Since the introduction of the ODI Super League, which determines the teams that directly qualify for the next edition of the World Cup, every bilateral series has a context and is played with points on the line. The system also rewards consistency, which puts a question mark over South Africa’s automatic qualification for the 2023 edition, considering their poor returns in ODIs of late.
The qualification process for the World Cup in India in two years sees 32 countries take part in a series of cricket events, which will determine the top 10 teams that finally qualify for the tournament. The teams are divided into three leagues — Super League, League 2, and Challenge League, with the top seven sides plus India (the hosts) from the Super League automatically qualifying for the World Cup.
The points system and format explained for the Super League
According to the existing system, all 13 sides in the Super League (Full Member Nations along with the Netherlands) earn 10 points for a win, share five points for a draw or a tie, and get no points for a loss. All 13 sides play eight different oppositions in the current cycle (four home and four away), which is running from July 2020 to March 2023. The Netherlands, courtesy of winning the ICC World Cricket League Championship (2015-17) qualify for this cycle of the Super League.
The top 12 sides in this Super League will remain a part of the Super League for the next cycle as well, but the 13th ranked team will be relegated to League 2, where all sides will necessarily have to qualify to play in the 2027 World Cup. Currently, South Africa is ranked 13th in the Super League, which only makes their task tougher not only for this cycle but for the next as well.
Why Afghanistan can automatically qualify for the World Cup
Afghanistan, who qualified for the 2019 World Cup after beating West Indies in the final of the qualifiers in 2018, can gain an automatic entry for the 2023 World Cup, considering their FTP and their rapid rise in world cricket of late. They currently have 30 points from three games and are yet to lose a match in the ongoing Super League.
Matches thus far in this Super League: Afghanistan took on Ireland at the start of the year in Abu Dhabi, and romped away to easy wins, to take the series 3-0.
How their FTP looks:
The four teams that Afghanistan will not play in this cycle of the Super League are England, New Zealand, South Africa, and West Indies. Barring Australia and India, and to an extent Pakistan, Afghanistan have a relatively easy path to the World Cup. They should fancy beating Zimbabwe, Ireland and the Netherlands with ease, and if they can get a win against Bangladesh, they will have a great chance of an automatic selection.
Why it gets tough for South Africa
The Proteas find themselves in hot water — they are currently 13th in the Super League and risk missing out on a direct spot if they are unable to pull up their socks. Thus far, they have just one win and nine points from three games (one point was deducted due to slow over-rate), as they went down 1-2 against Pakistan.
Hampered by the sudden retirement of their big stars, South Africa are struggling across formats in general, even considering their recent 3-2 win in the T20I series against West Indies. They have scored over 300 runs in an innings just six times in the last three years, with even Sri Lanka, with a struggling batting unit, scoring in excess of 300 more times.
The Proteas bowlers have taken just 66 wickets in the last two years in ODIs — with only Afghanistan and the Netherlands bowlers picking up lesser wickets. However, while the Afghan bowlers concede runs at 4.98 in this interim, and the Netherlands bowlers give away 3.84 runs an over, the Proteas bowlers have an economy rate of 5.62, which is the fourth-highest in the world.
How their FTP looks:
The four teams that South Africa will not play in this Super League are Afghanistan, New Zealand, West Indies, and Zimbabwe. Their chances of earning “easy wins” against inconsistent teams are, thus, reduced, and they will have to battle it out among the top-ranked teams to qualify for the World Cup automatically. Considering how they fared in the T20Is against West Indies, a quick turnaround cannot be ruled out, but beating sides like Australia, England and India will require them to be at their best, something they haven’t been lately.
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