"Our uniform. I quite liked that grey uniform. Because it was natural and had the rainbow stripes with the colours of the country," an animated Danny Morrison recalls when I ask him about his first memories of the 1992 World Cup.
It's that time of the year when nostalgia grips not just cricket fans but the players as well and Morrison, who was a part of the New Zealand team that went rampant in that fifth edition, jogs down the memory lane with Firstpost on the sidelines of CEAT cricket awards.
Coloured clothing, white balls, field restrictions, matches under floodlights, dubious rain rules — everything made its debut in the 1992 tournament, which witnessed a huge step forward in the evolution of ODI cricket. The cricketing fraternity was abuzz.
"The uniform was quite cool. I quite liked it. It stood out for me at the start, our outfits," Morrison continues.
It was a World Cup which witnessed not just evolution but revolution as well. Martin Crowe, then New Zealand captain, injected excitement with his creative and innovative captaincy along with coach Warren Lees.
Crowe unleashed his secret weapon — Dipak Patel — with the new ball in the opening match against Australia and life was never the same again for the off-spinner. After a well-crafted century on a pitch that would slow down as the game progressed, Crowe pulled a masterstroke by handing the new cherry to Patel, who would then go on to stifle the Australian batsmen and bowl a frugal spell of 10-1-36-1.
It was a move that was kept under wraps even to the players.
"It was an initiative from Martin Crowe," Morrison recalls. "I remember talking about it in the team meeting. He didn't give too much away but he said, 'Look, we are toying with an idea of having something quite different and quite exceptional'. Crowe was excited and he obviously discussed it with Dipak a bit. So they had spoken about it but not massively with us.
"As much as anything, I think Crowey really wanted to keep it under wraps. He wanted to keep it as a surprise weapon. And we played Australia at Eden Park in the opening game and it was phenomenal, full house, Crowey got a hundred and with Dipak opening the bowling, it was very different, very different indeed. It was more of a surprise weapon, Crowey was very secretive about. There were different roles for different guys (at the World Cup), I might bowl less overs at the start and mix and match. (He) bowled a lot of Chris Harris, Gavin Larsen a little bit of Rod Latham. So, we called them dibblies, dobblies and wobblies. The keeper Smithy (Ian Smith) would often stand up to the stumps, quite comfortably on our slow wickets. Back then, our pitches were very slow and we shared grounds with Rugby. It was just the surprise factor which was quite cute."
Then arrived another surprise two games later when Mark Greatbatch walked out to open the batting with Rod Latham. It was a move that would change the dynamics of white-ball batting. The pinch-hitter was born.
Greatbatch, a classical middle-order batsman, donned a new avatar — that of the marauder.
The southpaw had struggled in the ODI series leading up to the World Cup, against England, scoring just 31 runs from five innings and was dropped for the first two WC matches.
Against South Africa, at Eden Park, Crowe gave him the license to thrill and he did, right through the tournament finishing with an average of 44.71 and an impressive (at that time) strike rate of 87.92. He desperately needed that X-factor to get back into the side.
"He (Greatbatch) needed to play," Morrison explains. "Greatbach and I missed out on the opening game. We went to Hamilton to play Sri Lanka and then we came back to play South Africa and he got an opportunity to play in that game and that was important for him because he needed to be dynamic to get into the side because they had gone with Latham and Wright (as an opening pair earlier), the old cerebral combination. Wrighty was the ex-captain, played a lot of cricket.
"Greatbatch said, 'Look, I've got to do something different.' And fair play to him. He can play like that. It's just that he took it to another level. That role. That came from his good mate Crowe, they went to school together, I think Greatbatch was a year behind Crowey but they played a lot together at Auckland Grammar and grew up together playing a lot of age group cricket. So, they had some discussions about how to approach this and go for it."
It all started clicking in unison. The Kiwis went rampant in the tournament and ramped up seven wins on the trot. With each win, the dynamics of the sport was changing in a Rugby-dominated country. The losses in recent Test and ODI series at home were the catalyst in revving the team up.
"We got stuffed by England in Test series 2-0 out of three. We lost the first home series in 12 years and then we lost the one-dayers 3-0. So with the whole thing, we decided to just get out there and go for it. There was quite a bit of freedom about it. So you could just go and express yourself. Certainly, Greatbatch did. Dipak opened the bowling. Marty Crowe too, he got all those runs, captained beautifully.
"He just knew when to pull the strings at the right time. He knew the idiosyncrasies within the side. The fielding was good, Chris Harris with his little swingers back in, Larsen the way he could nibble around a bit in the middle overs and the rest of us trying chip on wickets early on whether it was me or Chris Cairns playing we kind of shared it. Ian Smith missed a couple of games too, the wicketkeeping legend. It was his swansong. We all got out there, just played and enjoyed it because what did we have to lose? Playing at home, we had the fan following and the crowd (support). Different guys performed well collectively as a group which was really cool. (We) Fielded well, caught well, it was just a great month of our life really. We embraced it like that because we'd been beaten by England at home and weren't playing very good cricket and all of a sudden, WOW! We have the World Cup in our own backyard, pretty amazing and got to the semi-final which was very cool."
But then they bumped into Pakistan, lost their last group game and then again fate brought them face to face with Pakistan which brought an exciting run to an abrupt end.
"The last game (of the group stage), you look at it with Pakistan being more hungry. I don't know how spiritual you are, I am not massively in terms of Gods and believing whatever but you look at it, they got bowled out for 72 and the rain came down, that game got cancelled against England. If they had played it out, they wouldn't have got to the semis, so you have got to think that too, there was a greater being enforced for them to carry on, get through, win when they had to win. Imran Khan had a T-shirt underneath the jersey that said Cornered Tigers and were playing like cornered tigers. He was a very inspirational guy and they needed to win it more than us. We had already qualified for the semi-final and were probably off the boil in terms of that round-robin game before that semi-final. Pakistan had to win, they did it comfortably and then suddenly, Wow, they are coming to Auckland to play us again. I think they were simply more desperate."
With Morrison, there is always a fun element involved. I ask him if he remembers something interesting from that World Cup...
"I've got a beauty for you: It was in Napier. I was rooming with Rod Latham, Tom Latham's dad," Morrison builds up the excitement. "Nowadays players don't share rooms — they have a single room — but back then, we had to share rooms. We used to flip a coin, who's going to get the big double bed and who's going to get the single bed. And I said, Roddy, I don't care, I have a stiff back, (we old bowlers), I'm going to take the base off and put that base in the hallway and have the mattress on the floor because it was thinner. And Rod was like 'Thanks Dan' and he just collapsed on the big double bed.
We were sitting there for a while, turned the telly on, relaxing and packing, lying down a bit. And all of a sudden there was an earth tremor. It was actually a small earthquake and quite prevalent. Down to the Hawk's Bay the fault line goes down to Napier and then goes to the eastern side across underneath Wellington and then across the channel and down to the Southern Alps. So Rod Latham's lying in the bed there and he just sits up and says, 'Dan, can you feel it? And you could see, things were shaking, beside the bed there was a vase, the flowers were shaking and suddenly I went, 'Rod, look at it, you've hit the jackpot'. He was freaking out. I said 'Mate, You've got the honeymoon suite, you got the honeymooners bed, you little ripper," he bursts out laughing, even patting my shoulder.
The World Cup 1992 was in a way a special one that hooked the entire country to the cricket. Those were incredible times for the cricketers and fans. And if only Martin Crowe had not injured himself while batting in that crucial game against Pakistan in the semi-final and not sat out the second innings where his captaincy was sorely missed, things would have been different.
So what is the one World Cup memory that will stay with Morrison forever I ask...
"Mark Greatbatch smashing the West Indians (He scored 63 off 77 balls in Auckland)," comes the immediate reply. "Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose, smashing them over cover, thick edging Ambrose for a six over the third-man. But hitting Malcolm Marshall over extra cover into the Western stand of Eden Park, very impressive. And the West Indies were a good side back then. That was the innings where he smashed it and the crowd went nuts. It was just a great day," Morrison signs off.