Skippers from opposing teams seem to be excited to witness Pakistan and India go head-to-head in the Cricket World Cup which begins on Thursday with the reigning world champions England playing New Zealand in the first match in a lengthy competition.

Skippers from opposing sides join India-Pakistan rivalry fans as they appear to be looking forward to the titanic showdown between the two rivals on October 14 despite the rocky build-up as fans of both countries ignite a friendly rivalry online.

“I don’t think there’s too many events around the world where you feel like half the world’s tuning in to watch whenever India plays Pakistan in a World Cup,” said Australia skipper Pat Cummins.

India, champions of the World Cup in 2011, is one of the major favorites to win a third title, with Virat Kohli, a star batsman, just three centuries short of 50 in the ODI format, among their ranks.

However, Australia, with the senior batting skills of David Warner and Steve Smith to call upon, will also be in the mix for a sixth world title, AFP reported.

Under the tournament format, all 10 teams play each other once with the top four heading for the semi-finals. The final takes place in Ahmedabad on November 19.

‘Fingers crossed’

England is set to be without superstar batsman Ben Stokes for the game due to a hip injury. New Zealand, runners-up at the last two World Cups, is missing Williamson, still recovering from a knee injury.

“Fingers crossed he’s on the park sooner rather than later,” said stand-in captain Tom Latham.

Veteran seamer Tim Southee is also sidelined, yet to recover from a dislocated thumb.

Pakistan is visiting India for the first time in seven years after a brinkmanship spell that nearly led to a boycott of the World Cup. The team received visas two days before their first warm-up game, and security concerns over their upcoming clash with India led to nine rescheduled matches, causing a domino effect.

“I think the way people are responding towards our team, everyone enjoyed it. We are a week in Hyderabad so it is not like we are in India, it is like we are home,” said Azam on his first trip to the country.

What does the future hold for World Cup?

The future of the 50-over game is currently uncertain because, although Twenty20 cricket has taken off in both profitable franchises and major international tournaments, the format is currently experiencing its worst confidence crisis in 52 years.

“We believe strongly that ODIs should be World Cups only,” Mark Nicholas, the new president of the MCC, the body responsible for the laws of the game, told ESPNcricinfo.

“We think it’s difficult bilaterally now to justify them. They’re not filling grounds in a lot of countries. And there is a power at the moment to T20 cricket that is almost supernatural.”

He added: “In a free market, the most money wins. And that’s just the end-game.”

In the wake of the fast-paced, smash-and-grab Twenty20, the 50-over format is thought to be excessively pedestrian.

“The ODI has been reduced to virtually depending on a World Cup year for its importance,” wrote former Australia captain Ian Chappell.

This year’s World Cup features 10 teams and will be completed in 45 days, while the Twenty20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies in 2024 will see 20 nations compete in an event condensed into four weeks.

The short-form game is expected to be voted in as an Olympic sport in 2028.

Additionally, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson supports the co-existence of T20 and 50-over cricket.

“The ODI World Cup is definitely one of the top events that we can play and be involved in,” he said.

Meanwhile, England skipper Jos Buttler, who leads his side into action at the world’s biggest cricket arena, the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Thursday, says his team is under no pressure to retain the title.

“We are not feeling like we’re defending anything,” he said. “We’re all starting in the same place and have big dreams and ambitions of going all the way.”

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