How much has the limited overs game changed from the time of the first World Cup in 1975?
Consider that colour television was introduced in Australia at about the same time, and think of the changes in communications in the intervening period, and you’re on the right track. There were only eight teams competing in 1975; now there are sixteen. The tournament then was a “wham bam thank you mam” affair lasting only a fortnight, now it is a two-month long extravaganza.
In 1975 there were no field restriction circles, no power plays and bouncers weren’t an afterthought; in one match, West Indies batsman Alvin Kallicharran hooked and cut five successive Dennis Lillee shortpitched deliveries to the boundary. The players wore white, the ball was red and the games were sixty, not fifty overs-a-side contests.
There was no Super Eights, just semifinals and then a final and no lights at the grounds; the only hint of a night game came in the tournament’s thrilling climax at Lord’s, when the last wicket fell at 8:40 pm on the longest day of the year.
And there is the “night and day” difference between the way teams prepared then and now for the most prestigious one-day tournament in the cricketing calendar. The first World Cup match was held on June 7, 1975 and there were only three one-day games played in that year prior to the tournament.
This time around, a team like Scotland will have at least nine matches in 2007 before they even get to the warm up games. New Zealand was the lucky team back then, as they had two games, three months before the tournament; this time, India will play in two separate series in the final weeks before the World Cup gets underway.
In 1975 Australia played an ODI on New Year’s Day and then nothing was planned till the tournament. However, we convinced the Board for a Canadian stopover on way to the UK for getting some lead-up cricket.
The Board wasn’t happy the players were billeted in Canada and their worst fears were confirmed when an abundance of hospitality led to a loss, not against the national eleven, but one from Ontario.
The Australian squad of sixteen (four Tests followed the tournament) arrived on June 1 and we had to cull two players to meet the World Cup requirement.
Because our squad was larger than the rest we refused a warm-up game against Gloucestershire and instead played an eight-a-side intra-squad practice match at the Bank of England grounds in London.
All went well until my heavily loaded bowling team came in to bat. Because the opposition was batsmen heavy, Doug Walters opened the bowling with Dennis Lillee and he commenced to run through our line-up with his outswingers.
Annoyed that we weren’t getting enough practice, I sent the dismissed top order batsmen back in again. Despite the hiccups and the bizarre lead-up matches, Australia still made the final, only to be beaten in a thrilling match by the West Indies.
The current England side should take heart. Their preparations might be in disarray, but at least they are losing to tournament favourites Australia, not a team of unknowns from Ontario. And their crushing losses to New Zealand aren’t in vain; the Black Caps could be lulled into a false sense of security.
But wait; is that Canada I see lurking in the England section of the draw? The same Canada that beat Australia in 1975 on the way to the World Cup; surely England couldn’t lose to Canada?
World Cup 1975-2007: There were eight teams competing in 1975; now there are sixteen. The tournament then lasted only a fortnight, now it is a two-month long extravaganza. There were no field restriction circles, no power plays and bouncers were common in 1975. The players then wore white, the ball was red and the games were sixty overs-a side contests.
Now, the teams experiment with their kit colours, the ball is white and games are 10 overs shorter. In 1975, there were just two semifinals and a final, and no floodlights; now the league matches are followed by the Super Eights and more matches are played under lights than ever.