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Cricket news - Origins of the World Cup: How it all began
Be it big businesses or major breakthroughs in science and technology, they have all started with a vague idea or in the backdrop of humble beginnings. Dreaming big is the under-structure on which destiny is charted. When the cricket World Cup was launched in 1975, very few would have envisaged that a record crowd of 93,013 would watch the 2015 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand. As the old saying goes, "mighty oaks from little acorns grow".
The seeds for the birth of the inaugural World Cup was sowed in 1971 when Australia and England locked horns in the first-ever ODI at the MCG after persistent rain washed out the Test. With dwindling crowds for Test cricket, the then International Cricket Conference decided to hold a "World Cup as soon as practicable" in the annual meeting in 1972. Eventually, the tournament was confirmed on July 25, 1973 by the ICC. Incidentally, the governing body officially declared the tournament would take place only three days before the maiden Women's World Cup final between England and Australia in 1973.
One of the key hurdles to holding the tournament was the troubled relationship between India and Pakistan in the backdrop of the 1965 War. Due to the war, the arch-rivals hadn't played a bilateral Test rubber since 1960-61. The heads of the two nations began talks over resuming cricketing ties in the important governing body meeting held in 1972. Without India and Pakistan, the ICC would have been left with too few nations. By then, South Africa also had been suspended due to apartheid.
To ensure more teams would participate in the event, an East African side comprising players from Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda was drafted into the World Cup with Harilal Shah leading the setup.
The next step was to find a sponsor. In October 1974, the ICC and TCCB were able to tie up with Prudential who forked out GBP 100000. In fact, TCCB wanted the tournament to be called the "Prudential Cup", while the ICC had named it as "International Cricket Championship". The total prize money on offer was a princely GBP 9000 with the winners pocketing 4000 alongside Silver medals. The sparkling silver trophy was 18.5 inches high, comprising 89.5 ounces of the aforementioned metal.
The board also succeeded in scheduling an Ashes after the World Cup just in case they would suffer losses from the tournament. The eight teams were divided into two groups, and the organisers opted to not have India and Pakistan nor England and Australia taking on each other in the group phase. The inaugural World Cup was based on 60-over format games and as per rules drafted for the Gillette Cup.
The low-key start to the tournament can be gauged by the fact that just a few days before the event commenced, County teams had asked contracted players to take part in the Benson and Hedges Quarterfinals. Even foreign cricketers like Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards, Keith Boyce and Co. partook in the B&H quarterfinals. In modern times, it is difficult to envisage players being called up to participate in a domestic tournament a few before the World Cup.
After trials and tribulations, the tournament looked set to commence. All the players had the chance to meet the Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles at the Buckingham Palace. Jeff Thomson, the tearaway Australian fast bowler, was said to be extremely happy with the way the players were treated. However, it didn't exactly turn out to be a good start for the fearsome fast bowler in the World Cup as he bowled 12 no balls in Australia's opening encounter against Pakistan.
The "Greatest Summer of Cricket" was launched with a logo exclusively designed for the World Cup, while the Disney character Jiminy Cricket was used to market the event.
Unfortunately, the World Cup didn't exactly begin on a great note as despite the Lord's stadium being bathed in sunshine and fans flocking to the stadium, the opening encounter turned out to be a drab affair with India managing just 132/3 in reply to England's 334/4. The game is rather infamously remembered for Sunil Gavaskar batting through the entire duration of 60 overs to remain unbeaten on 36.
John Jameson, the Warwickshire and England opener, who partnered Dennis Amiss at the top of the order, wasn't enamoured by the occasion either. He had said: "Quite honestly, I don't think it registered that this was the first World Cup. It was a very normal day for me. Going out at Lord's was the main excitement," as quoted by insidethegames.biz.
Incidentally, the Chichester Tennis tournament seemed to be garnering more interest, especially with Jimmy Connors, who was looking to defend his Wimbledon title, losing to the South African tennis player Bernard Mitton.
Slowly but steadily, the World Cup began to gain attention and interest among the paying public. Around of them watched the thriller between West Indies and Pakistan. More importantly, the final between Australia and West Indies turned out to be a humdinger with the latter holding their nerves to script a 17-run win. The West Indies fans celebrated long and hard with the game ending at 8.40 PM local.
Organisers too were happy with the success of the tournament and the revenue through gate receipts was estimated at GBP 188,598. The official statement read: "The Prudential Cup launched with imagination on boldness on the part of crickets administrators and the sponsors, and the standard of cricket matched the hours of bounteous sunshine."
As the hosts England lock horns against South Africa in the first match of the 2019 World Cup at The Oval amidst all the hype and excitement, it is hard to think of a bygone era where initial steps were taken to lay the foundation for the World Cup. Cricket has certainly come a long way.
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