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Explainer: Men’s ODI World Cup Super League

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Thirteen teams, 200-plus matches, one champion.

The Men’s ODI World Cup Super League has been a long time coming – workshops, meetings and delays enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic included – but with the ICC announcing that the inaugural edition of the tournament gets underway when England take on Ireland for three ODIs starting July 30, the pathway to the 2023 50-over World Cup has been defined.

Devised to impart relevance and context to men’s ODI cricket, the Super League warrants that a West Indies-Zimbabwe series has just as much importance as an India-Australia one, given every game, to some degree, will affect all the 13 teams in the league. With new details announced, ESPNcricinfo looks at what the competition offers.

Road to the 2023 ODI World Cup

Aside from attempting to make the 50-over format more meaningful to fans, irrespective of their allegiance with the eventual champion, the Super League will also determine which teams get to the next World Cup, to be held in India in October-Novemeber 2023.

At the end of the league, India and the top seven teams qualify directly for the 2023 World Cup. For the bottom five, though, their World Cup dreams won’t be over. They, along with five Associate sides, will participate in the ODI World Cup Qualifiers, which will then decide the final two entrants to the ten-team World Cup.

Each team will earn ten points for a win, five points for a tie or no result or abandonment, and zero points for a loss. The sides will be ranked according to total points earned across the eight series.

Like the World Test Championship, teams won’t be facing every opponent

Each team plays only eight of the 12 other competing countries in three-match bouts for a total of 24 league games, half at home and half away. As per the current Future Tours Programme (FTP) match-ups, that means Rashid Khan will not be bowling to Aiden Markram or Jos Buttler. Nor will there be a Virat Kohli v Mohammad Amir face-off alongside several other match-ups that the ODI league might not witness.

There’s another conundrum: a situation wherein a team that wins the league might not even have faced the teams that finish second, third and even possibly fourth on the points table. In that case, are the league winners really champions? The discrepancy in match-ups could also affect the World Cup qualification. The match-ups – the ICC had said in 2018 – would be devised according to the ODI rankings to ensure parity.

Why is Netherlands the 13th team, and not Scotland or Namibia?

The 13th and final spot in the ODI league was reserved for the winner of the World Cricket League Championship, which was won by Netherlands after beating Namibia in their final game. While that has assigned the Dutch regular top-flight cricket – including more bilateral ODIs than they’ve ever played to date – for the duration of the ODI league, they won’t be playing India, Australia, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. Conversely, it also means that these four teams will not have the opportunity to face, arguably, one of the league’s weaker teams.

The end of context-less cricket? Not quite

Despite the league’s relatively short window, there will still be some ODI cricket during that period whose results will not count towards it.

Sri Lanka are scheduled to play five ODIs against Australia in June 2022, but only the first three games will be part of the league. Similarly, India are supposed to play Australia and New Zealand twice each during the league’s window – but only one of those series will count towards it. Likewise, Afghanistan are slotted to play ODIs against nine teams during that period, but we know only eight of those will be played under the league’s purview.



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Women’s World Cup postponed over players’ inability to prepare, says CEO Andrea Nelson

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The postponement of the 2021 Women’s World Cup to 2022 came down to concerns around readiness of the players, and not safety in New Zealand, the event’s CEO Andrea Nelson has said. As ESPNcricinfo had reported on Friday, Nelson said that given three participating teams are still to be identified and several sides “can’t train” yet, postponement was the best option.

The qualifier for the tournament was supposed to be held in July, but was postponed due to the pandemic. So, for now, England, Australia, South Africa, India and hosts New Zealand are confirmed participants, with three more spots open in the eight-team tournament.

“It came down to the ability of the teams to qualify,” Nelson told NZME. “We’ve done a lot of contingency planning around this event, to give it the best possible chance of proceeding successfully – ultimately the decision to delay it comes down to cricket. No qualifying tournaments have been able to be held yet, so in order to qualify and then compete in the event in 2021 – it was too risky.

“We’ve got teams that can’t train, they can’t assemble – in the case of a country like the West Indies they can’t leave their islands to bring the team together – and that’s just not a feasible way to ask a team to prepare for their pinnacle event.”

New Zealand has been one of the least affected countries worldwide by Covid-19. As of Sunday morning, there were only 23 active cases in the country, according to their Ministry of Health’s official numbers, and these were all at the borders – that is, people testing positive when they fly in from elsewhere, and going straight into quarantine. In mid-June, New Zealand had even welcomed back fans into a packed stadium for a Super Rugby Aotearoa game in Dunedin.

ALSO READ: Why the women’s World Cup was postponed by 12 months

High-profile women players England captain Heather Knight and Australia wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy have raised concerns over the postponement. Nelson, though, said pushing the tournament would allow players to be at their best for it.

“Having the tournament in 2022 gives the best possible chance for teams around the world to train, prepare, and come and compete in their pinnacle event,” she said. “We have absolutely no doubt we’ll be able to pick up those plans and deliver an amazing event a year later.”

The qualifier was originally slated to be held in Sri Lanka in July this year, and has also been pushed back by a year. Sri Lanka is likely to remain the host, with its team competing for one of the three remaining spots in the main event.



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Ben Stokes to miss rest of England-Pakistan series for family matter

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Ben Stokes will miss the rest of England’s Test series against Pakistan after withdrawing from the squad for family reasons. He is set to travel to New Zealand, where his parents live, next week and will not be available for the two behind-closed-doors Tests in Southampton.

Stokes’ father Ged was hospitalised in days before the Boxing Day Test against South Africa during England’s winter tour, and has since been recuperating back home in New Zealand.

England’s Test vice-captain, Stokes has played a central role in the summer so far. He led the team in Joe Root’s absence for the opening Test against West Indies, scored a century and a fifty in the second, and has chipped in with 11 wickets despite more recently playing as a specialist batsmen.

ALSO READ: Dobell: England are lucky to have Woakes

“The England and Wales Cricket Board, along with the Stokes family, requests that all media respects the family’s privacy at this time,” an ECB statement said.

His absence will likely add to England’s selection headaches for the rest of the series. In order to compensate for the loss of his bowling, after he experienced a sore quad during the second West Indies Test, England have fielded a five-man bowling attack in the last two games, with Stokes batting at No. 4.

Although he scored 0 and 9 in the first Test against Pakistan, he again demonstrated his all-round value by coming on to bowl in the second innings and picking up 2 for 11, as England came back from conceding a 107-run deficit to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Zak Crawley is the likeliest candidate to come into the top order, potentially returning at No. 3 and allowing Root to drop back down a place. The return to form of both Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, whose 139-run partnership was pivotal in securing victory against Pakistan, may also help compensate for Stokes’ absence, with the allrounder understood to have told his team-mates of his decision after the conclusion of the Test on Saturday.

Buttler, whose form with bat and gloves had been under scrutiny, was also playing despite a health scare for his father, who went into hospital on Friday but was well enough to return home on Saturday.

The second Test against Pakistan begins at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday. England will have played six Tests in seven weeks, all under strict bio-security protocols as part of the ECB’s efforts to combat the effect of Covid-19, with only a short break in between the two series.



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Heather Knight ‘pretty gutted’ at 2021 Women’s World Cup postponement

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England captain Heather Knight has admitted she feels “pretty gutted” about the ICC’s decision to postpone the Women’s World Cup from 2021 to 2022, and raised fears that boards will use it as “an excuse… to put women’s cricket on the back burner”.

The ICC made the decision on Friday, citing the need to maintain the “integrity of the tournament” by ensuring that all teams had sufficient preparation.

“We have taken the decision to move the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup to give players from every competing nation, the best opportunity to be ready for the world’s biggest stage and there is still a global qualifier to complete to decide the final three teams,” Manu Sawhney, the ICC’s chief executive, said.

“Moving the event by 12 months gives all competing teams the chance to play a sufficient level of cricket ahead of both the qualification event and leading into a Cricket World Cup so the integrity of the tournament is maintained.”

ALSO READ: Why the Women’s World Cup was postponed

But Knight expressed her fears that boards would not give sufficient attention to women’s cricket without a world tournament to prepare for.

Alyssa Healy, the Australia wicketkeeper, also expressed her frustration at the decision, which she labelled “remarkable” in response to a tweet from journalist Scott Bailey comparing the number of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand and India.

Knight’s England team were back in training this week ahead of their series against South Africa, which is due to start at the end of this month. It will be the first women’s international cricket to be played since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.





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