World Cup Fever:
Cricket In 1975
Comment and Analysis | 21st June 2010
If you’ve had just about as much ‘World Cup fever’ as your immune system can deal with let me take you back to the glorious summer of 1975 when cricket radically re-invented itself, with a new one day competition – which ultimately produced one of the most memorable of finals and a late, late conclusion.
International limited over contests were in their infancy – indeed only sixteen such games had ever taken place - before the inaugural world championship was staged in England 35 years ago.
Eight nations competed – England, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, India and the West Indies from the Test playing nations – Sri Lanka, who weren’t to be granted such status for another seven years, plus a representative side from East Africa, comprising players from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The format was decided to be two groups of four, each side playing its fellow group member once and the top two sides making up the four semi finalists with 60 overs per innings, white clothing and a red ball.
Although billed as the ‘Cricket World Cup’ the Prudential Assurance Company Group came forward as generous sponsors so the official title of this first tournament was left as the Prudential Cup.
Lord’s staged the opening fixture between the hosts and India. In the most one-sided of tussles England piled up 334-4 with Warwickshire’s Dennis Amiss top scoring with 137. With this format still in its infancy some sides had no idea, either on how to pace an innings or to mount a reply – that can only be the logical suggestion for the sluggish nature of the response which totalled only 132-3. Sunil Gavaskar – the ‘Little Master’ - one of the most elegant stroke-players of his generation, batted throughout the innings for 36 not out from 176 deliveries!
"The sceptics had been won over – one day cricket was now an international hit and would go from strength to strength."
Trent Bridge played its own part in the carnival staging two of the group matches with England facing New Zealand and Pakistan taking on Sri Lanka.
England built on their opening success by amassing 266-6 here, after being put in on a humid morning, which eventually gave way to bright hot sunshine. Keith Fletcher, at his fluent best, scored 131 before being run out off the final ball of the innings. The Kiwis pace attack included Richard and Dayle Hadlee, whilst a third brother – Barry, a batsman, was also included – a rare instance of three siblings appearing together in the same international side.
The response lacked momentum and only John Morrison hung around long enough to reach a half century for New Zealand, his 55 the only substantial contribution out of an all-out total of 186 with Tony Greig picking up four wickets.
Elegant, bespectacled Zaheer Abbas led a Pakistan run-spree in the other match to be staged at Trent Bridge. His 97, backed up by 84 from Majid Khan and 74 from Sadiq Mohammed powered his side to 330-6, with Sri Lanka only making 138 in reply.
One feature of the tournament was the use of former ‘greats’ to select the Man of the Match. Joe Hardstaff junior and Bill Voce – both former Nottinghamshire and England legends – performed the honours with ‘Fletch’ and ‘Zed’ easy nominations for the guys to choose.
After leaving Nottingham the tournament progressed to the semi final stage, where England’s hopes were dashed when they were easily beaten by Australia at Headingley, whilst the West Indies beat New Zealand at the Oval.
And so to 21 June 1975 – exactly 35 years ago. Was this cricket’s finest hour (or 9 hours 43 minutes to be precise)? Certainly on the back of a titanic struggle between two of the power-houses of the game a packed Lord’s witnessed a game of high emotion and spell-binding drama.
Clive Lloyd’s scintillating century won it for the West Indies, although Australia, in pursuit of 291, always looked to be in with a shout before falling 17 runs short. Their cause wasn’t helped by conceding a total of five run-outs, three of them to the brilliance of a young superstar who was just making his way in the game - Vivian Richards.
In the St John’s Wood gloom – after an 8.43pm finish – Prince Phillip handed over the Prudential Cup to Lloyd – and cricket was changed forever. The sceptics had been won over – one day cricket was now an international hit and would go from strength to strength. True, it needed tinkering with – 60 overs per side was far too long but all in all, the summer of 1975 should fondly be remembered for the way it shaped the modern game.
There may even have been a subliminal cross-over into the world of pop music. The tournament began with Windsor Davies and Don Estelle at the top of the charts, with their own ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ version of Whispering Grass but by the end of it, the whole nation were enjoying Typically Tropical’s ‘Barbados’ – itself soon to hit the top spot!
For what it’s worth, my own glorious memories of that tournament were the searing conditions in which it was played in, spectators happily sitting on the grass around the boundary rope (although I do seem to recall a few mini pitch invasions!), the marketing hype over the tournament mascot – an adaptation of the Disney creation, Jiminy Cricket, seeing Lillee and Thomson for the first time in the flesh on my first visit to Headingley – and not a vuvuzela to be heard anywhere!
Dave Bracegirdle provides ball-by-ball commentary from all of Nottinghamshire's LV= County Championship matches. Listen live during play via http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham