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Proteas will crisscross India in great 2023 World Cup adventure

Proteas will crisscross India in great 2023 World Cup adventure
The 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad will host the 2023 Cricket World Cup final. It hosted the 2023 IPL final between the Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans earlier this year. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Getty Images)

The 2023 Cricket World Cup schedule was finally released on Tuesday, and the Proteas are in for an adventure.

If it were a leisurely holiday or the setting of an EM Forster novel, the Proteas’ crisscrossing of India later this year would seem like a fantastic adventure.

In many ways, it will be an adventure, albeit in the modern way of busy airports, bus trips and throngs of people as the Proteas take in every corner of that remarkable country. And whether it’s fantastic depends on its success, or not.

South Africa will travel the length and breadth of India during the 2023 One-Day International World Cup, starting on 5 October, according to the schedule that was finally released on Tuesday.

It sees them going from playing in the Himalayan foothills in Dharamsala, to Chennai in the southeast, and just about everywhere in between. It’s safe to say it will be taxing on the players, but also exhilarating and possibly life changing.

Political tension

After months of delays, the International Cricket Council (ICC) finally announced the schedule for the 2023 World Cup, just 100 days before the start of the tournament. In previous editions of the tournament the schedule was released a year in advance.

The 10 teams will play each other once, with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals. Therefore, every team will play a minimum of nine games.

The delay in the publication of the schedule was largely owing to uncertainty over Pakistan’s participation. Historical political tensions between Pakistan and 2023 hosts India posed problems for the organisers.

India’s refusal to travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup in August/September this year triggered the latest dispute between the neighbours, who play against each other only in multiteam events.

Pakistan responded by threatening to boycott the World Cup if they were not allowed to stage at least some matches of the Asia Cup on home soil.

The stalemate was finally resolved this month when Pakistan agreed to split matches with Sri Lanka, where India will play their Asia Cup matches.

South Asia’s archrivals meet in the tournament’s most anticipated match on 15 October in Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium – the world’s biggest cricket venue, with a seating capacity of 132,000.

However, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) added a caveat saying they would still need government clearance for any tour to India, including World Cup match venues.

“We are liaising with our government for guidance,” said PCB communications director Sami Ul Hasan.

“This position is consistent to what we had told the ICC a couple of weeks ago when they shared with us the draft schedule and sought our feedback.”

Usman Khawaja of Australia fields during the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 Super 10s Group 2 match between Australia and New Zealand at HPCA Stadium, which sits under the Himalayan foothills. (Photo: Ryan Pierse / Getty Images)

Proteas face tough schedule

The Proteas, who have a history of failure at the tournament and who have never made the final since first competing in 1992, open their account against an as-yet-unknown qualifier in the north in Delhi on 8 October.

They face old rivals Australia in Lucknow on the northeast 13 October, followed by another qualifier in Dharamsala, on the edge of the Himalayan foothills in the far north, on 17 October.

A trip southwards follows to western coastal city Mumbai, where reigning world champions England await on 21 October. Three days later, they meet Bangladesh at the same venue.

After travelling further southeast, the Proteas take on Pakistan in Chennai on 27 October. They then criss-cross the country for their three remaining fixtures.

They head back west to play against New Zealand in Pune on 1 November, then it’s east to Kolkata to face hosts India on 5 November. They round off their group matches against Afghanistan in Ahmedabad on 10 November.

Other matches

Hosts India begin their campaign on 5 October against five-times champions Australia in Chennai.

England’s opener against New Zealand is a rematch of the 2019 final in which England prevailed thanks to a now-scrapped boundary count rule.

Among other key fixtures, 1992 champions Pakistan meet Australia in Bengaluru on 20 October, the day before England take on South Africa in Mumbai.

Australia captain Pat Cummins said he was looking forward to the atmosphere at the match with India in Chennai.

“You know there’s going to be big crowds, but no bigger than playing India at home in a World Cup game, so that’s going to be exciting for us,” he said.

“It will be a huge challenge. They’re a top-class team, but if you want to win a World Cup you’re going to have to be better than everyone else, so why not take on India straight up?”

The first semifinal will take place on 15 November in Mumbai with Kolkata hosting the second the following day. Both games, as well as the final, will be day-night fixtures.

There will be a total of 10 venues for the 10-team tournament – Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Dharamsala, Delhi, Chennai, Lucknow, Pune, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Kolkata.

Apart from hosts India, the teams that have qualified include Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.

Two more sides will join them following a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, which will conclude on 9 July.

Two-time winners West Indies have appeared at every tournament since it was first staged in 1975, but their defeat by the Netherlands in the qualifying event on Monday leaves their chances hanging by a thread. DM/Reuters

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