They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and in that regard, both England and Cricket World Cup organizers are hoping their first impressions don’t last.
On the field at least, it was an exciting start to the tournament, with a resourceful New Zealand side brushing off injuries to three key players and serving up a dish best served cold. After a slender win at Lord’s in 2019, stand-in captain Tom Latham launched the attack with part-timers followed by Devon Conway and Lachin Lavender Rachin Ravindra completed the target of 283 runs in just 36.2 overs.
Conway is already an old hand at this, with his unbeaten run of 121 goals in 152 games largely forged in the intensity of the Indian Premier League. Ravindra has created a simple yet enjoyable story. At just 23, the Wellington left-hander is the youngest player in the two senior squads and his 123 in 96 matches has made his name famous in his parents’ country.
All in all, it was a statement of sorts, summed it up ably by Conway, who set New Zealand’s fastest century in a World Cup off 83 balls only to fall by one ball to his apprentice moments later. It is likely to be popular with local officials after scenes played out around the world earlier in the day.
Of course, before the awards ceremony at the Narendra Modi Stadium, we had Sachin Tendulkar escorting the trophy to the centre, with his sharp suit and luxuriant hair. The 50-year-old looked superb as if he could simply strap on those iconic old pads, pick up the bat on the railway sleepers and spin off another frictionless century.
We also get the reassuringly familiar voices of Ian Smith, Nasser Hussain and Ian Bishop to kick off the commentary. The trio’s box-room reunion adds greatly to the atmosphere of a rematch that the International Cricket Council is so keen to repeat after the trio deftly guided the crowd through a stomach-churning finale four years ago.
But it all seems to be happening in a vacuum. No sport triggers an existential crisis quite like cricket, and at a time when the future of the 50-over format is being debated – despite TV rights already on sale until the 2031 Men’s ODI World Cup – the sight of an empty orange loom represents The first goal only added fuel to the fire.
As always, there are some caveats and mitigations. If the ICC is to be believed, this will be a record crowd for an opening match of the Men’s Over-50 World Cup; the final attendance was over 47,000, but the stadium has a capacity of 135,000. Daytime temperatures were obviously a factor in those early optics, with a few sticking to the shady sections and most not arriving until the mercury dropped.
Despite India’s love for cricket, and even taking into account the wider implications of the rise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), there is still great optimism that the venue will surpass Lord’s. , Edgbaston, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval combined – the largest sporting arena outside of North Korea – would suit both teams equally well.
You also have to go back to 1996, the last time the hosts didn’t start a match (England played New Zealand in Ahmedabad and, as it happened, there was a huge turnout at the start of the day). It was therefore strange that India were not tasked with setting the touch paper on fire and Rohit Sharma’s favorites did not start until Sunday’s match against Australia in Chennai.
But even accepting the illusion of the average spectator looking poor in a huge stadium, it’s still not a great look and follows some questionable organization. Although the price may seem inexpensive, tickets don’t go on sale until August 25, just 41 days ago. The schedule itself was only released a month ago and has been revised ever since, sowing further doubt in the minds of potential participants.
Accurate or not, the impression given here is that the Board of Control for Cricket in India doesn’t really care. The situation was exacerbated by reports that upon arrival, spectators were told they needed to go to a hotel about 20 minutes away to pick up their tickets.
The same can’t be said for England, but they performed nothing like the defending champions. In fact, Jos Buttler shrugged off the term, insisting his players want to storm the Championship. The results of it? A timid performance was brutally swept away at the end and could easily come back to haunt them if net run rate entered the equation.
As for New Zealand, it’s not the first time they’ve taken part in a somewhat unpopular global tournament, and from first impressions it seems questionable once again.