The first World Cup in England in 1975 wore a different look from modern standards, for the game was traditional as players had not discarded whites for coloured clothing and money was scarce. Fielding restrictions were non-existent, and wides and short-pitched balls were not so firmly enforced. The beginning was humble, with no global television coverage and six Test-playing nations in the competition with associate members Sri Lanka and East Africa. The tournament lasted just a fortnight with 60-overs-a-side games. The final will be remembered as much for West Indies captain Clive Lloyd's 102 off 85 balls as for Australia's fightback and for West Indian Viv Richards's brilliant piece of fielding which led to three of the five run-outs. The West Indies were 50-3 before posting 291-8 off 60 overs despite a five-wicket effort from Gilmour. Australia captain Ian Chappell led from the front with an impressive 62, but fast bowler Keith Boyce took four wickets to reduce Australia to 233-9. The game was not over as the last-wicket pair of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson threatened to conjure up an unlikely victory. Pressure mounted on the West Indies as the Australians added 41. Australia lost by 17 runs in a fitting finale to the tournament, but they looked a different side in the next World Cup held again in England.
Australia shed much of their strength in the 1979 World Cup after Australian TV tycoon Kerry Packer rocked the establishment by luring top players to his World Series Cricket in 1977. The 1975 runners-up looked a pale shadow of their former selves as their Packer players were not considered for the tournament. An under-strength side, led by Kim Hughes, failed to make it to the semi-finals. West Indies not only included their Packer players but also reinstated Clive Lloyd as captain. In the event, the nucleus of the side remained unchanged as many players who figured in the 1975 Cup triumph were retained. The fearsome pace attack, comprising Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft, and exciting stroke-makers in Viv Richards, Lloyd, Collis King and Gordon Greenidge helped the West Indies retain the Cup by beating England by 92 runs.
West Indies skipper Clive Lloyd was poised to hold aloft the World Cup for a third time, only to see Kapil's "Devils'' from India snatch it away in one of the biggest surprises. The 17-day event was bigger than the previous ones as there were 27 matches instead of 15, with each side playing against the other twice in the four-team group. The tournament began on a sensational note, with India shocking the West Indies in a group match at Old Trafford and minnows Zimbabwe upsetting Australia on the strength of a superb all-round performance by Duncan Fletcher, who later coached England. In the final West Indies looked home when India managed only 183 in the final against a formidable pace attack of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall. But India medium-pacers Madan Lal, Mohinder Amarnath, Balwinder Sandhu and Roger Binny were superbly marshalled by Dev. If there were one catch that swung the final India's way, it was Dev's to account for Richards. Richards had been dominating the India attack before he mishooked a Lal bouncer for Dev, who ran back towards mid-wicket to hold the ball and change the course of the match and bowl West Indies out for 140.
South Africa would have have contested the 1992 World Cup final on their maiden appearance after more than two decades of isolation due to apartheid if it were possible to score 21 off one ball. The tournament was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand and had all the trappings of a modern event -- coloured clothing, floodlights, white balls and black sightscreens. But Kepler Wessels's South Africans were not amused because it also had a strange 'rain rule'. Rain halted South Africa's chase when they needed 22 to win off 13 balls against England in the semi-final. The target was revised to a ridiculous 21 off just one ball when the game resumed. The tournament had a new format with a then record 39 matches. Nine teams played each other in the league phase, with the top four advancing to the semi-finals. The in-form New Zealand kept playing impressively to move into the semi-final at Auckland where they ran into an unpredictable Pakistan, who found a match-winner in young Inzamam-ul-Haq when the asking-rate was climbing. Imran led from the front in the final against England, top-scoring with 72 to help his side post 249-6. Javed Miandad (58), Inzamam (42) and Wasim Akram (33) also chipped in useful runs. England then floundered against the leg-spin of Mushtaq Ahmed, who removed Gooch, Graeme Hick and Dermont Reeve. Left-arm paceman Akram also grabbed three wickets as England were all out for 227.
The 1996 World Cup in the sub-continent will be remembered as much for Sri Lanka's victory with bold and innovative batting tactics as for boycotts and riots. Arjuna Ranatunga's Sri Lankans celebrated when Aravinda de Silva cracked a classy hundred to steer his team to a seven-wicket victory over Mark Taylor's Australians in the day-night final at Lahore. Sri Lanka were assured of winning two matches even before the first ball had been bowled as both Australia and West Indies refused to play their opening games in the island nation due to security reasons. The opening ceremony at Calcutta was a fiasco. Nearly 100,000 spectators at the Eden Gardens were left disappointed when what was promised a grand technological show virtually flopped due to malfunctioning of lasers. It turned out to be a minor aberration when compared to the riots at the same venue during the semi-final between India and Sri Lanka. The spectators, annoyed with the hosts' dismal batting show, threw missiles on to the field and lit fires in the stands, forcing match-referee Clive Lloyd of the West Indies to award the game to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka made the most of the 15-overs fielding restrictions, thanks to openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana who demoralised the opposition with over-the-top hitting. The tactics stood Sri Lanka in good stead and Jayasuriya was named man of the tournament for redefining batting in the opening 15 overs. Sri Lanka played the final as if they had to settle a score with Australia. Ranatunga defied history when he put the opposition in after winning the toss, for no team had previously won the Cup chasing a target. But Aravinda de Silva. Australia were 137-1 after a century stand between Taylor (74) and Ricky Ponting (45) before Ranatunga restricted them to 241 by cleverly using his spinners. Australia dismissed the Sri Lankan openers cheaply, but Aravinda received valuable support from Asanka Gurusinha (65) and Ranatunga (47 not out) to steer his team home.
Steve Waugh's Australia held their nerve in testing conditions to lift the 1999 World Cup in England, while South Africa continued to wrestle with their fate. In 1999, South Africa failed to qualify for the final despite not losing their semi-final against Australia - they tied the game before bowing out on inferior net run-rate to Australia in the Super Six. Australia advanced to the Super Six without a point as they had lost to fellow-qualifiers Pakistan and New Zealand in group games. Just one slip at this stage could have sent them back home. It nearly came against South Africa at Headingley chasing a stiff 272-run target. Steve Waugh was on 56 when he offered a simple catch to South African century-maker Herschelle Gibbs, who held the ball before dropping it in premature celebrations. The Australia captain needed just that slice of fortune to steer his team to a crucial win with an unbeaten century. The final was an anti-climax, with Australia thrashing Pakistan by eight wickets. Leg-spin magician Shane Warne grabbed four wickets in what turned out to be his last World Cup match. Steve Waugh said the "inner strength'' was the key to his team's success after a struggling start. Australia had lost two of their first three matches before winning seven in a row.
The 2003 World Cup was not only about Australia's triumph over adversity, but also about protests, boycotts, a drug-ban and some big players' farewells. Australia suffered a blow even before the show had begun when leg-spinner Shane Warne was ruled out of the tournament after failing a drugs test. He was not to play for his team in one-day cricket thereafter. Such was the depth of Ricky Ponting's side that they managed to find players to deliver in critical situations, like hard-hitting batsman Andrew Symonds and all-rounder Andy Bichel. England boycotted their match in Zimbabwe and New Zealand refused to play in Kenya on safety and political grounds. The points earned by defaults helped Zimbabwe and Kenya make it to the Super Six stage. Zimbabwe paceman Henry Olonga and wicketkeeper-batsman Andy Flower were soon to be pushed into exile for their black armband protest against the "death of democracy'' in their country. The washouts virtually eliminated Pakistan (v Zimbabwe) and the West Indies (v Bangladesh), while Shaun Pollock's South Africa bowed out after a miscalculation during their rain-hit match against Sri Lanka. When South Africa wicket-keeper Mark Boucher hit the penultimate ball off what turned out to be the final over for a six to level the scores, he thought the job had been completed. But his team still needed one more run to win. Kenya made a surprise semi-final appearance but did not have the resources to stretch India who qualified for the final. Ponting (140 not out) hijacked the final with a gem of a knock. He received valuable support from Damien Martyn (88 not out) to virtually put the match beyond India's reach as his team set a stiff 360-run target. Fast bowler Glenn McGrath rocked India with the prize wicket of Tendulkar (four) in his opening spell. India seemed to be chasing a mirage thereafter despite Virender Sehwag's 82 and were bowled out for 234.
The 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean had what every glamorous event would like to avoid - the death of a coach, a final completed in darkness, early exits of favourites and only a few close matches. The 47-day event was not even a one-week old when Pakistan's coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica. He was initially thought to have been murdered before it was announced he died of natural causes. The former England batsman's death came hours after Pakistan's shock defeat against debutants Ireland, the loss eventually leading to the exit of the 1992 champions. Disappointment was also in store for spectators in Bridgetown when the rain-hit final between Australia and Sri Lanka ended in semi-darkness. The officials believed that 36 overs had to be completed in Sri Lanka's innings, apparently forgetting a minimum of 20 were needed to obtain a result. "It was a mistake on our behalf,'' match-referee Jeff Crowe said after the match, the first of the nine Cup finals to be abbreviated. Adam Gilchrist dominated the final, hammering a 104-ball 149 with a squash ball in his left glove which seemed to help him hit straight. And Australia were virtually assured of a record third successive title after posting 281-4 off 38 overs, thanks to wicket-keeper Gilchrist's blitz which contained eight sixes and 13 fours. Sri Lanka veteran Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara made bold half-centuries but their team finished at 215-8 as their target was revised to 269 off 36 overs following a rain interruption. Australia were involved in a few tight matches in the 2003 tournament in South Africa, but so dominant were they in McGrath, on his last appearance, also surpassed Pakistani paceman Wasim Akram's Cup record of 55 wickets.
India became the first ever team to win on home soil with a comfortable six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai. The occasion also saw Sachin Tendulkar finally win a world title at the sixth attempt and with his 38th birthday just around the corner. The tournament also became a springboard for cricket diplomacy after India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the semi-final clash between the arch-rivals in Mohali. England's high-scoring tie with India in Bangalore breathed life into the tournament, while the English were also defeated by Bangladesh. Pakistan reached the semi-finals despite having had three players banned for corruption and their rights as tournament co-hosts snatched away because of their domestic security nightmare. Ireland scored a sensational victory over England thanks to Kevin O'Brien's record-breaking century.