Tomorrow's final of the 2023 (50-over) ICC Cricket World Cup between Australia and hosts India may turn out to be one for the ages.
The hosts — having previously won the ODI World Cup twice — have been especially impressive. Blessed with awesomely talented batters and immensely skilful spinners and seam bowlers, India have prepared pitches — mostly very dry — which augment their strengths.
All has gone well for them so far, with Mr Rohit Sharma's team dominant and unbeaten.
For India's 1.4 billion people, cricket is a sport like no other and the celebration, should they win the Cricket World Cup on home soil, will be beyond measure.
Yet, Indians know that their opponents — five-time winners of the ODI World Cup — have consistently proven themselves to be the toughest, hardest-to-beat campaigners in cricket.
Already in this tournament, the Australians have shown their mettle recovering from a seemingly hopeless 91-7 in the 19th over against youthful but dangerous Afghanistan to chase down 292 and win by three wickets with 19 balls to spare.
In the process, their middle-order batsman Mr Glenn Maxwell, limping badly and unable to run for much of the time, blasted a 128-ball, unbeaten double century. That recovery will go down as arguably the most sensational in the history of international white-ball cricket. Can India hold off the Australians to win their third World ODI title? We can hardly wait.
By the closing stages of the tournament, semi-finalists India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa appeared to be unarguably the cream of the crop.
Yet, we saw again that the standard of cricket globally is rising rapidly and that no international team can be taken for granted, least of all in shorter, white-ball versions.
That said, the world is marvelling at the extraordinary growth of Afghanistan's cricket. Over the last 30 years, that war-torn country evolved from virtually no participation in the sport to winning four matches, including beating 2019 champions England, and neighbours Pakistan, in this tournament.
We should also consider the achievements of The Netherlands who famously qualified for the 2023 World Cup ahead of West Indies and Zimbabwe, hosts of the qualifiers, earlier this year.
The Dutch firmly put to rest any thought that their qualifying successes were just good fortune, by beating South Africa and Bangladesh in India.
Other lower-tier, cricket-playing nations with lofty ambitions, including the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, et al, are also investing heavily to upgrade their standards.
Yesterday's 50-over victory by Ireland's emerging players over a youthful West Indies Academy team in Antigua — the first of a scheduled series — bears further testimony to a trend that is gaining momentum.
In that respect, we again applaud stepped-up developmental programmes being implemented by the leadership of Cricket West Indies (CWI) — now preparing for the arrival of the English for a senior white-ball series next month.
In addition to organising competition for the West Indies Academy against young Ireland, CWI have also sent off a mostly youthful A-team, led by West Indies wicketkeeper/batsman Mr Joshua DaSilva, for a series of 4-day 'Tests' in South Africa. Also, an under-19 squad has gathered in Trinidad for a two-week camp in preparation for next year's Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
This is the way to go, we believe.