Memories that Last, Will the Cricket World Cup 2015 Deliver?

March 4, 2015 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment

They say that age catches up with us all, and watching the Cricket World Cup labour its way through the group stage this writer realises that he yearns for yesteryear.

I am old enough to remember the first Cricket World Cup, although back then it was named The Prudential Cup, that was 40 years ago. I can remember India’s Madan Lal bowling the first ball and England’s Dennis Amiss scoring the first century, 137 runs off of 147 balls, a respectable strike rate even by today’s standards. It was one game that Sunil Gavaskar would have loved to forget in that opening match, he batted the full 60 overs for India for a score of 36 not out!

Maybe it was because I was younger then, but cricket back then was not just about a batsman smashing a ball into row “z.”. One of the most memorable moments was West Indian Roy Fredricks hooking the fearsome Dennis Lillee into the mound stand at Lords for six, something that was almost unheard of then, only to find he had trodden on his wicket.

The players seemed more real back then. They were not all clean shaven or sporting designer stubble. They were more earthy, more gritty more real. They showed emotions, frustration, as well as joy. they also intimidated, boy did they intimidate.

In 1975 the format was simple. There were 8 teams in two groups, the top two teams crossed over and met in the semi finals. The tournament back then lasted 14 days, and 18 matches were played. In 2015 there are 14 teams playing 49 matches and the tournament is lasting 43 days. It is almost impossible to keep people’s interest for such a long period of time. In 1975 teams had 3 days off between games. In 2015, Australia and Sri Lanka have had 7 days off from their first to second game. Why is there such a gap? Even in football 32 teams play at the World Cup yet the whole tournament is finished in a month.

In 1975 there were no restrictions on field placing, and there were no cricket helmets. Thigh pads were in fact a relatively new invention, replacing the folded towel tucked inside the jockstrap. The bowlers in 1975 were genuinely quick and menacing, and knew how to bowl, varying pace, bounce and the angle of attack. Maybe that was why I yearn for yesteryear. Just look at some of the names: Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, John Snow, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Andy Roberts, Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien, nearly all legends of the game.

There were batsman who could adapt to any form of cricket, not just specialists at smashing the ball when it doesn’t move on a dead track. The likes of Greg and Ian Chappell, Doug Walters, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Glenn Turner, Majid Khan, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Duleep Mendis, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Roy Fredricks and Gordon Greenidge.

1975 was pre-Packer and World Series Cricket, and the players wore white, there were no numbers on their backs and no games were played under lights. The reason the World Cup was hosted by England was that daylight saving meant they could get 120 overs in one day. There is no doubt the coloured clothing and floodlights changed the game and that they have brought a bit of pizzaz to one day cricket, but something is missing in the World Cup; the same thing that to be honest has been missing in the last two World Cups.

Is it the calibre of the players? How many of today’s players will we remember in 40 years times as greats of the game? Is it the format, a long drawn out affair that needs to be trimmed back and finished a fortnight earlier? Or is it the lack of a contest between bat an ball? If we look at the games that have piqued the interest in 2015, they have been in the main the games played in New Zealand, where the ball has moved and the bowlers have had a chance of picking up wickets. The games in Australia have followed the modern day trend, teams wins the toss, bats first hits a big total, team batting second fails to reach it. ODI’s in the last ten years have more games with this scenario that the authorities wish to admit.

If the Cricket World Cup is to keep people interested, do away with the power play, do away with the field restrictions, and do away with the limit on the number of overs a bowler can bowl; Why should they be restricted when a batsman does not have to retire at 50? Let’s make this more about cricket, rather than a slogfest. Everyone who watched the New Zealand and Australia game will remember that for a very long time. It was a close affair as it was a game in which the bowlers were able to put the batsman under pressure, and the batsmen in both teams showed they were not up to the task. I hazard a guess that this game will this be remembered by more people than a David Warner 100 of 86 balls. Of course it will. People will remember the game as a whole, rather than just one batsman thumping the ball into the stands ball after ball.

In 1975 I remember those moments mentioned, as well as Gary Gilmour’s 6 for 14 at Headingley to bowl out England for 93, Glenn Turner ending up top run scorer after scoring two centuries in three games. (Believe it or not no New Zealander scored 100 in a World Cup after that until 1992 when Martin Crowe did!). Alvin Kallicharan taking on Dennis Lillee in full flight without a helmet; he hit 35 runs off the last ten balls he faced from Lillee. Lillee and Thomson batting and continuing to run as the crowd invaded the pitch thinking the game was all over. Then of course there was Viv Richards’ three run outs in the final. Special memories.

So far Trent Boult’s five wickets v Australia along with Mitchell Starc’s six wickets in the same match stand out, as well as Tim Southee’s seven against England. AB de Villiers 162 v the West Indies was memorable, as was Chris Gayle’s 215. However in an era where bat dominates ball so often one feels that memories of these two innings will fade with time.

The game has changed and not more so than in the rewards, in 1975 the prize money for the winning team was GBP4,000 and the West Indies players received GBP100 each for the whole tournament! This year the winning team will take home $4.3million!

Prize money GBP4,000

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