The first ever batch of World Cup players is entertained at Buckingham Palace
The first ever batch of World Cup players is entertained at Buckingham Palace
A look back at favourite World Cups, beginning with the seminal one that heralded a new epoch in cricket
The summer of 1975 meant two things to a teenager living in London's inner city suburbs. First, the release of the seminal rock album Born to Run, about which Bruce Springsteen said he wanted to write music that sounded like Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Phil Spector. The eight songs comprise stories of inner reflection and grand escape that were nothing new but had rarely been so dramatically told. The record was, in the main, critically acclaimed and launched Springsteen into the public consciousness as "the future of rock and roll", a phrase he hated but one inspired by the then journalist who was to become his long-time manager and friend, Jon Landau.
The other was the first cricket World Cup, an eight-team limited-overs tournament that lasted but two weeks and finished with a mighty crescendo at Lord's as Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson fell short of a miracle for the tenth wicket with an ecstatic crowd storming the field long before the final ball was dead. The cricket was, in the main, critically acclaimed; it was played in white clothing with a red ball - so nothing new there - but became the forebear to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which arrived just two years later and truly was the future of a game that had begun at international level in 1877 and barely changed in format since.
One-day cricket had first been seen for real, in England, in 1962. A four-team pilot event, played by the Midland counties with 65 overs per side, was a success, and the following year a full scale Gillette Cup was won by Ted Dexter's efficient Sussex team. The seed was sown and in 1964, with the matches shortened to 60 overs per side, Sussex won again. Dexter was a glamorous face and voice for the movement and before long the Rothman's Cavaliers, a World XI of sorts, took a 40-over version on the road, filling county grounds on Sunday afternoons with vibrant and star-studded exhibitions that opened the door to a whole new world.
So overwhelmed were the Indians that their greatest player, Sunil Gavaskar, elected to block his way through the whole 60-over innings, hitting just one boundary and finishing with an unbeaten 36
However, not till 1971 was the first one-day international played and that by default. After the Melbourne Ashes Test was washed out, the administrators staged a match of 40 eight-ball overs per side to both keep the crowd happy and mitigate the financial catastrophe. Australia won easily enough but the game offered little in excitement and the concept was not immediately pursued.
Not until 1975, that is, when the Prudential World Cup arrived in England with relatively little fanfare and left with the near certainty that it was here to stay. What matters to kids starting out is the sense of something new; something with heroes and heroics; something to own. In early June, the world's best gathered as one in their wide-lapelled jackets and flared trousers to compete for the title of world champions. England got off to a flyer, brushing aside India with a score of unimagined riches. In a total of 334, Dennis Amiss made 137 from 147 balls - racy stuff back then - and so overwhelmed were the Indians that their greatest player, Sunil Gavaskar, elected to block his way through the whole 60-over innings, hitting just one boundary and finishing with an unbeaten 36. Imagine! The margin of victory was 202 runs and no one was any the wiser.
On the same day in Birmingham, New Zealand's Glenn Turner batted through the innings too, smashing 171 against East Africa; a week later, Sri Lanka - the other Associate nation in the tournament - were bowled out for 86 by West Indies. Turner, whose high and unorthodox grip on the bat handle was a source of fascination, had a wonderful tournament, confirming that a mountain of runs for Worcestershire over the years was not simply a case of flat-track bullying.
In the semi-final against Australia, England made just seven more than Sri Lanka managed against West Indies. Yes, 93, which wasn't a bad effort in the end, given positions of 37 for 7 and 73 for 9. On a Headingley greentop, the ball zipped around all over the place. Gary Gilmour's left-arm swing - 12 overs, six maidens, 6 for 14 - was more of a threat than that posed by Lillee or Jeff Thomson, who together had terrified the English batters the previous winter. What a game it is that can offer such variety in its players, such uncertainty in its outcomes and such joy in its nuance.
There was little by way of marketing in the build-up to the first World Cup, save for a promotional poster featuring model Susan Shaw
© Martin Williamson
There was little by way of marketing in the build-up to the first World Cup, save for a promotional poster featuring model Susan Shaw © Martin Williamson
As it happened, England nearly won. Australia found themselves gasping for air at 39 for 6 - oh, Headingley, what a torment you can be! - before Doug Walters, who more usually was seen gasping on a Winfield Classic, and Gilmour again, rode them home at the gallop of the day.
In the other semi, Clive Lloyd's band of brothers saw off New Zealand with only the odd drop of sweat, and thus, the first World Cup final was to be settled by the powerhouses of the day. Lloyd's men had not had it all their own way however. In the one true bum-squeaker of the group stage, against Pakistan, they seemed gone for all money at 203 for 9 in search of 267 to win. Somehow the last men standing, Dereck Murray and Andy Roberts, got them over the line. Murray finished unbeaten on 61, a masterclass in calm, cool and collectedness, but the Man of the Match was given to Sarfraz Nawaz, who snaffled 4 for 44 with his wizard swingers and cutters. Tom Graveney, the adjudicator, had had to leave the ground early for good reason and those left behind stuck with his initial pick.
Mention of Sarfraz reminds me that Asif Iqbal missed the game with injury and Imran Khan with exams at Oxford - I kid you not. Pakistan were a very good watch, still are. Majid Khan stood in for Asif and eased 60 beautiful runs around Edgbaston; Zaheer Abbas drove and clipped with typical majesty; Wasim Raja flared away at a run a ball for 50-odd and the 17-year-old Javed Miandad scampered up and down the wicket before bowling a full and tidy allotment of 12 overs. Javed? 12 overs?! Some talent, that man.
It was a good toss to win at Headingley and Gilmour did not waste it but the best two teams made it to Lord's, so there could be no grumbles from anyone but diehards wrapped in the Union Jack
South Asian players have such charm. Think too of the wristwork in Gundappa Viswanath's batting or the gift of guile and flight given to Bishan Bedi. Remember, if you can, the speed of Farokh Engineer's hands both with bat and gloves, and the grace in all things from Mohinder Amarnath.
England lacked that level of aesthetic. Tony Greig and John Snow had it in them but the others were prosaic - or is it kinder to say pragmatic? It was a good toss to win at Headingley and Gilmour did not waste it but the best two teams made it to Lord's, so there could be no grumbles from anyone but diehards wrapped in the Union Jack.
The English summer is a glorious thing with its shows of art and flowers, its open-air theatres and concerts, the streets lined with outdoor diners and the pubs overflowing to gatherings of young and old with many a pint glass to hand. And the sport - the racing at Ascot and Epsom; the regattas at Henley; Wimbledon's festival of tennis; the Open Championship of golf, and the cricket, of course.
That year, 1975, was the year that Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors to win the championship and the heartbeat of humanity pounded through us all. It was the year that the American, Tom Watson, beat the Australian, Jack Newton, in a playoff at Carnoustie. Watson was to win seven more major championships; Newton was to have his right arm torn from its roots by the spinning propellor of a Cessna airplane. He lost an eye too and suffered severe abdominal injuries but he never moaned, just marched on through his life with a new handicap of 12 and hard-nosed reflection on anyone who felt sorry for themselves.
The longest day: Clive Lloyd holds the first trophy aloft at the end of a tournament in which no one knew what to expect
© The Cricketer International
The longest day: Clive Lloyd holds the first trophy aloft at the end of a tournament in which no one knew what to expect © The Cricketer International
And 1975 was the year that Clive Lloyd played the innings of his life and West Indies won the first World Cup. "Supercat", as he was known for his predatory ground fielding, hammered 102 in 82 balls, treating each of the Australian bowlers as if they had come straight from the school playground. At one stage, Rohan Kanhai, who could play a bit, batted 11 overs without scoring a single run but we barely noticed because of the damage Lloyd was doing at the other end.
Let's recall West Indies' front six batsmen: Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and, wait for it, Viv Richards. On my days! Actually, Kanhai was a touch long in the tooth and had only replaced the injured Garry Sobers at the last minute. That is some swap. Kanhai was 39 at the time and the fact that Sobers did not ever play in a World Cup would probably have bothered him as much as it did the rest of us. You would think Garry would have won one on his own.
Kallicharran by the way had done a number on Lillee in the group-stage match between the teams, taking 35 from his last ten balls in a sequence that read 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 6, 0, 4. Can you imagine? West Indies won that game too. So it was that in front of a full house, on a day blessed with sweet summer sun, Lloyd's exciting team started as favourites.
There hadn't been much hype in the build-up to the 1975 tournament and there wasn't much after it. More a general sense of a successful fortnight in decent June weather that gave the game something to build upon
Ian Chappell put them in to bat, had Fredericks, Greenidge and Kalli knocked over pretty quickly, and then ran in to Kanhai and the Cat using their myriad gifts to repel a fine Australian attack. Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien had a happy swing late in the piece and 291 for 8 looked the business. A different view was taken by Alan Turner and Ian Chappell, who added 56 for the second wicket with great skill before magic happened, as it so often did, in the form of Viv Richards.
With reflexes and athleticism given to very few, Richards first ran-out Turner with a direct hit, then Greg Chappell, after a slight midfield, the same way. Greg was the greatest prize, and as Richards celebrated, maroon cap angled back from his shining brow, electricity coursed its way through the old ground and the joyous crowd added to the frenzy.
Walters then knuckled down to help the older Chappell steady the ship, until Richards swooped again to beat the Australia captain, who had hesitated after a slight misfield, in another thrilling moment that both defined and effectively decided the match.
Not that it was quite over. When Lillee joined his mate Thomson as last men in, 59 were still required. With little to lose, they set about an odyssey with the bat for a change and the West Indian bowlers became understandably discombobulated. With three overs remaining and 20-odd needed, Lillee was caught at cover by Fredericks, but off a no-ball. Oblivious to the call, the crowd rushed on, as was the habit of the day. Fredericks, who had heard the call, attempted a run out but the ball missed the stumps and disappeared into the crowd. The Australians simply kept running. Eventually, the ground was cleared and Australia were awarded three runs after Thomson complained about the two they were offered. The two of them kept at it until Thommo became the fifth man run-out in the innings, a measure of West Indies' fielding if ever there was one.
Bruce Springsteen, seen here performing in London in November 1975, emerged onto the world scene that year
Michael Putland / © Getty Images
Bruce Springsteen, seen here performing in London in November 1975, emerged onto the world scene that year Michael Putland / © Getty Images
Lloyd received the trophy and the Man-of-the-Match award after 9 o'clock in the evening, on the grass in front of the pavilion in a splendidly understated end-of-tournament presentation by the Duke of Edinburgh, who was President of MCC at the time. It had been the longest day's cricket anyone could remember.
Missing from this modest show were the South Africans, whose period of isolation had begun five years previously. A team comprising such players as Eddie Barlow, Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Lee Irvine, Clive Rice, Mike Procter, and others barely less talented, would have run both finalists to the wire. It was a long wait until 1992 when the team captained by Kepler Wessels and managed by Procter made it to the semi-final. That was the farcical rain-affected semi-final where 22 runs were needed off one ball, after which Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were offered a job.
There hadn't been much hype in the build-up to the 1975 tournament and there wasn't much after it. More a general sense of a successful fortnight in decent June weather that gave the game something to build upon. By the time of the next one, Mr Packer had blown the whole thing apart. His matches were played in coloured clothes with floodlights, black sightscreens and white balls. In 1979, again at Lord's, West Indies defended their trophy in great style - no run outs in the final against England for Richards but, instead, a hundred dripping with class - playing in white with a red ball and during the day.
Institutions rarely change their spots. It wasn't until 1992 in Australia, where the tournament was televised by Packer's Channel Nine, that cricket's new-age thinking finally got a grip on the long established corridors of power. That year was Imran's final and moving bow, of course, and Wasim Akram's tour de force. All of which is for another day.
Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, is a TV and radio presenter and commentator
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.