Whenever the history of limited over cricket is discussed, two names will always find a special mention; Kerry Packer and Lalit Modi. Although limited cricket had started when Kerry Packer decided to have his own series in Australia as a matter of revolt for his Channel 9 not being given the exclusive rights for the cricket transmission, he was the one who brought in coloured clothing and the white ball into cricket. No Indian player joined the Kerry Packer series for all those who did join Kerry Packer due to his lucrative offer were banned from playing for their country.
Lalit Modi, on the other hand, started the Indian Premier League concept; a concept that has now not only been accepted widely in cricket but has been extended even to some other sports. The pecuniary part of the IPL has not only brought riches to many of the modest players who may never represent the country in any sport but has also been an international player magnet; almost every cricketer around the world wants to be a part of it. Even England that was reluctant initially to permit its players to join the IPL had to bow to its players. The IPL has given India greater acceptance in the sports world and also created a fraternity among players of different countries which would not have been possible otherwise.
The history of cricket’s World Cup starts from 1975. The West Indies team was then considered to be invincible, and they proved this by winning the first two World Cups, in 1975 and again in 1979. However, the Indian team turned the tables in 1983 to bring about a surprise victory. This may have never happened but for a glorious 175 not out by Kapil Dev in one of the league matches to keep India in contention for the semi-final berth.
India’s all rounder, Mohinder Amarnath, who’s bowling run up has often been described as a dilly dallying run up, had the unique distinction of being named as the ‘Man of the Match’ for the semi-final, as well as, the final match; a feat that has never been replicated in any of the other Word Cup tournaments till date. The odds of India winning the World Cup set by the wagers were 16:1. One patriotic Indian had bet 1,000 pounds on India winning the World Cup and walked away with 16,000 pounds at the end of the tournament.
India had some glorious moments in the Inaugural World Cup. The World Cup started with sixty over a side matches and in white clothing. Sunil Gavaskar had the unique distinction of battling through one of the Indian innings with a paltry 36 not out with wickets falling at the other end like nine pins. Bhishan Singh Bedi created a record that will never be surpassed when he bowled 8 maiden overs out of his total of 12. In fact, Bedi bowled 6 maiden overs out of 12 in another match in the same World Cup.
If one goes in depth to analyse the 1983 World Cup winning Indian team it would be a revelation to find that all the 13 players in the squad, including wicket keeper Syed Kirmani, could bowl and Dilip Vengsarkar was always available as the reserve wicket keeper. See the names in the 1983 Indian squad; Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, Mohinder Amarnath, Kirti Azad, Sandep Patil, Krishnamachari Srikant, Yashpal Sharma, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Syed Kirmani.
Interestingly, other than Kapil Dev there was none else with any serious reputation of being an all rounder but they could all bat and bowl a bit which meant that there was always some hope to get some runs on the board even when the number 11 batsman was in and if one bowler was not doing well on any particular day, there was always an option to use another for the day.
The weather and type of pitches on which the 2019 World Cup will be played will be very different from the hot and dry Indian conditions of the months of April and May during which the IPL is played. The English weather is rather hostile in May and June, the period during which most of the matches will be played, starting from May 30.
The Indian selectors by choosing Dinesh Karthik as the second wicket keeper have gone more for experience than for exuberance. Then why does Vijay Shankar get preference over Rishab Pant may be the next question? There are two factors that may have gone in Vijay Shankar’s favour; first, he can bowl medium pace and secondly he is a good fielder in the outfield. Even if Vijay Shankar does not find a place in the playing eleven of the team, he has value coming on the field as a substitute fielder, as and when required.
As an Indian, I would always back India to win the World Cup but as a cricket fan, I would see India finish at best as semi-finalist with the final being played between the West Indies and England and with the latter winning the World Cup. Teams like Afganistan and Bangladesh may create some upsets but they may not be able to have a prolonged period of glory. With the return of Steve Smith and David Warner, the Australians may have gained some strength but definitely not to an extent to help the team lift the World Cup.
Injuries to Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada will definitely be a reason for worry for South Africa, and Pakistan may not have done the best thing by dropping its pace man Amir. Sri Lanka has gone in for some drastic changes in its team which will not only be detrimental to its cause but also affect coordination within the team at crucial moments. Even the Afgani team is a bit torn within with the introduction of a new leadership in Gulbadin Naib. The New Zealand team has been always good but never good enough to lift the World Cup and so shall it be even this time. Bangladesh does not yet have the best players for the English conditions.
While the IPL may have helped Indian Cricket in finding many gems, it has at the same time exposed the weaknesses of some of our best players; Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli being the possible sufferers. While Bhuvaneshwar Kumar may not have been much of a success in the IPL, his swing may be more meaningful under the humid English conditions.
The West Indies team remains my choice as one of the teams for the final because of the attitude with which they play the game. The West Indies team may be suffering due to the same reason in Test matches but limited over cricket is a different story. A squad that can drop out players like Pollard and Sunil Narine definitely has something to prove at the tournament. However, based on the current form of its players and the favouring home conditions, England seems to be the team that is most likely to have the last say at the Lord’s on July 14. It is for the first time that there will be no groups in the World Cup format and each of the ten teams would be playing the others in a round robin league with the top four teams on the points table making it to the semi-finals.
In recent times, England has won all the ODI series that it has played and is, consequently, the number one ODI team; a status that it has never enjoyed before any of the earlier World Cup. With the home advantage, no other team then can have all the odds in their favour as has England. May cricket continue to be a game of chance and India bring home the World Cup.