The ICC World Cup - A glance at the past!

Sudeshna Guha Roy

World Cup – the ultimate honour every cricket playing nation vouches for! With the tenth edition of the ICC World Cup just round the corner, let us look into the past of the game and acknowledge the nations which etched their names into pages of history.

The first ever attempt of any kind to host a world championship like tournament was witnessed in 1912. The then current Test playing nations, Australia, England and South Africa, held a three-way tournament, which was later dropped due to poor weather.

However, looking into the success of domestic one-day competitions, the tournament was repeated again in 1975, when, the six Test-playing nations (England, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, India and Pakistan) were joined by Sri Lanka and East Africa to hold the first ever official World Cup in England.

Here is a recap of the tournament so far:

1. 1975 World Cup in England:

The tournament started with eight participating teams, with East Africa, Sri Lanka being termed as the ‘minnows’ playing 60-overs per team one-day matches. The format was kept simple as two groups (with four teams each) competed for the best four to go up to the semi finals.

However, considering the dominance of Test cricket in those times, it took a while for the teams to adapt to the shorter format or the ‘truncated Test format’, as many may call it, especially when only 18 ODIs were played till then.

Despite orthodox theory, the teams came up with a good show as England fought Australia and West Indies took on New Zealand in the semis.

The Headingley pitch though was tailor made for English swing and seaming conditions, it was the Australian side that took the advantage as Gary Gilmour’s 6 for 14 helped beat the home team by 4 wickets and reach the finals. The Windies, meanwhile, registered an easy 5-wicket victory over the Kiwis as they chased down an easy target of 159 runs with 19.5 overs to spare.

Clive Lloyd’s stupendous 102-run innings in the final match helped the West Indies set a competitive target of 291 runs, that appeared too much to handle for the Aussies. Later, Keith Boyce’s 4-wicket haul restricted the Australians to 274 as the Caribbean country won the final clash by 17 runs and lifted the first ever World Cup.

2. 1979 World Cup in England:

Caribbean dominance continued at the World Cup as the West Indies won the second edition of the tournament as well.

A qualifying competition ahead of the tournament brought small teams like Kenya and Sri Lanka into the foray. Australia, who were considered a tough team then, limited themselves by picking up a very young and inexperienced team for the event; the reason being, most of their senior and experienced players were still contracted to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Pakistan and the West Indies, on the other, went on with original teams.

The Windies, as expected, topped their group with two wins and a no-result match against Sri Lanka. The minnows Lankans proved rather tough as they defeated India by 47 runs in their group match. England, meanwhile, topped their group ahead of teams like Pakistan and Australia.

Mike Brearley’s men battled it out against the Kiwis in the first semis. Brearley (53) and Graham Gooch (71) slammed respective half-tons as they beat New Zealand by 9 runs to reach the final. The Windies, on the other, claimed a bigger margin victory against Pakistan to qualify for the summit clash. Despite a 93-run innings by Zaheer Abbas, Pakistan failed to come near the West Indies’ 293/6, as they lost in the semis by 43 runs.

In the final, the West Indies completely outclassed England, winning the match by 92 runs. Vivian Richards slammed a brilliant unbeaten 138 and Collis King smashed 86 of 77 balls as the West Indies put up competitive 286 after their stipulated 60 overs. England, on the other, despite half tons by Brearley and Geoff Boycott, failed to cross even 200 as the second World Cup trophy went to the Caribbean.

3. The 1983 World Cup in England:

1983 – A golden year in the history of Indian cricket! The Men in Blue stunned the world as they went on to claim their first World Cup trophy.

The 1983 edition saw many innovations being brought into the game. Primarily, the teams now had to play two matches with every other team in their group so as to reduce the chance of elimination by weather. Also, the umpires used stricter means to judge wides and bouncers. As a result, the number of wides per match rose to almost double than what used to be in 1979. And finally, a fielding circle, an oval to be precise, was introduced 30 yards around the stumps and four fieldsmen needed to be inside it at all times.

The early group stage of the tournament saw the obvious performers shining as England and Pakistan prevailed over Sri Lanka and New Zealand in their group. The other group, on the other hand, saw India emerging as the surprise team as it finished second next to West Indies, prevailing over Australia and Zimbabwe.

Playing in the semifinals for the first time ever, the underdog Indian team outclassed a below-par England side to cruise into the final. After bundling out the opponents for 213 runs, Kapil Dev’s men easily chased down the target with almost 5 overs and 6 wickets to spare. West Indies on the other hand, claimed a rather easy victory as they chased down Pakistan’s 184 runs with almost 11 overs to spare, thus, entering into the finals, third time in a row with an 8-wicket win.

The final clash was more action packed than expected. The Caribbean bowlers kept on snapping wickets at regular intervals as the Indians struggled to reach to 183 runs. However, what happened next was not anticipated by anyone. Mohinder Amarnath and Madal Lal picked three-wickets each as India crushed the West Indies by 43 runs to win their first ever World Cup. As Kapil Dev lifted the trophy for India, the world stood awed watching India’s supremacy.

4. The 1987 World Cup in India and Pakistan:

The 1987 World Cup marked the beginning of Australia’s dominance in the world of cricket.

The edition saw the tournament being held away from England for the first time. Also, the shorter daylight hours in the subcontinent resulted in the games being curtailed to 50 overs per innings from 60. The edition also saw the incoming of neutral umpires.

It was for the first time that the West Indies failed to reach the semifinals of the tournament and India and Australia emerged superior in their group, while Pakistan and
England prevailed in their group.

Both India and Pakistan faced losses in the semifinals in front of their respective home grounds as the dream of winning the World Cup at home eluded India. While Pakistan failed to chase down Australia’s 267 and lost by 18 runs, India too fell short by 35 runs to beat England in the semis.

Australia and England fought one of the toughest battles in a World Cup final. A 75-run partnership between openers David Boon and Geoff Marsh helped Australia post a competitive 253 runs. England batsmen too seemed to be going great until skipper Mike Gatting lost his wicket. The entire England batting order thereafter came down tumbling as Australia lifted their first World Cup trophy.

To be continued in Part-II

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