I was born in the year when the cricket playing nations were to witness the 4th international world cup; the year 1987. Of course whatever I know about the details of the tournament played that year, and the three before it, are from the YouTube video galleries and a plethora of articles written on them. Interestingly, I got to know about this intriguing campaign from Blogger Dream Team to submit blogs about changes in world cup tournament over the years.
From the very first world cup in ’75 till the latest ongoing (2015) edition, things have changed a lot… A LOT! Not only in terms of rules and regulations, but the techniques, the spirit of sports, players’ mindset, team work, and the fearless approach towards the game. All these have contributed significantly in transforming the level of performances by the players in each edition.
In 1987, the cricket world cup tournament witnessed several significant changes in its format. While the number of overs per innings reduced from 60 to 50, it was the first time that the world cup was held outside England. And this tradition of changes kept on happening in every world cup, in some form or the other. But what has, certainly, changed the most is the performance level and the playing technique of players.I remember the timewhen,up till late ‘90s, a score of 250 or more was considered quite a competitive one. However, team India was in the process of breaking the barriers with some outclass performances in 1999 world cup. The record making partnership by Saurav Ganguly (183) and Rahul Dravid (145) of a massive 318 runs was a brilliant piece of knock at that time. The outbreak of some monstrous batting, lethal bowling and rapid fielding happened as the world cup entered the 21st century. Players started playing fearlessly and improvised the bookish shots. Where an explosive inning, like that of Saeed Anwar’s 194 or Shahid Afridi’s fastest century, use to happen once or twice in a year during the ‘90s, reaching the score of 300s and chasing them successfully became a much frequent affair during the 2000’s world cups. The strike rates of few batsmen kept ascending and the economy rate of tight bowlers kept descending. Seldom did any game turned into a complete one sided affair; matches started to go all the way down the wire, till the last ball. And as if this was not enough, came up a more fire cracking and compact format of cricket, the T20s.
What started as an 8 team tournament has gone up to 14 teams now (in 2007 there were 16 teams for the world cup). However, out of the 19 teams that have competed in the world cups at least once, only five have managed to lift the trophy in all 10 occasions. While the first two went to the Caribbean’s, the then underdogs team India clinched a, what can only be called as a bone-from-the-tiger’s-mouth victory against the West Indies in the third edition. This was followed by three consecutive editions with three different nations lifting the trophy. And then, came along a rage which turned out to be a full fledged Australian reign over the game of cricket for the next three consecutive editions, 1999, 2003, and 2007. Australia dominated the game and remained the inevitable winners for more than a decade when finally, it was the Men in Blue, yet again breaking the winning streak of a team, who won the trophy in 2011; for the second time. What is interesting to notice here, though, is that in the earlier editions, the favorites from the beginning of the tournament used to reach up till the finals, as expected, and most of the times use to lift the cup as well. But eventually, this situation started turning unpredictable. Just when everything was going as per the predictions made by the “pundits”, some team use to come up with a cracker of a surprising game and changed the entire face of the situation; a classic case and point can be the entry of Kenya into the semi-finals of 2003 world cup. Now who would have thought of that huh!?
This and many such incidents have marked its footprints in the world cup tournament every year. Each edition gave us performances that we have not seen and/or expected before. But whatever the case may be, one thing has remained a definite constant in each and every edition of the cricket world cup… entertainment, more than before.