Afghanistan and Bangladesh’s smooth progression through the Cricket World Cup qualifying process has opened up the possibility of one of the game’s established nations missing out on the showpiece event.
The Cricket World Cup men’s ODI Super League determines seven teams who will directly qualify for the 2023 World Cup along with hosts India, who have received automatic entry.
The Super League ensures that nearly every bilateral ODI series has context, with points on the line for every match that is a part of the competition. Each win helps in earning direct qualification for the 50-over World Cup that will be held in India next year. In the ongoing cycle of the Super League, the 12 full member countries, along with the Netherlands, the winners of the ICC World Cricket League Championship from 2015 to 2017, play eight teams each, with four series being held at home and four away. Each series has three ODIs.
Every team gets 10 points for a win, five for a tie or a draw and zero for a loss. There are also deductions in points due to slow overrates. The top seven teams barring India will directly qualify for the World Cup, with the remaining five teams will take part in the World Cup Qualifiers, from which two teams will advance to the 2023 event.
How things stand currently
Bangladesh currently top the ODI Super League points table with 120 points, having won 12 of the 18 games that they have played thus far. Afghanistan are another surprise entry in the top three, having won nine of their 11 matches, which gives them a total of 90 points. West Indies have eight wins from 18 matches, and are fourth in the points table, while Ireland occupy seventh spot, with 68 points. Sri Lanka are in the top eight, which also comprises England, India and Australia.
New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa are three of the big teams not in the top eight, with Zimbabwe and the Netherlands occupying the last two spots.
Afghanistan and Bangladesh are almost there, but there is work to do
It’s hard to tell exactly, but a total of 12 wins should be enough for a team to make the top seven. Bangladesh might already have done enough, and another win or two would surely seal their place in India. They have England at home and Ireland away left to play A relatively easy schedule has worked in their favour: they hosted Afghanistan (won 2-1), Sri Lanka (2-1) and West Indies (3-0) besides touring Zimbabwe, where they won 3-0. A stellar 2-1 series win in South Africa made up for the whitewash they copped in New Zealand, firmly allowing them to hold onto their top spot.
Afghanistan, with nine wins from 11 games, are on course as well. They have another game against Zimbabwe, which they will expect to win. However, they have series’ against Australia, India and Sri Lanka and Pakistan lined up, and they will arguably enter all four tours as the underdogs, and will likely need a minimum of two more wins. If they manage to sneak in, it would be the first time that Afghanistan have directly qualified for the World Cup. In their last two attempts, they had to qualify to enter the main round.
New Zealand and Pakistan are ninth and tenth, but shouldn’t worry much
New Zealand have sixty points and are currently ninth, but they have played only six games, the least number of matches among all 13 teams in contention. They are yet to lose a game in the ODI Super League, having whitewashed Bangladesh and the Netherlands at home. They have fixtures against India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies and Ireland coming up, and would fancy big wins in at least three of those series, which should take them well into the top eight by the end of the Super League.
Pakistan, with six wins from 12 points, could have had it tricky, needing at least six more wins from 12 games. However, series against West Indies, Afghanistan and the Netherlands await, and they should pick up enough wins to see them in good stead. They also play New Zealand and can be backed to climb up the ladder and seal a direct spot for the World Cup.
Two from the ‘big eight’ could play the qualifiers
The biggest concern is for South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies, as two of these three sides could play the qualifiers.
The Sri Lankans are in the top eight currently, with 62 points, but have played 18 matches, and have another six to go, against New Zealand and Afghanistan. Even if they clean sweep Afghanistan, their recent form indicates they might struggle against the Black Caps and could fall short of finishing in the top eight. Their ongoing series against Australia is not a part of the Super League.
South Africa’s recent series loss at home against Bangladesh has complicated matters, as did a drawn series in Ireland last year. Two of their remaining four series’ are against Australia and England. They have won four matches in the Super League so far and will likely need at least eight more wins to make a direct entry, a tough ask.
The Windies, who qualified for the 2019 World Cup, could make a second successive appearance in the qualifier into the competition. Even though they are currently fourth in the points table, with 80 points, they have won just eight games from 18, and likely need at least four more from their remaining six fixtures. They host New Zealand after returning from Pakistan and need at least four more wins from their last six encounters, which will not be easy. Their upcoming home series against India will not be a part of the Super League.