Sport Weekly: India’s Cricket World Cup approaches its climax

Even if India somehow manage to lose Cricket World Cup final, there’s no doubt where the power in global cricket resides.

An Indian fan has his face painted with his country's flag as he waits to enter the stadium to watch the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and New Zealand in Mumbai
An Indian fan waits to enter the stadium to watch the semifinal between India and New Zealand in Mumbai [Altaf Qadri/AP Photo]

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After six and a half weeks and nearly 50 matches involving 10 teams and 10 cities, the 2023 Cricket World Cup FINALLY comes to an end on Sunday with Australia facing the daunting task of stopping unbeaten hosts India in the final.

India’s cricket-conscious prime minister will likely be among the 132,000 people watching the final in his namesake Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.

It’s been a bit of a procession so far for India, who have barely broken stride in winning 10 out of 10 World Cup games.

If India somehow manage to lose the showpiece final, it will be an embarrassment for Modi but there’s no doubt about where the power in global cricket resides. The country’s highly influential, politically backed cricket board; vast finances driven by the lucrative Indian Super League; and a 1.4 billion cricket-crazy population increasingly make for a unipolar cricketing world order.

In an essay this week, Suparna Sharma looked at Bollywood’s stormy relationship with cricket and what the films say about a changing India; from post-colonial underdog to increasingly assertive power, to the aggressive Hindu nationalism prevalent under Modi – which is complicated by the country’s diversity.

“Cricket and cinema are the last bastions of secularism, but they are also a reflection of our society,” writer-director Varun Grover told Al Jazeera.

INTERACTIVE - Men's World Cup-prize-money-trophy-award-winner-2023-1695558421

In stories over the last few weeks, we’ve spoken to players, coaches, fans, and observers to dig into the issues around this World Cup and the broader trends in cricket.

Highlights include:

Meanwhile, India has also been the driving force behind cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics, starting from Los Angeles 2028, as India eyes hosting the 2036 games.

Some hope that cricket’s Olympic inclusion can help grow the game and make it go truly global, but there’s also the danger that it feeds into inequality. With great power comes great responsibility, and India has a duty to use its clout for the good of the game.

Please do join us this weekend for previews of the final, live coverage of the match and a deeper look at where cricket is heading.

Elsewhere this week

  • Stephen Constantine, Pakistan’s well-travelled English coach, talks to Al Jazeera about taking on one of the toughest jobs in international football.
  • ‘Bring Hersh Home’: Football club waits for return of Israeli ‘leftie’ held captive by Hamas.
  • From a coma to captaining Bangladesh: Jamal Bhuyan’s incredible football journey.
  • Football ‘can bring joy’ to Lebanon amid Gaza war.
Source: Al Jazeera