A short history of World Cup Cricket

The 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies will be the ninth staging of this major sporting event

  • West Indies captain Clive Lloyd lifts the trophy at the 1975 Cricket World Cup, as MCC president Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, looks on. Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • The West Indies’ Brian Lara sweeps a shot on his way to 111 runs during the quarter-final match against South Africa in the 1996 World Cup. Photo by John Parkin/Allsport

One day inter-national cricket was in its infancy — only eighteen games had ever been played worldwide — when eight teams assembled in England for the first World Cup. Blessed with glorious weather and fantastic support, the tournament was the resoundingly successful kick-start the concept needed.

England made much of the early running, but then the world powerhouse of the day, the West Indies, took control of the tournament. Despite an early wobble against Pakistan — requiring a last-wicket stand of 64 between Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts for victory — successive 70s from the legendary Alvin Kallicharan saw the West Indians through to the final, against Australia, at Lords.

Batting first, the West Indies looked to have put the match out of the Aussies’ reach when skipper Clive Lloyd’s belligerent 102 and Rohan Kanhai’s studied 55 lifted their total to 291. But they reckoned without Australia’s final pair of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, who — after the top-order had been blown away by three Viv Richards run-outs — took Australia to within eighteen runs of victory before finally succumbing.

It was the era of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Some countries chose not to pick players signed to the Australian media mogul’s cricketing jamboree, but the West Indies administrators feared the civil repercussions of such an action.

The Caribbean region’s awesome fast-bowling battery was again at the fore, with Joel Garner and Colin Croft now joining Andy Roberts and Michael Holding. Opening the batting, the nascent partnership of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes also established itself.

The New Zealanders proved the tournament’s surprise package, until their side of all-rounders came narrowly unstuck against England in the semis. So it was the hosts against the favourites in the final, and the West Indies came out firing. Vivian Richards, a man born for the big stage, swaggered his way to an imperious 138. Aided by a thumping 86 from 66 balls by Collis King, the West Indians reached 286. It was too much for the hosts, who plodded to 183 for two before being destroyed, with a burst of five wickets in 11 balls by Joel Garner, and collapsing to 194 all out.

The script said the Brazil of cricket, the West Indies, would assert their undoubted dominance and carry off a hat-trick of world titles. The only problem was, nobody told India. The subcontinent’s dark horses issued a warning when defeating the champions in the group stages but, despite this glitch, the Caribbean colossus careered on to another Lord’s final. A Kapil Dev-led India (the mercurial all-rounder had already blasted a breathtaking 175 against Zimbabwe) awaited them.

For Clive Lloyd, though — one of four West Indians, alongside Greenidge, Richards, and Roberts, to have played in all three finals — Lord’s 1983 was supposed to be a crowning moment. When the Indians posted a meagre-looking 183, the scene appeared set. With the West Indies advancing to 50 for one in reply, the celebrations began to warm up.

Then two little-known medium pacers, Madan Lal and Mohinder Amarnath, conspired to cause chaos in the favourite’s vaunted batting line-up, and the West Indians were skittled for 140. The pre-tournament 66-to-one outsiders had carried off the title, and the Caribbean went into mourning.

The first World Cup to be held outside England, staged in Pakistan and India, was also the first to feature neutral umpires and 50-over-a-side matches. The home crowds eagerly anticipated a final between the two sub-continent superpowers. However, both fell in the semi-finals.

The West Indian team was in transition and for the first time failed to reach the last four. There were high points, like Viv Richards’s tournament-record 181 against Sri Lanka, but others were not so reliable. Courtney Walsh had 30 smashed off his final two overs in defeat to England, and against Pakistan it got worse. With the last-wicket pair needing 14 from one over, Walsh sportingly decided against running Salim Jaffer out for backing up too far — a decision vilified by the Caribbean media when Pakistan won.

In the final, Allan Border’s nuggety young Australian side set England a total of 254 to win. With Mike Gatting going strongly in reply, it looked well within reach. That was until he unnecessarily attempted a risky reverse-sweep, and lobbed up a simple catch. England never recovered, and Australia triumphed by seven runs.

The 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was the most colourful yet, literally. Coloured uniforms, with names on, were introduced; post-apartheid South Africa returned to international cricket; games were played predominantly under floodlights with white balls; and Jonty Rhodes’s fielding athleticism made him a superstar.

The Australians succumbed to the pressure of being hosts and favourites and, after a poor start, never looked like defending their title. The West Indies chose a young lefthander, Brian Charles Lara, to open the batting with veteran Desmond Haynes, and the Prince of Port of Spain finished the tournament with four 50s. The Richie Richardson-led side began well — beating Pakistan by 10 wickets — but thereafter lost their way and failed to reach the semi-finals once again.

With Australia gone, England — featuring an ageing but irrepressible Ian Botham — took on the mantle of favourite. However, in the Melbourne final, they ran into the runaway train which was Pakistan, led by another legendary all-rounder, Imran Khan. Khan top-scored with 72, as his side completed a 22-run victory and took their first world crown.

It was the World Cup of the pinch-hitter, and the first to be co-hosted by three nations: India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It was also a tournament featuring embarrassment, glory, and agony in liberal doses for West Indies cricket fans.

The ignominy of a crushing 73-run group defeat to minnows Kenya seemed to fire the side into life. Brian Lara’s 111 took them past South Africa in the quarter-finals and into a semi-final showdown with Australia. Cruising on 165 for two in reply to the Aussies’ 207, the West Indies looked destined for their first final since 1983. But then Shane Warne and Glen McGrath — who else? — induced a spectacular collapse. Eight wickets went for 37 runs, and the Australians sneaked through by five runs.

The Aussies’ opponents in the final were the darlings of the tournament, Sri Lanka — inspired by the savage hitting of Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the order. In the event, it was Aravinda de Silva who dominated, as he pouched two catches, took three wickets, and hit a fabulous century in a comprehensive seven-wicket win.


The 1999 World Cup returned to England, but lost the hosts early. The all-conquering Australians were not to be denied this time around, but took a bumpy path to their second title.

Had the West Indies’ Herschelle Gibbs held a catch from Steve Waugh, rather than celebrating too early, the Aussies would have been out at the Super Six stage. They were even more fortunate in the semi-final, when South African batsmen Lance Klusener — whose brutal hitting and efficient bowling saw him voted Man of the Tournament — and Allan Donald provided a farcical running mix-up leaving Donald run out, the game tied, and the Australians through on net run-rate.

Net run-rate also accounted for a mediocre West Indies team, whose challenge came to an end as early as the first group stage. The final between a rampant Pakistani side, inspired by the fiery pace bowling of Shoaib Akhtar, and the mighty Australians, promised much. It did not deliver. Pakistan imploded, and their paltry total of 132 all out (extras top-scored with 25) was surpassed in the 21st over for the loss of just two wickets.

If Australia had stuttered to the 1999 crown, they were emphatic in 2003. The story of the tournament, though, was the progress to the semi-finals of one of the three hosts: not South Africa or Zimbabwe, but Kenya.

Politics helped the Kenyans. New Zealand’s security fears meant a “no-show” in Nairobi gave the hosts a “win” and advanced them at the expense of the unfortunate West Indians. Inspired by a Brian Lara century, the Windies had won their opening group contest with South Africa and defeated Kenya in their last, but it wasn’t enough. Having beaten Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka, the Kenyans’ fairytale was eventually halted in the last four at the hands of India.

The Australia-India final promised a run-fest with Sachin Tendulkar — who scored a tournament-record aggregate of 673 runs — the star of a lavishly talented Indian line-up. But the game was never a contest after Ricky Ponting smashed 140 not out, taking his team to a towering 359 for two, and Tendulkar was out in the first over of India’s reply. The Aussies won by 125 runs.

A resurgent West Indies under the captaincy of Brian Lara triumphs on home soil . . . ?

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