LONDON - The 2019 ICC World Cup officially kicked off with captains of all the ten nations coming together in an exciting opening ceremony which was presented by former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Shibani Dandekar opposite the Buckingham Palace in London.

Ahead of the lively ceremony at the Mall in central London, the ten captains were at Buckingham Palace where they met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and other members of the Royal Family at a gala event.

Pakistani captain Sarfaraz Ahmed who was with the team in Nottingham arrived in London for the meeting with the Queen. The Pakistan skipper met the Queen wearing traditional shalwar kameez.

Prior to the trophy unveiling, a round of two-a-side street cricket match was also played where Nobel laureate Malala Yousufzai and former ODI captain Azhar Ali represented Pakistan. England, whose 50-over side is among the favourites, won the event named the 60-second challenge. Pakistan finished seventh but India finished 10th — a point made by Malala later and which drew loud cheers from the crowd.

Malala asked women to engage more in cricket and cite Sana Mir’s example to the young generation. “These role models are inspiring women to believe in themselves that they are capable of anything. Women should engage more in sports and we all have to contribute in that.”

Malala said she had been a big fan of cricket since her childhood. “We now see more and more women take part in cricket. I think women should take part more in sport.” Malala went on to says this sport connects different people from different cultures. We’re all here to celebrate cricket.”

Former Australian batsman David Boon was the umpire for 60-secon challenge. Former Indian skipper Anil Kumble and Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar represented India at the event. The event also involved legends such as Viv Richards, Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee, and Kevin Pietersen, among others.

Afghanistan started off the challenge and they scored 52 in one minute. Next, former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene came out to represent Sri Lanka and the team scored 43. West Indies were represented by legend Viv Richards and Olympic athlete Yohan Blake and they scored 47 in one minute. Abdur Razzaq featured in Bangladesh’s team. They scored just 22. Pakistan scored 38 and they were represented by Malala Yousafzai. They were followed by Australia. Brett Lee represented the Aussies and they were able to muster the second highest score of the 60-second challenge and they scored 69 runs. New Zealand was able to score only 32. South African team had Jacques Kallis and footballer Steven Pienaar. They scored 48 runs. India represented by Anil Kumble and Farhan Akhtar scored the lowest score of 19 among all teams. Then the English team came out to bat and it featured Kevin Pietersen. They scored 74 in one minute and they ended up winning the challenge.

At the event, which had more the feel of a street festival than a conventional launch, the official World Cup song titled “Stand By”, sung by Loryn and also featuring Rudimental, was also played.

At the end, Australia’s World Cup winning former captain Michael Clarke and former English spinner Graeme Swann unveiled the World Cup trophy to the crowd, which formally marked the start of the tournament.

“England are the favourites,” reckons Michael Clarke. “Australia need to continue the way they are playing for the last few months to retain the Cup,” says the 2015 World Cup-winning skipper.