Faf du Plessis and Morgan, who seemed relaxed and jovial at the press conference.

When asked what message he had for fans back home, du Plessis picked up and mic and went "Live from cloudy England, Faf du Plessis here saying hi. Hopefully we can play some good cricket," eliciting laughter. Morgan joked about how England went from 'great' to 'crap' within a day after losing the semifinal of the Champions Trophy two years back.

Dhoni

Back to the fans. One dampener for locals over the course of the World Cup is the 10.30am starts for majority of the games. Buttler wanted fans to wear English jerseys and cheer for the team from pubs, like they do for football, but that's unlikely to happen with such timings, which understandably are targeted at Indian television audience. Only seven of the 48 matches in the World Cup are day-nighters, which too will start at 12.30. Not one of these seven games involve England.

But the buzz will change once the tournament gets rolling. The ticket sales have been excellent, with plenty of games being sold out. The noises will increase once the Asian teams get in action, with India at the forefront. Estimates have it that close to 1 lakh Indians are traveling to England during the World Cup!

The cricket promises to be excellent too, for this is perhaps the most open World Cup ever.

It might not have been so six months back, but recent results have just fallen in place to make it so. Out of nowhere, Australia beating India and Pakistan. West Indies drawing level with England. Afghanistan rising in the Asia Cup, and defeating Pakistan in the World Cup warm-up. Bangladesh winning their first ever multi-team tournament. Now, if only Sri Lanka could step up.

There was plenty of backlash when the World Cup was made a 10-team affair. Whether that's right or wrong, the 2019 edition is unlikely to have any easy games. As for England being the clear favourites... I had a very similar interaction with an immigration officer a couple of years back before the Champions Trophy. Make of it what you will.

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Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5211 116
2 New Zealand 3959 110
3 Australia 4320 108
4 England 5253 105
5 South Africa 3537 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6967 124
2 India 7939 118
3 New Zealand 5347 116
4 South Africa 5602 112
5 Australia 5915 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8926 270
2 Australia 7815 269
3 England 6407 267
4 India 12141 264
5 South Africa 6220 259
see more