The Cricket World Cup is just a little more than a month away, and we have entered a silly season of sorts, that time of the World Cup cycle where teams make their preliminary squad announcements. Most nations have released theirs — a list of the 15 players who will may or not make their final squad — and all the nations have until April 23 in which to do so. The only teams left to announce are West Indies and Afghanistan. Here’s a Wikipedia page has the full squad lists, if that’s your jam.
It’s a lot of hooey, as the teams can swap in and out players willy-nilly up until seven days prior to the tournament. In that sense, it’s like the NFL Draft, in that it just gives people and pundits something to talk about when there aren’t any games to watch. People have been droning on and on for months now about squad selections, mostly debating around one or two players. Because that’s the thing. The majority of the 15 man squad — including the bulk of the starting 11 — pretty much picks itself. While the players being debated more than likely will make little to no impact on the tournament whether they are selected or not.
Cricket is like all sports. It’s a lot of talk. When in reality no one really knows anything. All we have to rely on, that’s concrete and real, is the games that have come before. And we can find those stats in the ICC Rankings:
I know it’s not as fun, but that’s really the only stat I need. England are number one by a hair’s breadth, but have played 17 fewer qualifying matches than India, which I think actually puts India on top, with New Zealand and South Africa rounding out the top four. It’s not a foregone conclusion that those four will be your semi-finalists this summer in England and Wales, but I would put money on it, no matter who ends up leaving the hot young bowler or the aging batsmen at home.
What I am trying to say is this: cricket, like all sports, is a lot of talk. It’s part of the fun. All the conjecture, arguments, and prognostication. But at the end of the day, it’s what happens on the field that matters. And what happened on the field over the previous 3-4 years (depending on the time of year, it’s complicated) is listed in black and white above.