The Light Roller

Here's to England losing the World Cup final after their last man gets run-out backing up at the non-striker's end

Aka things we're anticipating from this edition of the tournament

Let's turn those smiles upside down now, shall we?  •  Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

Let's turn those smiles upside down now, shall we?  •  Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

Rejoice, the ODI World Cup - the proper one - is almost here! Sure, give it a week and we'll have remembered that it's too long, too bloated and way too predictable. But for now, we're excited enough to have compiled a non-exhaustive list of things we're looking forward to about the tournament (whether they're actually going to happen or not…)
England getting the band back together
The UK obviously adores its national treasures, such as the Koh-i-Noor, the Benin bronzes, and Kevin Pietersen. Which is why England have stuck with the gang of legends who lifted the trophy in 2019 after their famous victory* at Lord's, to the extent that pretty much everyone from the squad four years ago who's still fit and able - sorry, Jason Roy - has been awoken from their cryo chamber and bundled onto the plane for one last tour. Will they smash it in India as well as they smashed it in England? Because so many of them have played in the IPL over the years, they might arguably smash it better. God, how they love smashing.
Don't laugh. There is an Associate team at the World Cup, despite the best efforts of the ICC to weed out such plucky upstarts. Now all Netherlands must do for the next six weeks is run through fire, dodge swinging boulders and avoid being hit by a volley of poison darts in order not to be cast as a laughing stock whose very presence degrades the tournament itself (not to mention threatens those sweet, sweet broadcasting revenues).
West Indies
Seriously, don't go there. It's still too soon. Light a candle, put David Rudder on the stereo, spray yourself with a little Daren Sammy 88. We'll get through this.
India fans rage-quitting the tournament
Never mind that it's been almost impossible to buy a ticket, with the BCCI employing the methodology of social-media hucksters trying to flog their new energy drink ("Doesn't matter how we distribute it, or at what price, we know you idiots will keep coming back") - you can be sure the stands will be emptier than ICC gestures about growing the game just as soon as there's any prospect of India's World Cup being over. Sure, the format pretty much guarantees against total disaster - thanks for that, 2007 edition - but India had better make the final or else the swathes of empty stands in the Narendra Modi Stadium (see below) will be visible from space.
Stokes' latest Laws loophole
Like the old secret agent who is asked to come out of retirement to complete one final mission, Ben Stokes is back in one-day pyjamas. His return was described as "a bit me, me, me" by Tim Paine - you remember, the sexting guy - and, to be fair, Stokes did look a bit of a show-off after smacking 182 from 124 balls against those poor schmucks New Zealand the other day. Big-game player, Bazball pioneer, purveyor of outrageous feats, you can see why England wanted him back. But can he still absolutely middle the living daylights out of throws from the outfield through an unprotected fine leg the way he did in the last final? Or was that merely a fluke?
Boring middle overs
Do sports really need to be always interesting? Yes? Ugh. We thought you'd say that, you attention-span-of-a-goldfish 21st-century stimulant-chaser. You're probably reading this on a phone, aren't you? Of course your kind wouldn't understand the profound pleasures of watching batters nurdle singles and twos endlessly through the middle overs while the spinners are in operation. Disgusting. You don't deserve this tedium.
Boundary countback
Just kidding, New Zealand fans. Sorry, this one should have come with a trigger warning. The ICC, in all its wisdom, has of course done away with using boundary countback as the tie-breaker in knockout games. But just as with the rain rules used in 1992 or the farcical end to the 2007 final, cricket's pinnacle event (outside of every IPL season ever played) is bound to come up with some dumb new way of looking stupid, and we can't wait to find out what it is.
The Modium
The 2015 World Cup memorably gave us the #MCGsobig hashtag on Twitter, amid suggestions New Zealand might be overawed by the size of the venue for the final (and boy, did they put paid to that idea). But anyway, stick this in your pipe and smoke it, MCG - because the Narendra Modi Stadium is just about the biggest thing cricket has ever seen. And like a divorced uncle with a brand-new Ferrari that definitely isn't compensating for something, the BCCI is very keen for you to see the Modium. They've made it the venue for the opening game and the final, as well as the in-no-way-small group fixture between India and Pakistan. The "New Home of Cricket", you might say. Or you will if you know what's good for you.
Sri Lanka being the new Pakistan
This trend was apparent four years ago, but Sri Lanka have really been nailing the geniuses-one-day-doofuses-the-next routine. From a record-breaking run of 13 consecutive ODI victories - behind only the great Australian meat-grinder of 2003 - to facepalming their way to 50 all out in the Asia Cup final, they have displayed a range that even the most mercurial mavericks would struggle to match. Expect them to lose their opening four games before unleashing a Haal Mary run to the final that would make Pakistan proud.
This has to happen. India is the spiritual home of running-out the non-striker backing up. There have been high-profile recent examples at the IPL and the Asia Cup, and there are a number of candidates to be the first to do it in a World Cup - R Ashwin (if he squeezes into India's squad), Fazalhaq Farooqi, even Mitchell Starc, despite confusion in Australian circles about which side of the Line RONSBU falls. Ideally, it will happen against one of those countries who moralise and wring their hands about not doing it. Maybe at a crucial moment in the final, say, causing the defending champions to unravel… Sorry, England, it's only fair after last time.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo and Andrew Fidel Fernando is the Sri Lanka correspondent