Bengaluru, April 29: The 12th edition of the ICC World Cup will kick off on May 30 with a match between hosts England and four-time semi-finalists South Africa at the Oval.
It will be the fifth time that the inventors of the game will play hosts to a WC, after 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999. The cricket World Cup started in 1975 and in the last four decades, the tournament has undergone a sea of change – from the rules to the players’ attires besides the skill levels in batting, bowling and fielding.
If we make a study of how World Cups have evolved over time, the 1992 edition will remain a benchmark. Till that edition played in Australia and New Zealand, WC was rather an innocuous tournament. The dress was white; the balls were red; the matches finished before sunset and no glitzy advertisement campaigns. Then, it was the quasi-Test nature of WC matches dominated solely by cricketing skills or the lack of it which used to catch all the eyes.
Since 1992, it was the advent of cricket as a package that had changed the flavour of World Cups. For the first time, coloured clothings made their way into the tournament, getting it more international traction. The players had their names on the back (no numbers yet) that had brought it a flavour similar to that of the football WC and made it easier for the spectators to track their heroes. India had the darkest of the colours as was their fortunes in the tournament. The colour of the helmets and pads had also changed, making it more attractive. The umpires’ shirts also saw a change of colour from white to cream.
The ball was also changed from the traditional red to white since the former was difficult to spot under the lights. Yes, cricket under the lights had started from this WC as the day-night affairs kicked off. This marked a major step that saw the game coming of age and becoming a more 'in’ thing.
In terms of rules, the 1992 WC saw only two players fielding outside the circles in the first 15 overs that had guaranteed the game to turn more exciting. With the fielders mostly standing inside and the risk of getting out dwindling, the batsmen went after the bowling in the first 15 overs to put as many on the scoreboard as possible. New Zealand’s Mark Greatbatch took a lead in executing this strategy while India’s Krishnamachari Srikkanth also had some partial success (India’s other opener Ravi Shastri though had a terrible run). The likes of Sanath Jayasuriya had perfected the same skill to monstrous consequences in the later days.
Strategy-wise, the 1992 WC had also seen another major innovation and it was opening the bowling with a spinner. New Zealand’s shrewd captain Martin Crowe had asked a not-so-established spinner in Dipak Patel to start the bowling and that had rattled a lot of opponents that the Kiwis had played in that edition. Spinners opening a bowling attack is a common sight nowadays but it certainly had its genesis in the 1992 WC.
One terrible feature of the 1992 WC though was its rain rule and the biggest victim of the ridiculous overs-reduced-but-runs-not-reduced rule was South Africa. The Duckworth-Lewis rain rule (DLS now) came later to replace them though one feels the confusion hasn’t cleared much.