Every venue opener at the World Cup has been injected with a bit of oomph to pull crowds and make some noise. The Oval had England and South Africa, Nottingham was given Pakistan and West Indies, Bristol is where Australia show up, Southampton will host India's first game and Manchester opens with India-Pakistan.
In that regard, Cardiff could complain. Its opening fixture - New Zealand vs Sri Lanka - can only politely be described as an undercard to the rest of the event unfurling in a panorama of runs, wickets, sixes, beastly bouncers and freaky catches across England. The least they could have done for Cardiff for New Zealand-Sri Lanka was turn on the lights. The tournament's first day-night fixture will be played on Saturday, but not here. That will be in Bristol, 25-odd miles east as the crow flies, between Australia and Afghanistan.
Well, humph. Cardiff, we must remember, happens to be the capital of another country in the United Kingdom. Wales could cite the scheduling of their World Cup coming-out party as reason enough to leave the Union if they could be bothered. The Welsh are a generous people, though, currently revelling in their rugby success (unbeaten in the Six Nations, No. 2 in the world) and World Cup city initiatives have involved as many famous Welsh people as could be roped in. Rugby legend Shane Williams, most recently famous for captaining a team at the world's highest altitude touch rugby match near Everest Base Camp, has been involved in fronting events welcoming the Cup to Cardiff.
To be fair, on the record sheet, outside of India and Australia, it is New Zealand and Sri Lanka that are cricket's two most consistent teams across this millennium's World Cups. Sri Lanka have made two finals out of four as well as a semi-final spot in South Africa 2003, while New Zealand made two semi-finals and the 2015 final.
But New Zealand are doing what New Zealand always do in big competitions, flying under the radar, self-deprecatory in performance before things get serious. In the World Cup warm-ups, they shot out pre-tournament favourites India for 179 and then conceded 400+ against the West Indies and got to within 90 in the chase.
Yes, they are ranked No. 4 with respectable tournament odds that reflect their capabilities. In terms of being the sentimental favourites, the New Zealanders have been displaced by the New West Indies, who are stirring up old memories. Kane Williamson does not bristle, and when asked to respond about the low expectations around his team and, added with a smile, "some people may be saying something about us. I'm not sure. We're talking about us."
The issue around Saturday's match is not about New Zealand generating far too little clamour in the run-up to their World Cup. It is their opposition who are the underwhelming half of the Saturday undercard.
Between the 2015 World Cup final and today, Sri Lanka have won four out of 20 series played (against West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe), lost 55 out of 85 ODI matches and been through six captains. They are now onto their seventh in Dimuth Karunaratne, who must lead three of those deposed captains, Angelo Mathews, Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera in the squad.
Sri Lanka's team manager Ashantha De Mel is also its chief selector, a man who has stripped the coach Chandika Hathurasingha of having any say in the final XI. Please, Sri Lanka are the oldest team in the World Cup, only six of the 15-member squad played in Sri Lanka's last ODI series, against South Africa in March. In the same chaotic interim, the Sri Lankans - their Test team that is - pulled off the greatest performance by an Asian team in South Africa, winning the Test series 2-0; they were led by Karunaratne, who was rewarded with a return into the ODI squad after four years - as captain.
The absurdity of it all led a Sri Lankan journalist to confidently say that his team could most certainly hope to win the prize for the World Cup's best, and most ecologically-conscious, team jersey. With turtles. The worry that remains, though, is that Sri Lanka will struggle to make an impression in the event with a motley crew of oldish players, with scratchy records and with doomsday propositions being made about wooden spoons.
Karunaratne admitted it "was not easy" being in his role as opener and captain after having played very little limited overs cricket (he had signed a county deal with Hampshire before being named World Cup captain) but saw his team's World Cup mash-up as a "positive thing." "You need to prove yourself. Every time, you have to be hungry. The new faces (in the team) they want to do well to perform, to stay in the team. Everyone wants to do well… I have lots of experienced guys who played World Cup before, and I think these are the key factors."
Whatever they do on the field in the competition, Sri Lanka have certainly confused their opposition. When England captain Eoin Morgan was asked about the surprise package of the competition he said, "Sri Lanka have got ten new members - don't they? Sri Lanka have picked a couple of guys who I haven't played and I've been playing for ten years. I think that's the surprise for me."
It was Williamson who put Saturday into perspective "I don't know how much the past really counts as we come into a tournament. It is on the day… We know the Sri Lankan side is a little bit different to the one we played at home, but we have no doubt they're a tough side." Even if Williamson was saying so to keep things on even keel, all that Cardiff's World Cup needs from Saturday is for boats to be rocked or shots fired.