The wave of Asian migration will help make next year’s World Cup the biggest event in Australia since the Sydney Olympics, according to Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland.
Sutherland’s bold prediction about the tournament to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand came as World Cup boss John Harnden revealed that the game between South Africa and India at the MCG on February 22 had sold more tickets than the opening match between Australia and England in Melbourne on February 14.
Other popular games include the grudge match between India and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on the second day of the tournament, for which Harnden said the first allocation of tickets to the public sold out in 20 minutes. More tickets will be released next week. “We have been delighted with the response across the two countries,” Harnden said.
In recent years, India has eclipsed China as the biggest source of permanent migration to Australia, and seven of the top 10 source countries are in Asia. That makes Australia a very different place than when it last hosted the World Cup in 1992.
The tournament will comprise 49 games across 44 days in 14 cities. With Australia also hosting South Africa for five one-day internationals this month, and a triangular series featuring India and England before the World Cup, the Australian appetite for one-day cricket is expected to be tested.
But Sutherland believes it will capture the imagination regardless of how Australia performs.
“We’ve got a lot of cricket ahead of us in our traditional summer and I don’t necessarily expect people to have grasped that the World Cup is coming,” he said, predicting that momentum would build when the international season gets underway.
“It will certainly be the biggest event in Australia since the Olympics in 2000. The multicultural aspect is really important. We can see it already in the ticket sales.
“It’s a unique opportunity for players to play in a home World Cup. We obviously wish for them to do well and be playing at the business end of the tournament, but I can say categorically that the World Cup will be a huge success irrespective of the Australian team. It will just be much, much better if we make it through to the end.”
In ’92 Allan Border’s side bombed out before the semi-finals but still 87,182 people were at the MCG to watch Imran Khan lead Pakistan to victory over England.
That tournament featured an odd schedule with Australia playing its opening game in New Zealand, while England and India kicked off the event in Perth. This time the Australians play one game in Auckland against New Zealand but not until about halfway through the tournament.
South Africa, the No.1 ODI team, should be the team to beat but has a history of trauma at world cups, including the one it hosted in 2003 at which it muddled up the Duckworth-Lewis calculations.
The Proteas’ Twenty20 squad has slipped almost unnoticed into Australia for a three-game series starting on Wednesday in Adelaide. But big guns such as Dale Steyn and A. B. de Villiers will not be in action until the one-dayers, starting in Perth on November 14.