By Kushal Chakraborty/IANS
Three months after the death of legendary cricket wordsmith Neville Cardus, who vividly portrayed the romance of the traditional game, the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1975 held the first World Cup — an event that in subsequent years catalysed mind-boggling changes in the 22- yard game, multiplying the thrill, money and appeal.
But 40 years back, it was virtually an experimental tournament, with most cricket lovers, including majority of the eight participating teams — all babes in the new format, ignorant of the rules — save England, which regularly staged one-day games.
The 15 matches played in a 60-over format — in conventional whites and with the red cherry at six venues — June 7-21, nevertheless, were a roaring success, both in terms of spectator support as well as entertainment.
The thrill that one-day cricket could provide was amply evident in Pakistan’s Group A clash against the West Indies.
Pakistan posted a challenging score of 266, courtesy three half-centuries from Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas and Wasim Raja.
In reply, the West Indies slipped to 99 for five, with Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran, Vivian Richards and Rohan Kanhai back in the pavilion.
Pakistan pacer Sarfaraz Nawaz (4/44) exploited the moisture to the full to create havoc in the West Indies batting line up. The great Javed Miandad, making his ODI debut, bowled his slow spin to get rid of the rival skipper Clive Lloyd.
At 203 for nine in the 46th over, it seemed all was over for the Caribbean outfit. But the last-wicket pair of wicketkeeper Deryck Murray and pacer Andy Roberts added 64 runs to put the West Indies in the semifinal with two balls to spare and send Pakistan packing.
However, to everybody’s surprise, Murray’s cool and unbeaten 61 in the most trying of circumstances failed to earn him the Man of the Match award, with the honour going to Sarfaraz.
It is said the adjudicator of the award Tom Graveney had left the field before the match ended and thus missed Murray’s batting.
India, then a novice in limited-over cricket, started off the tournament – then called the Prudential Cup after its sponsors Prudential Assurance Company – pathetically.
In the inaugural match, England batsmen beat Indian bowlers to pulp to record the first 300-plus score (334/4) in an ODI.
Dennis Amiss (137) notched up the maiden hundred of the big tournament. Chris Old scored the fastest 50 which came off only 30 balls.
In reply, India made a leisurely 132 for three after batting the full quota of 60 overs at a dismal run rate of 2.2.
Legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar played one of the slowest ODI knocks, as he carried his bat through the innings to score an unbelievable 36 (174 balls, 1 four).
To this day, the great batsman has failed to give a proper explanation for his excruciatingly slow effort, except attributing it to inexperience.
But if the Indians were niggardly in scoring quick runs, they also showed how miserly they could be in conceding them.
In the match against East Africa — India’s only victory in the tournament — left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi came up with the most economic spell of ODI cricket (12-8-6-1), even as the S. Venkatraghavan-led side made an exit from the group stage.
For long, India’s 10-wicket win against East Africa remained the most emphatic World Cup victory.
Australia’s left-arm pacer Gary Gilmour emerged as a star, finishing with an enviable six for 14 in the semi-final against England, and capping it with an impressive five for 48 effort in the June 21 final that went down to the wire.
Drama started early in the summit clash after the West Indies were put in to bat.
Opener Fredericks hammered a superb six off quick bowler Denis Lillee. The Caribbean supporters broke into applause, but the umpire declared him out hit wicket.
The left-hander had failed to keep his balance and dislodged the bails with his foot.
The West Indies were in a spot of bother at 50 for three, but Llyod came up with a superb 102 to propel his side to 291 for eight.
The formidable Australians took up the chase, but the Caribbeans fielded superbly and effected four run outs.
Losing wickets regularly, Australia seemed on the brink of defeat at 233 for nine, till a valiant rearguard action from two famous Australian pacers Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson changed the complexion of the game.
But as the pair appeared cruising towards victory, Thomson scooped a ball for Fredericks to take the catch.
To Australia’s relief, the umpire declared it a ‘no ball’. As the duo started off, hesitatingly, for a single, Fredericks threw the ball towards the wicket attempting another run out.
But the leather missed the stumps and it simply vanished into the hordes of West Indies supporters who had invaded the field hoping for a West Indies victory.
With the ball unavailable, Lillee and Thompson made merry, taking one run after another. But the umpire awarded only two runs when things calmed down.
The match restarted after the spectators were removed from the ground and the West Indies finally won the match by 17 runs to lift the maiden World Cup trophy.
(Kushal Chakraborty is a freelancer. He can be contacted at [email protected])