Cricket World Cup 2023: The politics and economics behind a beloved sport

by Sanjana Singh

November 1, 2023

All 10 captains gathered at the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on the eve of Cricket World Cup 2023 (Photo Credits: ICC)

ICC Cricket World Cup: A history of last-minute surprises, shocks, and stupidities

Low-scoring thrillers, nail-biting ties, remarkable comebacks, and edge-of-the-seat super overs – the 12 editions of the Cricket World Cup have witnessed them all. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane through some of the most enthralling matches in Cricket World Cup history. The inaugural World Cup final at Lord’s in 1975 between West Indies and Australia delivered an iconic showdown with Clive Lloyd’s heroic century and Viv Richards’s memorable runouts. The low-scoring thriller in the 1983 World Cup final where the West Indies, once cricketing giants, faltered against India’s relentless bowling attack, created an enduring memory at Lord’s. A pulsating semi-final at Eden Park in 2015, where New Zealand’s thrilling victory over South Africa was orchestrated by Grant Elliott’s astounding six, remains etched in cricketing history.

The most recent CWC final, in 2019, was a series of happy accidents for the English that led to them lifting the cup. Law 19.8 states that if a boundary results from an overthrow or from the willful act of a fielder, the total runs scored shall be the runs completed by the batsmen in addition to the boundary if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act. Stokes and Rashid had, in fact, not completed their second run when they needed 9 runs from 3 balls. What is now common knowledge was disastrously overlooked at the time by all three umpires. England was proclaimed the winner based on the number of boundaries hit, since the super over also tied. A match that should have not reached the super over in the first place and should have been in favour of New Zealand by one run, ended up being a tragic loss for the Kiwis.

These matches have left an indelible mark on the annals of Cricket World Cup history, and each one is a testament to the enduring appeal of the sport and its capacity to deliver timeless classics.

The Economics of Decision-Making in Cricket

Sporting scenarios like the American football draft, as discussed by Massey and Thaler (2013), have been instrumental in examining the principles of rational decision-making. Cricket, as a sport, offers a conducive environment for economic analysis. The decision-making process in cricket is well-suited for study due to its discrete nature (for instance, out or not out, bat or field), strict rules, frequent repetition throughout a season, and the fact that outcomes are publicly available and can be compiled into data sets. This makes it possible to identify even subtle effects. Moreover, decision-making in cricket draws parallels with behavior in broader microeconomic contexts, resembling the complex decisions made by corporate leaders who must navigate uncertainty, drawing from experience, skills, risk preferences, and incentives, including financial considerations.

The impact of the coin toss and the subsequent decision by the captain to bat or field first has been examined in relation to different formats of the game, typically utilising logit/probit regression analysis. Identification is achieved by leveraging the random assignment of the decision following the coin toss. On an international scale, analyses of the toss’s impact in One Day International (ODI) cricket have been conducted by de Silva & Schwartz (1998), Bhaskar (2009), and Dawson et al. (2009). Overall, winning the toss appears to slightly enhance the probability of winning the match, although specific outcomes can vary based on the particular empirical setting.

Research on umpire decision-making in cricket has primarily centered around the Leg Before Wicket (LBW) dismissal verdict, aiming to determine whether this decision is made optimally or if it demonstrates any biases. The LBW decision is unique to cricket, requiring umpires to make rapid judgments in a short timeframe, and it can significantly alter the course of a match. Early literature compared LBW decisions for home and away teams, utilising data from individual countries (Sumner & Mobley, 1981; Croucher, 1982; and Crowe & Middeldorp, 1996), multiple countries (Ringrose, 2006), or domestic cricket (Jones et al., 2001). These studies generally found that home team batsmen received LBW decisions less frequently than away teams but discerning whether this discrepancy resulted from umpire bias or crowd pressure proved challenging.

India CWC 2023: More than just a game

For foreigners, India’s introduction to the global economy is usually linked to Manmohan Singh’s 1991 LPG reforms: an abbreviation for liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation. However, many Indians remember a cricket tournament four years prior, when the World Cup was first taken away from the realms of England, with enormous crowds and Reliance Industries as the inaugural title sponsor, offering £75,000 to participating teams. The one-day format of cricket’s largest international competition has returned to the subcontinent twice since 1987, reflecting India’s growing confidence and wealth. In October 2023, the World Cup returned to India, just six months prior to a crucial general election.

It is poised to be the most financially rewarding and politically charged cricket event. India’s vast cricket audience of 210 million TV households has become a coveted media prize, and online streaming rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) cost Reliance $2.6 billion. For foreign cricketers, this World Cup is an opportunity to secure life-changing IPL contracts. For Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is a chance to strengthen his bid for a third term by leveraging cricket’s popularity.

The World Cup could exacerbate inflation, with economists noting significant spikes in airline ticket and hotel rental prices during this period. Additionally, service charges within the informal sector of the ten host cities have experienced substantial increases, compounding the impact of the festive season. According to experts, this could lead to a general inflation increase of approximately 0.15% to 0.25% for November.

From the perspective of sports as well, this World Cup has been unconventional with the men in maroon, who once used to be a threat for every other team, failing to qualify. On top of that, the defending champions have succeeded in giving the word “failure” a whole new meaning by securing and holding onto the 10th position on the points table. Turns out, duck is more than just a popular meat in England with their batsmen leaving the pitch as soon as they get there.

Halfway through the championship, some great finishes have been witnessed. The Trans-Tasman competition was an absolute spectacle with New Zealand almost chasing down the run target set by Australia, which was nothing short of monumental, at 388 runs. In a captivating finish, Australia successfully proved why they are five-time CWC champions. In another intriguing match, Afghanistan, a team deemed to be inept, started the never-ending doom for England by defeating them by a colossal margin of 69 runs.

Predictions for playoffs: Repeating or changing history?

The host country, India, has maintained an unblemished record in this World Cup so far and one more win will confirm a spot for them in the semifinal berth.

After an unexpected defeat to the Netherlands in their third match, the Proteas bounced back with three consecutive victories, bringing their total to five wins. Securing two more wins out of their final three matches will put them up there in the semifinals.

Having been the runners-up in the previous two editions of the tournament, New Zealand commenced this event with a sensational victory over the reigning champions, England. However, they have encountered two consecutive losses in their recent matches. To secure three wins in their remaining three matches would be the perfect scenario for the Blackcaps. Australian captain Pat Cummins has steered his squad of experienced players to a series of four consecutive victories, propelling them to the fourth position following a disappointing beginning against India and South Africa. In order to enter the semifinals for the third time in a row, they need to win their three remaining matches. Alternatively, securing two wins and benefitting from favourable outcomes in other matches could also grant them a spot in the top four.

During his pre-tournament press conferences, English Captain Jos Buttler said that his team was not going in with the mindset to defend any titles in the tournament, and it seems that his prediction is well on its way to coming true. It is safe to say that they have already lost a spot in the top four. As for the rest of the teams, they have slim chances of reaching the playoffs, being heavily dependent on the outcomes of fixtures other than just their own.

With the top four currently looking like India, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, every team seems like a worthy contestant for the trophy. Australia might just be in the running to become six-time champions under Cummins’s captaincy by the end of the season. On the other hand, Rohit Sharma could continue Kapil Dev’s and M.S. Dhoni’s legacies. Or will Kane Williamson or Temba Bavuma alter history and statistics by achieving what their countries never have been able to? Regardless of the outcome of the final, there will be an undeniable aura of grandeur that will surround the event, something that every avid fan of cricket will recognise. When it comes to cricket, history is always in the making.

Sanjana is a second-year Finance and Economics student at UQ and the Sponsorship Director at UQES. When she isn’t watching cricket or reading a book, you can find her high on caffeine and pretending to study at BEL. Feel free to reach out at

  1. The Economics of Cricket (Gregory-Smith, Paton & Sacheti, 2019)
  2. The cricket World Cup in India in 2023 will be more than just a game (The Economist, 2023)
  3. Cricket World Cup May add $2.6 Billion to Indian Economy (Bloomberg, 2023)
  4. Which teams can qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinals? (Al Jazeera, 2023)

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