ICC World Cup 2023: Ben Stokes' presence gives England a massive boost

New Zealand, hit by a spate of injuries in recent months, have an uphill task against the defending champions in the opening game tomorrow

By Ayaz Memon

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England's Ben Stokes arrives at the Ahmedabad airport ahead of the ICC World Cup opening match against New Zealand. — PTI
England's Ben Stokes arrives at the Ahmedabad airport ahead of the ICC World Cup opening match against New Zealand. — PTI

Published: Wed 4 Oct 2023, 7:07 PM

Last updated: Wed 4 Oct 2023, 8:03 PM

England and New Zealand, winners and runners-up in the 2019 ODI World Cup, meet first-up in the 2023 edition of the tournament. How this contest pans out could well set the tenor for this coveted tournament.

The 2019 final was a crackling contest, perhaps the best in World Cup history. The match saw massive swings in fortune before England prevailed in an edge-of-the-the-seat climax to break the jinx of being perennial bridesmaids.

Meanwhile the Kiwis, who had lost in the 2015 final too and have been semifinalists umpteen times, are still seeking their first title.

Since the epic humdinger at Lord’s in 2019, it’s been a mixed bag for both in ODIs. More relevantly, in the bilateral series played at home before flying out to India for the World Cup, England got the better of the Kiwis 3-1.

A key figure in England’s triumph was talismanic Ben Stokes, who ‘unretired’ himself from ODIs for this tournament.

A colossus of the modern game, Stoke’s presence, even if he is unlikely to bowl, gives England a massive boost.

With veterans Moeen Ali, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, skipper Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan – along with youngsters Sam Curran and Harry Brook, England are a formidable team.

New Zealand, hit by a spate of injuries in recent months, have an uphill task against the defending champions.

Kane Williamson’s return, after a long lay-off, and Trent Boult’s inclusion in the squad, provides New Zealand heft in batting and bowling. But injuries to Tim Southee and Adam Milne sort of queered the pitch.

As far as the experience of playing in India conditions is concerned, players from both teams have benefited from playing in the IPL.

But how the Narendra Modi Stadium pitch will play is mired in suspense and could prove decisive.

Players To Watch Out For

Ben Stokes (England)

Hero of the 2019 triumph, Stokes comes into the tournament in a rich vein of form. He is expected to play fulcrum and, if needed, finisher. In the last few years, he’s shown there’s no one better than him in these roles.

Daryl Mitchell (New Zealand)

A late bloomer, Mitchell hit a purple patch in the last 18-20 months showing himself as a match-winner in all three formats. Batting is his strong suit, but he can also bowl swing and seam up at deceptive pace and is a brilliant fielder.


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