Starting 30 May, the cricket world will be set to one time-zone, as the fraternity gathers in England for the 12th chapter of the ICC World Cup.
In the first edition of this three-part deep-dive into the history of cricket’s premier competition, we took a look into the origins of the World Cup, and how things panned from 1975 to 1987.
In part two, we’re diving into the ‘90s–when the World Cup began blossoming into a truly global phenomenon.
1992: Lights, (Multiple) Cameras, Action!
Coloured clothing. Floodlights. TV replays. A white ball.As the world moved into the final decade of the 20th century, the World Cup altered its own course to capture the heartbeat of a rapidly-growing cricket audience.
The Trans-Tasman summer of 1992 will always hold a special place in the annals of the ICC World Cup for the numerous firsts it came with; the results on the field ensured the revolution wasn’t just a PR gimmick. Co-hosts New Zealand gave the world a first dose of pinch-hitting, while also taking the inspired step to open the bowling with a spinner- Dipak Patel.
The reinstatement of South Africa into international cricket following the end of apartheid in the country expanded the World Cup from an eight-team affair to nine-team event. The format, too, changed entirely, with a complete round-robin stage replacing the previous two qualifying groups. That meant that all teams would play each other at least once.
Pakistan would be the most grateful for the elongated group stage. The ‘Cornered Tigers’ would never have come to be had this been the old format; Pakistan won just once in their first five games, which included a lucky rain reprieve after having been bowled out for 74 against England. But in their final three games, they beat Australia, Sri Lanka and an already-qualified New Zealand on the trot to sneak into the semis, where a young Inzamam-ul-Haq helped them end the Kiwi dream of owning their own party.
In the final, Pakistan came up against an English side that had claimed wins over India, Australia and South Africa in the round-robin phase. Imran Khan, nearing 40 and playing his last international game, joined fellow veteran Javed Miandad in stitching a crucial 139-run stand for the third wicket, and Wasim Akram’s late cameo (33 off 18 balls) led them to a competitive total of 249/6. Akram’s headline act, however, was to follow.
At 141/4, with a well-set Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb in the middle, England would have dared to dream, but two successive ‘jaffas’ sent Lamb and Chris Lewis’ stumps flying, and England were eventually bowled out for 227.
Akram, the Player of the Final, topped the bowling charts with 18 wickets in 10 games, finishing two ahead of Ian Botham (who, like Imran Khan, was making his final World Cup appearance).
The 1992 edition was the first to give out a Player of the Tournament title, and that went the way of Martin Crowe, who led the run-scoring with 456 in nine games, while also being a tactical genius of a captain.
South Africa’s maiden walk in world cricket would come with a first dose of difficult-to-script heartbreak. Having made their mark by finishing above former champions Australia, India and West Indies, the South Africans were in with a shot in the semi-final with 22 needed off 13 balls in a rain-hit encounter with England at Sydney. More time was lost to rain, and when they came back out to the middle, the controversial and quickly-deleted ‘Rain Rule’ left them needing 22 off one delivery, ending any hopes of reaching a fairytale final.
The fifth edition of the World Cup had at least four games worthy of the mantle. Sri Lanka chased down a then-record 313 against Zimbabwe, Australia defied India by one run for the second World Cup running, India played (and beat) Pakistan for the first time at the World Cup, and both the semis were engaging battles. While England got the better of South Africa with the help of the heavens, Pakistan rode on a 37-ball 60 from Inzamam ul-Haq to spell the end of the road for Crowe’s New Zealand in a chase of 263.
1996: Subcontinental Party, Subcontinental Joy
The revolution of the 50-over game that had been set in motion in 1992 gathered further momentum four years later. Three nations were co-hosting the World Cup for the first time, and one of those set about redefining how to bat at the beginning of an innings. Sri Lanka, of course, will remember 1996 for another, much more significant reason; but Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana’s dashing approach to the first 15 overs were a game-changer for the sport.
More than 10 teams contested a World Cup for the first time, with Associate Members Kenya, Netherlands and UAE drafted in to join the nine Full Member nations that had featured in 1992. The increase in number of teams took the tournament back to its two-group first phase, but a three-stage knockout round, more in line with football, was introduced for the first time.
For the first time since West Indies in the very first edition, a World Cup winning team would go 100 per cent at the competition. That wasn’t telling the entire story – two of Sri Lanka’s group-stage wins came via walkovers, as Australia and West Indies refused to travel to the country citing security concerns in the wake of a bomb blast in Colombo ahead of the tournament. Having said that, the Lankans decimated India in their own den to deserve their top-spot – and a second trumping of their co-hosts would send them into their maiden World Cup final.
In the summit clash, Australia finally did play Sri Lanka, with this game on neutral ground at Lahore’s Gaddaffi Stadium. A stop-start effort took the Aussies to an under-par 241/7, and Aravinda de Silva, who had earlier scalped three wickets, stroked an unbeaten century to give the World Cup a fourth successive first-time champion (and it’s last, till date).
The Lankans coasted home with seven wickets in hand, and skipper Arjuna Ranatunga (47* off 37), fittingly, was there to see them over the line.
Sachin Tendulkar, with 523 runs in seven matches, finished as the highest run-getter at a World Cup for the first time (and not the last). Mark Waugh (484 in seven) became the first man to hit back-to-back hundreds at the World Cup, doing so in group games against Kenya and India. Aravinda de Silva, too, finished with a strong haul of 448 runs from six appearances, in addition to four wickets.
But the undisputed star (and the Player of the Tournament) was Sanath Jayasuriya, who smashed his 221 runs at a well-ahead-of-the-times strike rate of 131.54, while also picking up seven wickets at an economy of 4.52.
Anil Kumble was the top wicket-taker with 15 strikes in seven outings.
This was a World Cup where Kenya – World Cup debutants – stunned two-time champions West Indies, and also got smacked for 398 (a score that remained the highest in ODIs until 2006), yet the most shocking act came right at the business end of the event.
The first semi-final pitted co-hosts India and Sri Lanka against each other at a 120,000-capacity Eden Gardens in Kolkata. It was a packed house, and a vociferous audience, but as India’s attempted chase of 252 went from doable (98/1, with Sachin Tendulkar going great guns) to derailed (120/8) in no time, the crowd turned on its team – and the game. Plastic bottles clogged the boundary, flares were lit in the stands, and for the first time in any international game, the winner was declared by default.
The second semi-final also witnessed a dramatic second innings collapse, but fortunately, this one was allowed to run its natural course. Australia had slumped to 15/4 against West Indies at Mohali before Stuart Law and Michael Bevan kept them alive with half-centuries that took the 1987 winners to 207/8.
The West Indians, propelled by Shivnarine Chanderpaul (80 as opener) and Brian Lara (45) were well on their way to a fourth World Cup final at 165/2, but that’s when Shane Warne entered the scene. Warne crippled the West Indian lower-middle order with a four-wicket haul, and the last eight wickets fell for 37 as Australia sneaked into the World Cup final with a five-run win.
1999: The Craziest of Them All?
Cricket’s bosses altered the four-year timeline of their marquee event, presumably to stop it from coinciding with an Olympic and Euros year, but with the tournament returning ‘home’ to England, fears of a grey, gloomy summer loomed large given the weather expected in the host nation.
There might have been a fair dose of rain, but there was certainly no gloom (at least not for the majority of viewers) as 38 days of English summer gave what remains, to many, the most riveting World Cup of them all.
There were shocks, there were stunning lapses at inopportune moments, there was the first tied knockout game in World Cup history, there was (arguably) the greatest individual World Cup campaign of all-time – there was something for everyone around.
Along with a changed timeline in terms of year of the event, the ICC also brought out its most dramatic revision to the tournament format by introducing the ‘Super Six’ stage.
The top three teams from two groups of six each would make this phase, where a side would meet the three qualifying teams from the other group, while carrying forward points from their matches against fellow qualifiers from their own group. Yes, it was a little complicated. And a little crazy.
Six editions of the World Cup had given five different world champions, but the longest reign in the competition was just about to kick off. You couldn’t have guessed it at the start of the event, or even as late as in the 100th over of the semi-final; but Australia, they who could have been knocked out in the group stage, or the Super Six, or the semis, managed to go the distance.
They lost to Pakistan and New Zealand in their group, and were on the brink twice in two matches over four days against South Africa. But they made it.
Having been through copious amounts of drama to get there, the Aussies made the final a no-contest (which was about to become a theme of their recurring conquests). Having defeated the same opponents in the opening exchanges, Pakistan elected to bat at Lord’s.
The toss was the only bout they won on an afternoon that ended before one knew it. Shane Warne took 4/33, and Glenn McGrath took 2/13 from nine overs, as Pakistan were bundled over for 132. Australia gunned down the target in 20.1 overs. It remains the shortest World Cup final ever seen.
There were more than a few individual success stories, but all of them faded in front of one Lance Klusener.
281 runs at an average of 140 and a strike rate of 122, six 30+ scores in eight innings despite batting only at the death, 17 wickets at an economy of 4.61 and an average just above 20; there have been sensational all-round acts before, and after, but Klusener’s dazzling daredevilry of ’99 remains unmatched. If only he’d got one more run…
Among the batsmen, two Indians made the top three despite a very underwhelming campaign for the 1983 champions. Rahul Dravid’s 461 runs in eight innings kept him top of the pile, while Sourav Ganguly was third with 379 in seven. Between them was WC-winning captain Steve Waugh, whose 398 runs included a nerveless 120 not out in the first of the twin bouts versus South Africa.
New Zealand’s Geoff Allott and Australian star Shane Warne led the wickets column with 20 apiece.
Australia. South Africa. And two impossible classics.
The first of that double-header, one where Herschelle Gibbs “dropped the World Cup”, could be counted among the most intriguing ODIs of all-time. But it wasn’t even the best game of the week.
Because three days later, Australia were bowled out for 213. And then South Africa were bowled out for 213. Some decent action transpired in between.
Really? Okay, let’s get into the detailing (look away about now, Proteas fans).
Asked to bat at Edgbaston, Australia were in strife at 68/4 in 17 overs. Fifties from Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan pulled them back into the game. From 158/4, they slumped to 213 all out, as Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald accounted for nine of the 10 wickets.
South Africa were 48/0 in 12 overs, with Gibbs looking inspired to make amends for his drop. Shane Warne broke his defense with the second ball he bowled, and Gary Kirsten’s with the seventh. He got another. South Africa lost 4/13 in a span of 56 balls.
Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes began the rescue act. They added 84. The equation had come down to 38 off 32 with five wickets in hand. Then Warne got Kallis for his fourth strike of the day.
It was getting tight. Really tight.
But in came Klusener. 23 not out off 12. Now nine to win off the last over. With one wicket in hand. But Klusener on strike.
The first two balls of the 50th over, Damien Fleming bowled two not-particularly-bad deliveries. They were smoked to the cover and extra-cover boundary before he could raise his head.
One needed off four. A near brain-fade, but Klusener (and Donald) survived.
One needed off three. A complete brain-fade. Klusener survived, but ran all the way to ignominy. Because Donald couldn’t survive.
Tie. Australia enter the final. South Africa knocked out.
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