Been there, done that: Who's got the most experienced squad?
Nobody has played more ODI cricket in the 21st century than India, so it's no surprise that they top the charts for the squad with the most collective experience (1573 ODIs), but guess who's in second place? Not Australia, not England, but Bangladesh, who have four surviving members from the side that shocked India in the 2007 World Cup. Their famous five have gone past 100 ODIs together, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that they come into the World Cup as a side with one of the most experienced cores.
However, the true mark of a squad's experience is the median number of games played, in this case the ODIs played by the eighth-most-experienced player in the squad. England are runaway winners here, not surprising considering their core has largely remained the same since their rebuild began after the 2015 World Cup. And if you're surprised as to why Australia are for once "dark horses" or "underdogs", one indication is in the fact that they are near the bottom of the experience charts, a rarity given they have won four of the last five World Cups with proven, world-beating stars.
Afghanistan, Test cricket newbies who've come into this World Cup via a qualifying tournament, actually have quite an experienced side, with nine players with 50-plus ODI caps and a median experience of 56 games.
Sri Lanka top one pre-tournament chart
Only one of the 150 players across all squads is on the other side of 40 - Imran Tahir - and his presence along with that of fellow veterans Hashim Amla (36), Dale Steyn (36), JP Duminy (35) and Faf du Plessis (34) makes South Africa one of the oldest squads in the tournament. Tahir and Duminy have already announced that the World Cup will be their final ODI tournament, although the former might continue playing T20 cricket.
Australia might be low on ODI experience, but they've got their share of 30-somethings, some of whom - Nathan Lyon and Usman Khawaja to name two - have played no more than a handful of ODIs. They are among the four sides with average ages exceeding 30, followed closely by India. Sri Lanka, whose World Cup squad is a curious mix of those making shock comebacks and indispensable assets like Lasith Malinga who are nearing the end of their careers, top the charts with an average squad age of 30.43.
Afghanistan, who feature highly on the experience stakes, also have the World Cup's youngest squad. They have the tournament's youngest player, Mujeeb ur Rahman, who is one of only three teenagers across squads alongside Pakistan's Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Afridi. While Pakistan have their share of senior statesmen in Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, they feature some of the most exciting young talent in the competition: apart from Afridi and Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam are all core members of the XI aged below 25.
The most prolific batting and bowling units
India's specialist batsmen come into the tournament with the highest collective career batting average and top the runs charts, but England's dashers are ahead of the rest of the pack in terms of how quickly they score. They are the only side whose top six strikes north of a run-a-ball, as they continue to rewrite the ODI batting playbook. If England's strike rates are jaw-dropping, India's batting resources are by far the most proven: they have racked up 41,700 ODI runs, nearly 50% more than any other side in the competition.
On the bowling front, India and Afghanistan, with their wristspin-heavy bowling attacks, have two of the best economy rates in the field, and could be the ones bringing the average scores down in what is tipped to be a high-scoring tournament. South Africa, led by Tahir, Steyn and Kagiso Rabada, aren't far away, and have one of the more balanced units in the competition.
Australia, as should be evident by now, along with West Indies, are low on collective career runs and wickets, but come into the tournament in a rich vein of form. And this is a World Cup, so bet against them at your own peril.
Wait, when did I last see him in an ODI?
Sure, Kohli has the most ODI runs since the last World Cup (duh!), Adil Rashid and Rashid Khan top the wickets charts, Jos Buttler scores faster than anyone else - we know all of this, more or less. But, what are some names we didn't expect to see at this World Cup?
Let's start with Dimuth Karunaratne, whose last ODI was at the 2015 World Cup when he was picked in the Sri Lanka squad... and made captain! Jeevan Mendis is another shock selection, picked despite not playing a single ODI since the inaugural game of the previous World Cup. Tom Blundell, New Zealand's second-choice wicketkeeper, might become the only ODI debutant at this edition, having been picked after an injury to Tim Seifert.
Andre Russell is a not-so-surprising selection who has hardly played international 50-overs cricket over the past four years, and Liam Dawson (three ODIs since World Cup 2015) has made his way into the England squad after strong domestic performances. The famously face-painted Hamid Hassan, who was a TV commentator during Afghanistan's recent Test against Ireland, is back for another World Cup after recovering from a long-term knee injury.
What's in a (jersey) number?
Remember when Muttiah Muralitharan wore 800 at the 2011 World Cup? Or Chris Gayle's famous 333 at the back of his jersey over the past couple of editions? If you're nodding along, your memories are fooling you: Muralitharan wore 8, Gayle wears 45 at World Cups.
Though players like Gayle, and more recently Rishabh Pant, wear three-digit numbers in ODI cricket, the World Cup jersey's design brings with it space limitations, meaning players can only pick a number from 1 to 99. Even Herschelle Gibbs, who memorably sported 00 on the back of his jersey till World Cup 2003, switched to 07 in the 2007 edition. It is understood that players regularly come up with "weird requests" for jersey numbers, from 001 to 007, but there just isn't space to sneak them in.
The biggest kit numbers at this World Cup will continue to be Lasith Malinga's and Imran Tahir's 99, while there are a number of '1's across the squads. Wonder what Rishabh Pant, he of the 777 jersey, would have worn had he made it to India's World Cup squad.
England are World Cup favourites because...
...they have been the most successful ODI side since World Cup 2015, by a distance. In ODIs against the other nine World Cup teams, nobody even comes close to their win-loss ratio of 2.5. But record between World Cups has been something of a banana peel in recent years, with only Australia carrying on a hot streak and coming out trumps in the tournament. Just ask South Africa, who have dominated the in-between years, only for other teams to render those numbers (and bookmakers' odds) meaningless.
With stats inputs from Shiva Jayaraman