Explainer: What Is The ICC Cricket World Cup?

The ICC Cricket World World Cup is happening right now. But what is it?

England v Australia - ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023
England v Australia - ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Cricket has a reputation for being incomprehensible to anyone from a country that doesn't play the sport, but it's really taken off in the countries that do. The traditional image associated with cricket is a genteel Englishmen in white linens playing lazy innings between cucumber sandwiches, but the nations that play cricket have elevated it to an action-packed sport as flashy as any other.

Just take a look at the nations participating in the 2023 World Cup.

The current top four are India, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. All of these nations are former British colonies. Outside of the top four, there is also Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, who had Britain as colonial rulers. That's seven of the ten nations competing for the cup.

Obviously the British introduced cricket to these countries, but the fact that they're still enthusiastic participants in the sport is down to the appeal of literally beating Britain at their own game.

George Orwell said that "sport is war minus the shooting." In that regard, cricket can be thought of as a war of independence. Since 1975, when the first tournament was held, every winner has been a former colony, except for 2019, when the winner was the English team itself.

For what it's worth, England itself is currently in last place. With a little less to go until the end of group play, their fortunes may pick up, but it's unlikely they'll make it into the top four.

How is the 2023 World Cup structured?

The structure of the World Cup has changed a lot over the years, so fans can be forgiven for being confused by the way it's been organized.

For this tournament, much of the drama happens before the event itself takes place, with qualification matches taking place for years beforehand. For the 2023 World Cup, a total of 32 teams were divided into leagues: Super League, League 2, and Challenge League. Those teams have been competing since 2019 to determine the ten that made it into the World Cup.

There are two stages to the official tournament: the group stage and the knockout stage. The group stage is a "round robin," which means that every team plays every other team, collecting tournament points. A win is worth two points, and a draw is worth one.

At the end of the group stage, the top four progress to the semi-finals, and then the two winners of the semi-final games compete in the finals.

What do you need to know when watching this year's tournament?

While cricket, with its complicated rules and long games, is perhaps the unlikeliest sport to gain international blockbuster status, the media rights for International Cricket Council events until 2027, including this year's World Cup, were sold for over six billion US dollars, making the games the world's second most valuable sporting events after the NFL.

This year, the ICC World Cup will be hosted by India. They've hosted twice before, but always with co-hosts. So this is cricket returning to its new spiritual home.

From the 70s, India rose to be a global power in the game. After India launched its wildly successful domestic competition, the Indian Premier League, in 2008, the country has taken in a larger share of the global revenue of the game than England and Australia combined. India is also influencing how the game is played globally, with other teams adopting the faster, more aggressive style that originated in the IPL.

The IPL's games are faster and more aggressive because they follow the "Twenty20" format. "Twenty20," or "T20" is a format where games only last a few hours, as opposed to the "one-day international" format, which lasts around seven hours, or the "test match" format, which is played over five days. The World Cup follows the ODI format.

Despite that fact, viewers can expect to see some of India's style influencing the way teams approach their upcoming m

The ICC Cricket World Cup by the stats

Most tournament wins:

Australia have won the Cricket World Cup four times: in 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2015.

First tournament winners:

The West Indies won the first World Cup in 1975, as well as the second in 1979.

(The West Indies is a team representing many English-speaking nations and territories in the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands)

Most runs scored:

Sachin Tendulkar of India with 2,278.

Most wickets scored:

Glenn McGrath of Australia with 71.

(If the team that bats first wins, then the winning margin is expressed in the number of runs scored. If the team that bowls first wins, then the winning margin is expressed in the number of wickets conceded.)

All teams competing in 2023:

  • Afghanistan,
  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • England
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka

Other teams to have competed previously:

  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • East Africa*
  • Ireland
  • Kenya
  • Namibia
  • Scotland
  • United Arab Emirates
  • West Indie
  • Zimbabwe

*(The East Africa cricket team represented the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and later Zambia. It became defunct after 1986.)

Past Winners:

1975 West Indies
1979 West Indies
1983 India
1987 Australia
1992 Pakistan
1996 Sri Lanka
1999 Australia
2003 Australia
2007 Australia
2011 India
2015 Australia
2019 England

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