Lights and colour for the first time!

Pakistan captain Imran Khan receives the coveted World Cup from the then President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Sir Colin Cowdrey, after his team’s victory over England in the final in Melbourne on March 25, 1992.-V. V. KRISHNAN Pakistan captain Imran Khan receives the coveted World Cup from the then President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Sir Colin Cowdrey, after his team’s victory over England in the final in Melbourne on March 25, 1992.

Here’s a look at the 1992 World Cup, an event of many firsts, by G. Viswanath.

The first of cricket’s modern World Cups took place in the antipodes with Australia hosting 25 matches and New Zealand 14; for the first time matches (10) in Australia were played under lights, players wore coloured clothing and white balls and black sightscreens were used. The competition and the environment mirrored the advance made by the limited-overs competition with much of the ideas borrowed from Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket that many purists had put down as a circus.

The 1983 and 1987 competitions saw a total of 27 matches each with the teams playing each other twice in the group stage, as against 15 each in the 1975 and 1979 tournaments.

The Benson & Hedges World Cup in 1992 became a nine-team affair with South Africa returning to mainstream cricket after an apartheid-inflicted ban from international cricket for almost 22 years. In all, 39 matches were played in 33 days with Pakistan staging a remarkable return to form to dash England’s hopes in the final played in the presence of a record one-day crowd at the MCG; the gate receipts were around Australian$ 2 million and the overall surplus from the enormously successful event was Australian$ 5 million.

Pakistan received the Waterford Crystal Trophy worth GBP 7,500. Looking back at his team’s achievement, skipper Imran Khan said a decade later: “Winning the World Cup was really something special. It gave so much happiness to so many people. Just seeing the joy on the faces of the masses as we landed at Lahore airport, on our return from the World Cup, made my whole cricket career worthwhile. There is no occasion in cricket like the World Cup final. Anyone who has played in one can never forget it. And above all, for the players, it’s a test of nerve, even more than the test of skill.’’

The absence of the fiery speed merchant Waqar Younis, because of a stress fracture of the back, depleted Pakistan’s pace strength. A sore shoulder forced Imran Khan to sit out for three matches, one of which Pakistan lost to the West Indies by 10 wickets. Led by Javed Miandad Pakistan shared points with England in a rain-hit match in Adelaide. There was no respite from negative results even after Imran Khan took the field for the match against India in Sydney as Pakistan lost by 43 runs.

But the Oxford-educated debonair cricketer believed that Pakistan had the wherewithal to bounce back even after three defeats in four matches. The third defeat was against South Africa at the ’Gabba, Brisbane, where Jonty ‘flying’ Rhodes produced the match-turning run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq (48) with an under-arm flick at the stumps from square point. Chasing 212, Pakistan’s target got revised to 194 off 36 overs following a rain-spell at 74 for two in the 22nd over.

The asking rate increased from five to eight and Inzamam and Imran Khan responded by scoring 61 from nine overs before Rhodes’ acrobatic display took the centre stage and eventually led to South Africa’s win by 20 runs.

Pakistan batsman Inzamamul-Haq swings Dipak Patel for a six in the semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland on March 21, 1992.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Pakistan’s fortunes turned around with two victories in Perth — against Australia and Sri Lanka — and from thereon it did not falter as the team went on to win the Cup. Travelling across the Tasman Sea, Wasim Akram (four for 32) and Rameez Raja (119 not out) plotted a seven-wicket win against the till then unbeaten New Zealand on a helpful wicket at Christchurch; a result that enabled Pakistan to feature in the business end of the competition.

The most admirable part of its campaign was when Pakistan successfully chased New Zealand’s 262 in the semi-finals. John Wright skippered New Zealand in the absence of an injured Martin Crowe, who had been run out after making 91.

Inzamam-ul-Haq swung the game Pakistan’s way with a 37-ball 60, one of the highlights of the competition.

New Zealand’s splendid display at home was another outstanding feature of the competition, before it was outsmarted by Pakistan in two consecutive matches.

The final was an Imran Khan show; he promoted himself to No. 3, made 72 and helped Miandad and Inzamam score around him. In the second half Imran Khan marshalled his resources adroitly; pacemen Akram and Aaqib Javed and leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed played their part as Pakistan went on to beat England by 22 runs.

England was quite lucky to enter the final at the expense of South Africa which was undone by a bizarre rain-rule that eventually set it a target of 22 runs off one ball from a previous 22 off 13 balls and then 22 off 7 balls. Around 35,000 spectators at the SCG were witness to a game ruined by an absurd rule.

Imran, Pakistan’s winning captain, said after the final: “I was thankful to the Almighty that I was able to leave cricket with dignity. It is a blessing that has been denied to greater cricketers than myself.’’