One-day cricket in recent times appears to have become the neglected child of the sport. Casual fans love the bells and whistles of T20, while the purist just can’t look beyond red and white. The 50-over game is stuck in a strange cricketing limbo, flailing in its attempts to straddle the gap between the shortest and longest forms of the game, with sliding viewership.
It is one of the enduring curiosities of our game, then, that the ODI World Cup remains its most sought-after prize. New names are launched, reputations destroyed (remember Manoj Prabhakar, in 1996?) and legacies cemented on the back of performances in the quadrennial tournament.
The speed with which the World Cup acquired such career-defining importance is remarkable. Prior to the first edition in 1975, a mere 18 ODIs had been played across the world. India had been involved in none of them, which perhaps goes some way in explaining Sunil Gavaskar’s 36 off 60 overs while chasing England’s 334-4 in the World Cup’s first ever clash. It took eight years for Indian indifference to transform into mania, but the rest of the world sat up and took notice in the very first edition.
The final, dramatic from the outset, had a big role to play in this. West Indies opener Roy Fredericks hooked a furious Dennis Lillee bouncer for six but trod on his stumps while doing so. Windies were stuttering at 50-3 before Clive Lloyd (102 off 85) and Rohan Kanhai (55 off 105) took the West Indies to an imposing 291 and Australia looked dead in the water at 233-9 when Dennis Lille and Jeff Thomson got together. Inch by inch, run by frenetic run, the two chipped away at the total. With 24 needed off 11, Thomson’s airy chip found Roy Fredericks at cover, only for the umpire to call a no-ball.
The batsmen dashed to steal a run, Fredericks shied at the stumps and missed, and meanwhile, the largely West Indian crowd rushed jubilantly on to the field, not having heard the no-ball call.
It was bedlam. The ball got lost in the throng as Lillee and Thomson hared up and down the pitch to run as many as they could. When order was restored, the umpires asked Lillee how many they had run. 17, claimed Lillee. The umpires gave them two. Thomson’s immortal reply was: “Pig’s arse! We’ve been running up and down here all afternoon.” Ultimately, they were awarded four. Australia would go on to lose by 17 runs in a match that would finish at 8.40pm. Luckily it was the longest day of the year. To date, it remains the most exciting World Cup final.
Each tournament since then has been replete with drama, joy and heartbreak – a vivid tapestry of the game to which rich threads are added every four years. Viv Richards and Collis King, Kapil’s Devils, Border’s Boys, Imran’s Tigers, Sri Lanka’s Invincibles, the Australian dynasts, Dhoni’s conquerors, Smith’s champs; the history of the World Cup is the history of the modern game.
It is to this history that this issue’s sports pages are dedicated. Through some of the most iconic images of tournaments past, we invite you to take a stroll down memory lane and savour some of the moments that are indelibly linked to cricket. After all, what better time than now, when a new chapter of this beautiful game is about to be written.
1975: BEGINNINGS The World Cup and Vivian Richards announced themselves. Richards failed with the bat in the final against Australia but effected three run-outs including both the Chappell brothers. It was almost as crucial a contribution as Clive Lloyd’s 102 off 85. Australia fell 17 short and the West Indians were mobbed by ecstatic supporters. “After the first final, I knew the World Cup was here to stay,” Ian Chappell said later.
1979: 'KINGRED' SPIRITS King Viv would continue his World Cup exploits with 138 off 157 against England in the 1979 final. He along with Collis King, who thumped 86 off 66, took the Windies to 286. England folded for 194 against Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft. The world bowed to the men from the Caribbean.
1983: WINDIES 'BEDEVILLED' Kapil Dev’s motley crew of swing bowlers, lusty hitters and all-rounders – Mohinder Amarnath, pictured here, was one of them – flipped the script four years later. They defended a modest 183 in the final against a West Indian team that still ranks in the top three XIs of all time. India fell in love with ODI cricket.
1987: ROLE REVERSAL The World Cup came to the subcontinent for the first time, and transformed the Australians from the laughing stock of the 80s to world conquerors. England were comfortably placed at 135-2 in a chase of 253 when Mike Gatting’s dismissal off a reverse sweep set the cat among the pigeons. Border’s men would go on to win by seven runs.
1992: TIGER TIGER BURNING BRIGHT The modern game arrived in Australia with coloured clothing and white balls. Some things remained the same though. Pakistan worked themselves into a corner before the tiger within roared. Imran Khan himself put the finishing touches to an improbable triumph.
1996: UNDERDOGS TO TOP DOGS After Pakistan, it was the turn of the third team from the sub-continent to taste glory. Sanath Jayasuriya laid teams to waste early on before the old guard of Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga brought succour to a war-torn nation by humbling the mighty Aussies in the final at Gaddafi Stadium.
1999: WAUGH ZONE Kapil in 1983, Imran in 1992, Ranatunga in 1996. The World Cup has brought out the best in the game’s leaders. In 1999, Steve Waugh captained, scored, sledged and prophesied Australia to the trophy – playing a key role in THE greatest ODI of all time along the way, that marvellous semi-final against South Africa.
2003: TOUR DE FORCE After numerous close shaves in 1999, Australia were unstoppable in 2003 – plundering their way through the group stages, pillaging Sri Lanka in the semi-final to set up a summit clash against India. Ricky Ponting put Srinath and Co. to the sword to take Australia to 359. McGrath dismissed Sachin in the first over. And that was that.
2007 AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE The men in yellow did a three-peat but even their joy was not as unbridled as that of Ireland (above) who beat Pakistan to qualify for the Super 8 stage. However, the Irish triumph and the entire tournament was overshadowed by the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer.
2011: MAKE IN INDIA Dhoni scored a fluent 91 in the final, including the shot that rang around the world — THAT match-winning six
2015 AND THEY WERE ALL YELLOW India’s hopes of defending their crown Down Under were dashed by an electric Australian outfit spearheaded by Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc. In the Trans-Tasmanian final, the Aussies steamrollered New Zealand – appearing in their first ever World Cup final – to lift the trophy for an incredible fifth time.
Your guide to the latest cricket World Cup stories, analysis, reports, opinions, live updates and scores on https://www.firstpost.com/firstcricket/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2019.html. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates throughout the ongoing event in England and Wales.