The 13th edition of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup is just hours away and the 10 captains that will lead their side into battle have contrasting thoughts as they prepare for the six-week tournament in India.
The 10 skippers, who will battle it out for the prestigious title over the next 48 days, gathered at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday for an interactive panel session alongside India great Ravi Shastri and England’s World Cup-winning skipper Eoin Morgan.
India skipper Rohit Sharma was confident that the tournament would be a massive success, given the great support that cricket enjoys in the country. He also stated that winning the World Cup was a childhood dream.
“I have said it from the start, you know, every leader sitting here wants to achieve something really special for their country. It is something that is very highly prized; the 50-Over World Cup is something that I have always dreamt of growing up as a child, and I am sure it is the same for all the guys sitting here as well," Rohit said.
“One thing I can assure, which I am pretty sure everyone knows, is that people are going to love this tournament here; the stadium is going to be jam-packed because people here in India love their cricket as much as they love their team, but they love their cricket as well. But rest assured, it’s going to be a great tournament.”
Pat Cummins, the captain of the five-time Cricket World Cup champions Australia, was enthusiastic about the much-awaited clash between India and Pakistan that is scheduled for 14 October in Ahmedabad.
“I don't think there are too many events around the world where you feel like half the world's tuning in to watch," he said.
"Whenever India play Pakistan in a World Cup, it seems like one of those moments.
“So, although you're personally not involved, you feel like you want to watch it and hear about all the commentary and the passion around the game. So, it's going to be great that it's at this stadium. You can have over 100,000 people.”
Pakistan captain Babar Azam loved the hospitable nature of his hosts, and was hoping that fans all across the world enjoy the high standard of cricket expected at the tournament.
“We received good hospitality. We were not expecting this. But I think the way people responded to us, everyone enjoyed it. We are here for a week in Hyderabad, so we do not feel like we are in India; it was like we are at home," Babar noted.
“We enjoyed and had a lot of fun. It’s good, and I think it's a golden opportunity for everyone to give 100 percent and enjoy the tournament.”
Jos Buttler, captain of the defending champions England, said his team will continue to play the attacking cricket that helped them claim their first World Cup title at home in 2019.
“The team’s been mainly together for a long time since 2015, since the start of that sort of revolution that you mentioned, and I think you said right through the game. Now in England, young players coming through play a certain way and are determined to carry on the style, and I think we know it gives us the best chance of success," Buttler said.
“We will get it wrong at times, but we’ve made peace with that, and it’s something we want to continue to strive to do, to keep pushing the boundaries. Other teams will push you and move it on further, so we always want to try and be at the head of that curve as well.”
Hashmatullah Shahidi, leading Afghanistan in their third World Cup appearance, expected the crowds and conditions to support them.
“As said before, we will have more crowd and more support, we are expecting the same that the people will come there and support us in the stadium. And we have very good quality spinners and the condition is suitable for us, and that will be with us and also with the batting. I believe in this World Cup, we will give a statement about the batting. That we can do very good. Play very good cricket," he said.
Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan, was confident about his team’s prospects on the back of their performance in the ICC Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup Super League.
“I think we have prepared well. If we talk about the last four years since the 2019 World Cup, we are probably the third or fourth team in the qualifiers' point system. So, we have done really well as a group; now it's time for us to put on a good show. Our team is ready, and the country is expecting a little more than what we did previously.”
Netherlands captain Scott Edwards talked about an exciting contest that lay ahead for his team, not a stranger to causing upsets, against Pakistan in Hyderabad.
“I think all games in this tournament are going to be tricky. But obviously Pakistan's a very good side. But, yeah, for us, we're just excited to get this tournament going. That's against Pakistan in Hyderabad," Edwards said.
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma stated that very few sides carried the unique advantage of knowing India’s conditions well.
“I think that’s something that is relevant to all the teams. A lot of the teams have guys who played in India, have done well in India, so I wouldn’t really say it's an advantage for us. I think all we could do is for the guys who have that experience and knowledge; they can share it among the team or use it in terms of our strategies and plans. But I wouldn’t really say it's an advantage unique to us as a team," Bavuma said.
Despite leading an injury-riddled side, Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka was looking forward to making a statement at the World Cup.
“See, exciting times for us. We have been struggling a lot in the recent past with injuries, but at the same time, we have some good records with us. You know, as a group, we are looking forward to the World Cup. Everyone wants to make a statement that we are here to perform well in this tournament," Shanaka said.
Kane Williamson, whose side made it to the World Cup finals on the last two occasions, believed that everyone started out fresh in the tournament. He added that the Black Caps would commit to the style that has suited them thus far.
“As you mentioned, you come to another event, and everybody certainly starts from the same position and starts again, and you go from tournament to tournament, teams change, opposition conditions," Williamson noted.
“For us, it's focusing on the style of cricket that we want to keep committing to, and that gives us the best chance of putting on our best performance. It's been nice to have some enjoyable times and certainly full of different challenges over a number of tournaments that we have been involved in, but we're really excited about the challenges that lie ahead for this one. And the difference is that it will bring, compared to other tournaments, a great occasion here in India. Sports is just loved by so many, and it's going to be so well supported as well. So, we're just looking forward to getting involved."