1. Coloured clothing, Dipak Patel opens bowling
The 1992 World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand was a path-breaker in more than one way. Till then played in white flannel using red ball, the ICC Cricket World Cup migrated to coloured clothing and white ball. A rain rule was introduced and that later thwarted South Africa's charge to the title round. New Zealand was at the forefront of those 'liberal' setting, promoting Mark Greatbatch as opener, a prototype of the model that later followed by several teams. The Kiwis captain Martin Crowe came up with another surprising move, handing the new ball to off-spinner Dipak Patel and it paid some handsome dividends for the co-hosts as they reached the semifinals.
2. Sri Lanka get crack duo to open
Perhaps, no team is more synonymous with a single tactical innovation than Sri Lanka in 1996, when they shocked the world on the way to a maiden title. It was skipper Arjuna Ranatunga's decision to give Sanath Jayasuriya and wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana free rein at the top of the order that completely changed the game. Making the most of the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs, the duo was able to give Sri Lanka starts that no opponents could match. Where most sides would be satisfied with scoring at four an over, the Sri Lankans regularly went at more than a run a ball to set up totals few could challenge.
Sri Lanka's pinch-hitting openers set the template which all teams now follow. Over the course of the first four 50-over World Cups, teams managed to top 300 runs against a fellow Test nation on just two occasions. The four since have thrown up 39 such instances, an indication of just how much the game has changed in approach to batting.
3. Bevan the Finisher
While Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya were game-changers at the top of the order, it was Australia who produced the first real finisher. Michael Bevan's one-day average of 53.58 still ranks in the top five all-time in the sport, and to reinforce his value, it is even higher when batting in his favoured No 6 position, as well as in chases. During Australia's dominant run in the late 90s and early 2000s, Bevan was the glue who allowed the top order the freedom to play their shots. His ability to bat with the tail was one of the defining characteristics of that Australian team, as he averaged 52.80 at the 1999 World Cup and 49.33 four years later.
4. Not just a keeper
Bevan is far from the only Australian to have innovated on the way to World Cup success. In 2007, Adam Gilchrist took from another sport on his way to a third title. In an attempt to loosen his grip on his bat, Gilchrist decided to put a squash ball in his glove, and it clearly worked as he hammered 149 on his way to the man-of-the-match award in the final against Sri Lanka. It may not have taken off as a tactical innovation adopted by all, but that little squash ball seemed to make all the difference for the Aussie wicket-keeper.
Keepers have had their fair share of success at World Cups, particularly in more recent editions where Gilchrist led the charge as a batsmen. It was no longer sufficient for a ‘keeper to be flawless behind the stumps, they also had to contribute with bat in hand. So much so that India made the decision to use Rahul Dravid as a keeper, to great effect, while more recently MS Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers have kept and piled up the runs. As the game continues to develop and teams constantly look for an edge, we could well see another innovation in 2019.