Cricket's World Cup, known as the ICC CWC, kicks off, or rather, bowls off and bats off, at the Oval in London today. Ten teams, including Bangladesh led by their indefatigable skipper Mashrafee bin Mortaza, will be on display in this the twelfth edition of the quadrennial festival. Although Test cricket, the mother of all, has retained its classical charm to the connoisseur as ever, the one-day format, under which the present championship is being held, has expanded in its financial prowess since being started in 1971, which heralded the first World Cup in 1975. Perennial favourites Australia, powerhouse India and home-team England, who are the co-hosts with Wales, have been the book-makers' favourites this year. Although such unpredictables like Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand are capable springing a surprise result, Bangladesh will have all prayers from devoted home fans and a big expatriate population in the UK. Although Bangladesh are not rated that high, they still have behind them the history of shocking big names on their day, as Pakistan, India, South Africa and England have all bowed before them. Although the team's depth has been questioned at times, Bangladeshis will want a relishing gift from the team who are definitely on a high after winning a tri-nation trophy in Ireland recently. Besides, this will possibly be the final World Cup for one or two of the long-serving big names, more commonly known as the `five Pandavas' in the corridors of the Home of Bangladesh Cricket at Mirpur, the likes of Mashrafee, Sakib, Mushfiquer, Tamim and Mahmudullah.
Cricket, like quite a number of other sports is a money-spinner. This ICC has already announced an increase in prize money by forty per cent compared to 2015. The winners of the competition are guaranteed $5.0 million as also the winners in each round robin match a sum of $50,000. The fortyfive group matches and the three knock-out ties including the final at Lord's on July 14 next have already attracted a total of 2.5 million applications for tickets. Tourism increases during such events, as evident from the 80,000 from neighbouring India, who are expected to travel to the UK. At least a few thousand Bangladeshis and thousands of others from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan will travel to the birth-place of cricket. Although not quite as grand an event as football's World Cup or the Olympic Games, the ICC CWC surpasses the others in duration by at least two weeks. The longer run adds special significance in terms of building friendship and cultural exchange, and even promises to do a thing or two that might lay the foundation for bringing distrustful nations closer.
England, the country that gave the world cricket, has been home to hundreds of thousands of expatriates from its former colonies in South Asia and the West Indies. Apart from them, the British people's special ethnic ties with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa contribute to the development and sustenance of cricket as a sport. As the curtain draws to a close on 14 July next, various calculations will be made, not least among them being how far cricket has progressed. Results in the competition will bring monetary sums no doubt; and a lot of business will be transacted, but the greatest good will be the emergence of a new breed that should take cricket in the coming decade, specially in Bangladesh to a new height.
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