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Who shrunk Test cricket?

Apurva Kale

The first ever World Cup of cricket was a far cry from the hoopla of the World cups of recent times.

There were only eight teams competing, out of which only six were Test playing teams. TV coverage was not as extensive as it is today, and one-day cricket itself was in its early incipient stages. There are however, certain performances that come to mind, and certain trends that were already beginning to take shape during the course of this competition.

Already a dominant force in the Test arena, the West Indians adapted to the smaller version of the game with relative ease. The performances that immediately come to mind are the century by Clive Lloyd, the five run-outs, or that near photo finish in the final versus Australia. And of course, the famous hit-wicket incident involving Roy Fredricks.

But there is a stronger backbone of equally notable achievements by the Caribbean Islanders in this tournament. In the preliminary rounds, for example, the West Indians scrambled home against Pakistan with two balls to spare and one wicket in hand. This would not have been possible if not for a frantic 64-run last-wicket stand between Andy Roberts and Deryck Murray. Solid batting by Gordon Greenidge and Alvin Kallicharan in the semi-final against New Zealand is another much overlooked fact. The much-feared West Indian bowling attack of the seventies was in full force in matches against Sri Lanka (who had not received Test playing status at the time), who were bowled out for only 86.

The strong line up that the West Indians boasted of in the Test matches was instrumental in the this form of the game as well. Clearly, there was not yet a need for one day specialists as there is today. With a team such as this one, it is little wonder that the West Indians were champions without many problems. There were challenged by a tenacious last wicket stand between Lillee and Thomson in the final but they managed to emerged as deserving victors.

The inaugural World Cup was sponsored by Prudential Assurance (as were the next two World Cups) and was based on a simple format of two groups of four teams each. India were placed in the group including England, New Zealand and East Africa(the non test-playing team). The other group was comprised of Australia, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The teams in each group played each other once and then the best two teams of each group proceeded to the quarter-final.

Madan Lal India's unique contribution to the World Cup was that Madan Lal bowled the first ball of this first World Cup to England's Dennis Amiss. It was the same match that Sunil Gavaskar scored his much talked about 36 not out, which took all of sixty overs to make. Apparently, neither the team manager (G.S.Ramchand) nor the captain (S.Venkataraghvan) agreed with the way he batted. India lost that match by 202 runs, which is incidentally the heaviest defeat by runs in that World Cup. One performance from the Indians is noteworthy even outside the context of the World Cup -- Bishen Bedi's economical bowling figures of 12-8-6-1 are by now historic.

There are few other things of note from this World Cup. Not many people know that the highest score in any one-day international at that time was registered by Glenn Turner of New Zealand, who scored 171 not out against East Africa. Glenn Turner was also one of three brothers who represented in New Zealand in that same tournament. Also, Vivian Richards, arguably one of the best one-day batsmen ever, made less of an impact with the bat. He scored only 38 runs in five matches with an average of 12.66 and a top score of 15 not out. Despite his hand in two run outs in the final, Richards made less of an impact in this World Cup.

Predictably, the bigger guns of Test cricket were adept at this first World Cup and some of the lesser-experienced sides found the going tough. England dominated their group and East Africa struggled with scores of 95,120 and 128 in their three appearances. Despite the one-wicket victory that the West Indians registered against the Pakistanis. there was little indication of the exciting cricket this form of the game had to offer.

But it was in the semi-final between Australia and England at Headingley that things really heated up. Gary Gilmour, a left arm fast bowler, had not played a single match for Australia when he was called up to play in the game against the English. Often in the shadows of fast bowlers like Lillee and Thomson, Gilmour came out on his own with an unplayable spell of six for 14 off 12 overs. England's innings was wrapped up for 93 in 36.2 overs by his devastating spell. Australia, however found the going tough themselves and were floundering at 39 for six. Then in walked Gilmour again and along with Doug Walters, won the match for Australia with a cool yet firm 28. Quite rightly, the match has been called 'Gilmour's Match'. Surprisingly, however, Gilmour played only five one-day internationals in his entire career.

Clive Lloyd In the final at Lord's, the Australians were faced with the West Indians who had previously overcome the New Zealanders in the semi-final at the Oval. Clive Lloyd lightning quick century (102 of 82 balls) helped them post a stiff target of 291. The Australians could not match up to their strength and fell 17 runs short. Lillee and Thomson were batting with nine wickets down when Thomson was caught by Fredricks off a no-ball. Fredricks shied at the stumps and the ball went for overthrows. The crowd raided the field unsuspectingly, while the two batsmen kept running the overthrows. Order was restored and a few balls later, the last wicket fell, leaving Clive Lloyd standing with the first World Cup presented to him by Prince Philip.

It is clear that one-day cricket had not yet reached a level of strategic thinking that marks the game these days. The sixty over format was suited to the Test playing teams as it spread out the action over a longer time. There weren't any surprise packages in the World Cup; future champions Sri Lanka were still learning the ropes.

Therefore, the strong Test teams at the time were the stronger ones in the one day format as well. Australia, England and the West Indies lived up to their reputation as favorites. But as in the Test arena, the mighty West Indians were irresistible in one-dayers as well and began their overwhelming domination of limited overs cricket that lasted for at least the next eight years.

The Rediff Team adds: While the 1975 Cup was pretty much Test cricket in microcosm, it is notable for two real trends: people, and money.

The inaugural Cup saw vibrant crowds, with an estimated 117,900 watching the 15 games -- which when you consider this was being played in England, was a huge turnout.

It also saw, for the first time, the game earn big bucks in a small period of time. Prudential weighed in with 100,000 pounds (and got much more than their money's worth in terms of visibility); the gates brought in double that figure, and even after meeting the expenses and paying the stipulated prize money -- 4000 pounds to the winners, 2000 pounds to the runners up and 1000 pounds apiece to the two losing semifinalists -- the ICC made a sizeable profit and, in doing so, affirmed for itself that the World Cup was an idea that had come to stay.

The profits were shared as follows: 10 per cent to the host country, England; 7 1/2 per cent to the other seven participating countries, and 37 per cent to the ICC coffers.

Sunil Gavaskar As far as the cricket itself was concerned, the greatest talking point was the Gavaskar crawl, before an estimated 17,000 spectators, at Lord's. The then team vice captain was pulled up by his captain and manager, and a report submitted to the Board -- which, in typical fashion, closed the case after an inquiry that was synonymous with 'eyewash'.

In his book Sunny Days, Gavaskar recalls that incident this: "After one cross batted swipe, I found I was unable to connect my shots... At tea, which was taken after 25 overs, I was asked by the manager to look for singles and twos, since I was finding it difficult to score. This was in response to my question whether I should drop anchor at one end while others scored at the other end....

"The awful noise made by the crowd did not help my thinking, but only made me confused as hell. From the start, we knew that the chase was out of the question...

"There was a complete mental block as far as I was concerned."

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