What is it?
What the name suggests: A tournament in which the best teams in the world compete. International cricket has three formats, Tests, ODIs and T20Is. This is the ODI World Cup. Test cricket doesn't have a World Cup and the T20 World Cup is only 12 years old compared to 44 years for the ODI World Cup. So this is cricket's biggest tournament.
Where is it happening?
The United Kingdom. Most games are in England, and there are four matches in Cardiff, Wales. It is the fifth time the tournament is being played in the UK. The final is in London, at Lord's, a ground that's known as the home of cricket.
When is it?
The first match is on May 30, and the final is on July 14. Most games, including the semi-finals and final, begin at 10:30 UK time (15:00 IST). There will be a few group games beginning at 13:30 UK time (18:00 IST).
Why is it a big deal?
Though cricket is only popular in a handful of countries, its immense popularity in the populous Indian subcontinent makes the World Cup one of the most watched sporting events on the planet. The estimates for how many people watched the last World Cup range from 1.5 to 2.2 billion. That puts it among the top 15 most-watched sporting events ever, with only various editions of the football World Cup and the Summer Olympics ahead of it. India alone had more than 600 million viewers, which is six times the number of people that watch the Super Bowl.
How many teams are playing?
Just ten: England, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Some cricket fans are not happy with that number as they believe more nations need to be involved for the tournament to be a considered a World Cup. The International Cricket Council (ICC) had been working on expanding the tournament since 1992, when just nine teams were involved, and it peaked with 16 teams in 2007. However, after the last World Cup, contested by 14 teams, the ICC decided that some of the weaker teams were not competitive enough to be part of the tournament (Also, television ratings for games between the weaker teams were low). So, the tournament was made smaller, with the top eight teams according to the official rankings (as of September 30, 2017) qualifying automatically and two more, West Indies and Afghanistan, through a qualifying tournament.
Why is the tournament so long? What is the format?
This World Cup has a round-robin format, which means the ten teams will all play each other once in the league phase. So that's nine games per team and 45 matches in all. The top four teams from the league phase go on to play the semi-finals, and the winners play in the final. For a full list of fixtures, click here.
So how do teams qualify for the semi-finals?
Every win in the group stage gives a team two points. A tie or a no-result due to a match being abandoned fetches one point. The four teams with most points at the end of the league phase go to the semi-finals.
And what if teams are tied on points?
Then, the first thing considered is which team has won more games. So, if for example Bangladesh have ten points from four wins and two ties and Pakistan have ten points from five wins, it'll be Pakistan who go through. If both points and wins are equal, the team with the higher net run rate qualifies. In the unlikely event that even net run rates are equal, the winner of the head-to-head match between the two teams qualifies.
So can there be ties? Are there Super Overs to decide games?
During the league phase, if two teams are tied at the end of the game, the match ends there, and they take one point each. In the semi-finals and final, if there is a tie, then the match goes to a Super Over. Each team picks two batsman to face one over and whoever gets more runs in that over wins.
Who are the favourites?
England. They are No. 1 in the ICC's ODI rankings, have not lost a one-day series in more than two years, and are the hosts too. India are ranked No. 2 and are considered strong contenders. Fifth-ranked Australia are the defending champions and have won five World Cups, three more than anyone else. They have also recovered from a lean patch to win each of their last eight ODI games. Pakistan, winners of the last big ODI tournament, the 2017 Champions Trophy, are dark horses along with New Zealand and South Africa.
Who are the underdogs everyone is rooting for?
Afghanistan. They did not even have a team until 1995 and are now in their second World Cup, making the cut this time despite the reduction in the number of teams. They have possibly the best spinner in the world, Rashid Khan, as well as other exciting talents to watch.
What are the big rivalries?
Australia-England and India-Pakistan are massive historical rivalries. Australia and England were the first two teams to play Test cricket, back in 1877, and have been competing in an iconic series called the Ashes since 1882. India and Pakistan share a border and are fierce political rivals, which makes cricket games between them both rare and intense. Another budding rivalry is between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It began because of a celebration called the nagin (snake) dance that both teams have used to taunt each other.
Who are the superstars to watch?
Virat Kohli, the captain of India, is No.7 on ESPN's sports fame list. He has 34 million followers on Instragram, is considered one of the best ODI batsmen of all time, and is always animated on the field. England's star player is Jos Buttler, a hard-hitting batsman tipped by five of 11 ESPNcricinfo correspondents covering the World Cup to win Player of the Tournament. There's also Andre Russell, the muscular allrounder from the West Indies, who is known for scoring at a furious pace and winning games from improbable situations.
Among the bowlers, India's Jasprit Bumrah is ranked No.1 in the world. He bowls with an awkward slingshot action and is known for his yorkers. Australia's Pat Cummins and South Africa's Kagiso Rabada are considered among the top fast bowlers in the world. There's also a lot of buzz around Jofra Archer, a Barbadian born fast-bowling allrounder who qualified to play for England just in time for this tournament. Wristspin is also expected to play a big role, with Afghanistan's Rashid, India's spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, and South Acrica's Imran Tahir all ranked among the top 10 bowlers in the world.