Sunday, March 30, 2014

Australia begin their golden run as the World Cup returns to English turf in 1999 : Excerpt from ‘The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011’ by Indra Vikram Singh

The World Cup returned to England in 1999 after a lapse of 16 years. In keeping with the times, Holland and Ireland too got to host a match each, besides Scotland and Wales. So much had changed in the interim. An Indian businessman, Jagmohan Dalmiya, presided over the ICC after a stint by a great West Indies batsman of yore, Clyde Walcott.

Even the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), one of the last bastions of tradition, had to bow before the winds of modernity by constructing a new media centre at the Nursery End of the Lord's ground. Named Spaceship, it was built at a cost of £5.8 million ($ 9.3 million), and can accomodate 250 journalists and broadcasters. It was unveiled on 27 April 1999, seventeen days before the start of the World Cup.

There was now a permanent ICC World Cup Trophy crafted in silver and gilt in London by Garrard, the Crown jewellers, featuring a golden globe held aloft by three silver columns. Valued at more than £27,000, it is 60 centimetres in height and weighs 11 kilograms. The golden globe is presented in the form of a stylised cricket ball. The silver columns, which are designed as stumps and bails, represent the three pillars of cricket - batting, bowling and fielding. Australia had the honour of winning it.

This time the title sponsorship was not awarded. Instead there were four global partners - Emirates Airlines, NatWest Bank, Pepsi and Vodafone. The tournament was christened ICC World Cup.

A total of £11 million was raised from sponsorship. Income from television grossed £23 million from a global audience of 2.3 billion in 129 countries. There was a record profit of more than £30 million from this World Cup. The English Cricket Board (ECB) kept all the gate receipts and merchandising revenue, while the money received from award of television rights and sponsorship was divided between the participants. The ECB thus raked in £13.7 million, while the other Test playing nations received £1.425 million each, except Bangladesh whose share was £225,000.

The prize money on offer was close to £600,000 ($1 million), with the winners receiving £180,000 and the runners-up taking home £90,000. The losing semi-finalists received £60,000 each. The rest of the prize money, amounting to around £210,000 was shared by the other eight participants.

A Daewoo Musso car, prize for the player-of-the-tournament, was won by the dashing South African allrounder Lance Klusener.

Bangladesh, who won the ICC Trophy 1997, and runners-up Kenya had already gained One-day International status. For the former it was the first appearance in the World Cup, as it was for Scotland who finished third in the tournament for the associate member countries. Group A comprised England, India, Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, while in Group B were Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland and the West Indies.

For the first time there was a super-six stage. This was an improvement on the previous format wherein it was almost a foregone conclusion as to which eight teams would advance to the quarter-finals. This is not meant as disrespect towards Zimbabwe, but even in 1996 they were considered the weakest of the nine Test-playing nations. In the super-six, the three teams that qualified from Group A: South Africa, India and Zimbabwe, played each of the three qualifiers from Group B: Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand.

There were flaws in this system too. The points that teams carried forward from the group matches to the super-six were only those that they earned against the two teams that qualified from their group. Hence, Zimbabwe who finished third in Group A, carried 4 points, top team South Africa took with them 2 points, while second-placed India got none. Zimbabwe, who did not win a single super-six match, nearly made it to the semi-final. Eventual champions Australia, who won all three super-six matches, advanced to the semi-finals only by virtue of their victory in the last match against South Africa. There could easily have been a travesty of justice. 

The Duckworth-Lewis system of re-setting targets, which the average cricket enthusiast does not understand anyway, is another that might create a huge problem some day. In this, target scores can sometimes get enhanced, and a team that scores more can lose, in rain-interrupted matches. One-day cricket in general, and the World Cup in particular, could do with a simpler, more rational system.

About a year later, allegations of match-fixing took some sheen off this highly successful tournament. It cast a shadow over the game for a long time.

Pakistan beat New Zealand to enter the final. 

In the other semi-final there was a thrilling tie between Australia and South Africa, the first in the World Cup. 

Australia made it to the final as they had beaten South Africa in their earlier match. The Australians went on to emulate the West Indies by winning the World Cup for the second time.

The final:
Lord’s, London, 20 June 1999
Australia won by 8 wickets
Pakistan: 132  all out in 39 overs (Shane Warne 4 for 33)
Australia: 133 for 2 wickets in 20.1 overs (Mark Waugh 37 not out, Adam Gilchrist 54)
Man of the Match: Shane Warne
Player of the Tournament: Lance Klusener

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3

Distributed in India by Variety Book Depot, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Phones + 91 11 23417175, 23412567

Available in leading bookshops, and online on several websites.

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