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Cricket World Cup – Perspectives Pt:3

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08.FEB.11

For the sake of convenience, one can separate the history of cricket’s World Cup into two periods, the early stages (1975-1987/8) and the period stretching from 1992 to the present. The latter period, in addition to seeing the modernisation of the tournament, also marks the reintroduction of South Africa into mainstream international cricket following two decades of isolation because of its racist policies.{{more}} (Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, apartheid laws abolished in 1991, followed by the lifting of sanctions against South Africa).

Broadly speaking, the period marked the rise to pre-eminence of the West Indies in cricketing terms. Not surprising therefore, the team from the Caribbean won the first two tournaments, emerged runner-up in the third and narrowly missed a semi-final berth in the fourth. Things have not been so rosy since then, ending with the ignominy of not even reaching the second round when hosting the controversial 2007 tournament. It is a dubious record experienced by the previous hosts, South Africa in 2007.

Not by coincidence, the end of this early period, in 1987/8, when the West Indies were shut out from the final stages, also saw the rise of Australia to the championship title. The Australians were not only to win that year, but to become even more dominant than the West Indies had been. Eclipsed briefly by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in 1992 and 1996 respectively, the Australians are not the only other repeaters, but the first “three-peaters”, with hopes of a quadruple this year. The irony would not have escaped Caribbean fans that the West Indies beat Australia twice in one week to win the 1975 Cup, including that memorable Lord’s final on June 21, 1975. (The Australians were to exact sweet revenge at Test level later that year, when, with sympathetic home umpiring, they romped to a 5-1 thrashing of the West Indians).

1975 – Dramatic finishes, Lloyd’s final:

The first World Cup, sponsored by Prudential Assurance, was limited to eight teams, the six test-playing nations – West Indies, Australia, England ,India, Pakistan and New Zealand – along with then associate members of the International Cricket Conference, Sri Lanka and East Africa. They were divided into two groups with four teams going through to the semi-finals. Play was then over 60 overs per team.

After a scare against Pakistan, wicketkeeper Deryck Murray and bowler Andy Roberts carrying them to victory in a last-wicket stand, the West Indies cruised to the Final against Australia. Skipper Clive Lloyd then scored the maiden hundred in a World Cup Final aided by the veteran Rohan Kanhai, but was nearly upstaged by three brilliant pieces of fielding by Viv Richards, accounting for the famed Chappell brothers and opener Alan Turner. Even then, more drama was to follow, with the Aussie pacemen, Lillee and Thompson, threatening to snatch victory, before Lloyd lifted the Prudential trophy to register the Caribbean’s triumph.

1979-RICHARDS RAMPANT, KING BRUTAL

There was simply no stopping the West Indies in 1979, then on the road to international dominance, which would last a decade and a half. The Kerry Packer row, which had resulted in the top players leaving official cricket for the money circuit, had been resolved where the Caribbean was concerned, (not so yet in Australia) and Lloyd, Richards and company, flailing bats punishing all, with the four pronged battering pace attack in train, conquered all. It ended with a rout of England, Richards and the Barbadian all-rounder Collis King, putting England to the sword in the Final. If Richards’ three run-out dismissals were not enough for the Man-of-the-Match in 1975, then there was no doubt after his 138.

( Part 4 – End of dominance – in Weekend Searchlight on Friday, February, 11)

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