Over the last two decades, the Cricket World Cup has become synonymous with terms such as overextended, never-ending, bloated and dull. Various tweaks of the format have been attempted, but none has improved upon that of the 1992 World Cup; the best nine teams in the world playing each other in one large group, followed by semis and a final.
This format had the benefit of (mostly) avoiding some of the mismatches that have blighted other World Cups – Australia v Namibia in 2003 anyone? – and also made for a much leaner event. In 2007, 48 games were played before the semi-finals, but in 1992 only 36 group games were required.
It was a trendsetting World Cup in that it was the first to feature coloured kits, white balls and dark sight screens. However, there were also a number of elements that seem incredibly outdated when compared to the modern game but, looking back, add to its charm.
Only four years later Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana would change the sport completely by bludgeoning huge scores off the opening 15 overs, but in 1992 things were much more sedate. For example, Neil Fairbrother’s match winning innings against South Africa was deemed a classic ODI knock, but looking back at the scorecard, he ‘only’ scored 75 off 83 balls – pretty pedestrian by modern standards.
It was also the event that provided Ian Botham with his last hurrah. Against Australia he took four for 31 – including the wicket of old adversary Allan Border – and hit a half century to take England to victory against the old enemy. The sight of a very, erm, beefy Beefy doing a little wiggle dance after each wicket either delights or appals in equal measure, depending on which side of the rivalry you’re coming from.
As mentioned previously, this was the first World Cup to feature coloured kits, albeit every team wore the same design, only with different colours. Red. green, blue and white across the shoulders, then maroon for West Indies, yellow for Australia and so on. Team names across the middle, no sponsors or kit manufacturer logos emblazoned across them. Nice and simple. Some players – such as Graham Gooch – still wore their Test caps rather than the standard issue ODI baseball-style caps, something the good people at adidas or Nike wouldn’t tolerate these days.
No such thing as the Duckworth-Lewis method either. Rain affected matches – and there were a few – were decided by a far more mysterious process, which would invariably result in one team being hugely disadvantaged. Who could forget the huge scoreboard graphic stating that that South Africa required 22 runs of one ball to win their semi-final against England? Especially as it was wrong – the Proteas ‘only’ required 21 off that final delivery.
Speaking of England, this tournament no doubt holds a special place in my heart as not only was it the first cricket World Cup I watched to any great extent, it was also the last one in which England actually did themselves credit. Second behind New Zealand in the round robin phase, they were favourites going in to the final against Pakistan, who had won only four of their group matches. In true England style, a decent start – Pakistan were 28 for 2 when Mum *made* me go to school – gave way to defeat, but at least we got close. It’s also notable that the aforementioned shirt from that World Cup is regarded as iconic – cricket’s version of the red football shirt from 1966 perhaps – and can still be seen at cricket grounds across the country. When did you last see someone wearing the top from England’s ill-fated 1999 World Cup campaign?
Finally, the sponsor. For this wasn’t just the Cricket World Cup but the Benson and Hedges World Cup. A sporting world cup sponsored by cigarettes – those were the days.