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World Cup returns to England after 20 years and a lot has changed in the game

Bengaluru, May 1: The cricket World Cup is set to return to England after a gap of two decades.

In any field of life including cricket, 20 years is a long time. The game was as colourful in the 1999 edition (the third in coloured clothing and white ball) as it is today but within, it has undergone a sea change and with England set to host yet another edition of the big event, a comparative study becomes essential.

In 1999, World Cup was yet not a one-team property. The West Indies were still the winners with most titles (two) while India, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka followed with one each. T20 cricket was still years away and mindset of batsmen approaching the game was still traditional: score fast in the first 15 overs, hold on for the next 25 and then go for the kill in the final 10.

There was a single ball used in each innings and the umpires’ decisions were sacrosanct. There was also Sachin Tendulkar who had just returned from a back injury and had a mid-tournament break as his father had passed away. The Master Blaster had returned to hit a hundred in the very game he played next.

In 2019, cricket is better packaged with an even shinier appeal. And the credit goes to the batsmen for the bigger risks they take today. Although Sri Lanka were the only team till then to have won a WC batting second, yet, putting a big total and pressurising the opponent to go for it remained the traditional wisdom. Today, chasing is not seen as a blunder by a toss-winning captain as teams have grown in muscles with the advent of T20.

Lines between specialists have blurred

In 2019, there are more number of ODI specialists playing the game than not. In 1999, a batsman like Rahul Dravid was still considered vital for the team’s line-up even though he wasn’t in his best of form in the format ahead of the 1999 edition (he ended up as the highest scorer eventually).

Today, the wisdom over playing a more technically sound batsman high up in the order has been replaced by one favouring “three-dimensional” cricketers so that the overall return can be better. This has happened because the line between specialists has blurred with time and batting line-ups around the world have seen emergence of hitters who can also be floaters.

One sensational change that the 1999 edition had witnessed is the arrival of Lance Klusener. The South African all-rounder’s prolific ability to hit sixes is something that more people possess today and the upcoming WC guarantees execution of the skill with more vigour. Even England, the coyest of the ODI sides till recently, have roped in players who can unleash terror in no time by hitting mercilessly. Even the wicket-keeper-batsman has to be iron-wristed with the bat now.

More left-arm pacers now

In the bowling discipline, two big changes have occurred in the last 20 overs. One, more left-arm fast bowlers have come to dominate the game compared to earlier. This though dates back more than the 1999 WC when Wasim Akram did it for Pakistan in the 1992 edition but the intensity of left-arm bowlers exploiting has certainly gone stronger in the last 20 years.

The other is the coming of spinners in the first 10 overs more often than not. Despite Martin Crowe pioneering the art of bringing spinners up front in the 1992 WC, they bowled only 1.6 balls in the first 10 overs. Now, the figure has touched almost 15.

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Story first published: Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 17:31 [IST]
Other articles published on May 1, 2019
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