When one-day cricket was frowned upon

TED CORBETT

The World Cup stays with the West Indies and both the victor and the vanquished — England — stand on the Lord's balcony after the 1979 final.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

IT'S only a quarter of a century ago but dinosaurs walked the earth. One-day cricket was unrecognisable as the fast and furious, highly-charged, carefully selected, tactically aware game of today. Twenty-five years ago one-day internationals were played by the Test cricketers whether they were the right men for a limited overs game or not.

Test captains, by and large led the men who played under them in the Tests. One-day cricket was regarded as a shorter form of the international game that began in 1877. The tactical revolution, led by Sri Lanka in batting and Australia in bowling, did not begin for another 15 years.

Imagine a modern coach confronted with the players who formed the England — or the Australian or Indian — teams for the first two World Cups. Sedate batting, line and length medium pace the preferred option, casual fielding.

I know John Wright, just as one example, has not much left, but he would have torn out all his hair.

Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley are no dashers and their century opening stand did England more harm than good in the 1979 final.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

England's opening partners in 1979 were, if you please, Geoff Boycott, who has been described as everything from "the greatest defensive batsman of the modern era" to "a snail driving on disc brakes", and Mike Brearley, a weakling in white clothing. Neither of them were great fielders either.

Boycott averaged 36 over 36 matches which is still a respectable one-day figure but his rate of scoring was an unbelievable 53.59 every 100 balls. Brearley, averaging only 24.24, might have been forgiven if his scoring rate had been higher than 45.54.

His captaincy was interesting and thoughtful as always. He once made his wicket-keeper David Bairstow go right back to the boundary. Very daring, it was said at the time.

Comparisons between Boycott and Brearley and the modern giants — just take two at random like Matthew Hayden and Virender Sehwag — makes you burst out laughing. Hayden gallops along at 75 runs for each 100 balls and Sehwag sprints faster than Superman at 105.11.

Don't blame the players of that era or scoff at their poor figures. The game was in its infancy, the techniques were based on everyday Test and provincial methods and there was, in England in particular, a resentment of the way one-day cricket had sneaked in by the back door during the 1970-1 Ashes series.

Many high officials at Lord's sneered at what they regarded as a poor relation of Test cricket and England played only a handful of games a year right through to the 1990s.

Players called it "slap and tickle" and one England captain after another would say: "Who remembers a one-day match the morning after?" The coaches of the day — and there were not too many of those — spent their time trying to stop players spoiling their orthodox strokes by guiding the ball through the slips.

In England, in particular, it was regarded as a way of making money, of perhaps bringing in youngsters who would, when they grew up, naturally migrate to Test cricket. It was also a pleasant way of passing 80 overs on a Sunday afternoon.

Deryck Murray (above) and Andy Roberts (below) pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for West Indies against Pakistan in 1975. Their ninth-wicket stand of 37 gave West Indies a victory by one wicket with two balls left.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

But, remember, we are talking about a completely different world, still imbued with ideas of what was right and proper; almost Victorian in comparison with today's flippant, 21st century outlook.

Of course cricket has always been proper, not to say snobbish and that element remained.

There was a furious argument in the early 1970s about the way some cricketers were wearing trousers without turn-ups which was seen as a social gaffe of the worst sort. One county club used to refer to its players as "servants of the club" in official documents. Wages, pre-Packer, were ridiculously low.

Life inside cricket and beyond its boundaries was conducted without computers — the Press Boxes demanded complete silence save for the clatter of typewriters which were still seen as a modern intrusion — and no woman was allowed to set foot in the Long Room at Lord's or the pavilion at Old Trafford, unless it was to clean up or serve food. The Cricket Writers' Club would not let their own treasurer — the scorer Wendy Wimbush — go to their annual dinner.

Satellite television was a dream in the future, a CD was an act of civil disobedience and only the rich drank wine with dinner. Strikes were commonplace, England was a land where you might walk into an IRA bomb and fitness and diet were a mystery inside and outside the game. As for the sub-continent, it was alive with illness until bottled water took the risk out of touring altogether.

"Thank God I have never introduced a quotation from a player into anything I have written and I suggest that I never shall," said the doyen of cricket writers E. W. Swanton, pausing for approval in front of an audience of cricket writers who quoted players on a daily basis. That was in 1987: in 1975, as the first World Cup got underway, "Jim" Swanton demanded that anyone less than half his age call him "Mr. Swanton."

Looking back it is a miracle that the first World Cup ever got off the ground. It was played over 60 overs between England, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and East Africa in two leagues. The top two went into the semi-finals. No South Africa, the apartheid pariahs of world cricket at the time; Sri Lanka and East Africa took part as non-Test-playing nations.

There was only ever going to be one winner. The West Indies were a great side in embryo in 1975 and by 1979 they were formidable; powered by fast bowling that is still talked about with admiration and fear, led by the soft-voiced, hard-edged Clive Lloyd and with runs inspired by the whirling bats of Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards.

In the first World Cup they had this line-up for the final: Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Keith Boyce, Bernard Julien, Deryck Murray, Vanburn Holder and Andy Roberts. Australia had: Rick McCosker, Alan Turner, Ian Chappell, Greg Chappell, Doug Walters, Rod Marsh, Ross Edwards, Gary Gilmour, Max Walker, Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee.

Dickie Bird, already making a reputation as the finest umpire in the world, stood for the first over and as Dennis Lillee stood breathing deeply at the pavilion end, waved his arm in a dramatic gesture and said: "Let's play."

Even today that match is a mouth-watering prospect but when that final began at Lord's as the 15th match of the series it seemed to some to be the epitome of one-day cricket. Others, sitting in the pavilion in their MCC ties, regretting the decision to allow the professional game to slip out of their hands; or members at home who had refused to watch as if it was some invention of the devil, were not so impressed.

West Indies had begun the tournament by bowling out Sri Lanka for 86 for a nine-wicket win while Lillee gave Australia victory over Pakistan with five wickets in his full 12 overs for 34 after the Aussies had made 278 for seven.

England made 334 off India which brought the most extraordinary reaction from Sunny Gavaskar. He batted the full 60 overs for 36 off 174 balls. No sensible explanation of that innings has ever been produced but limited overs cricket often produced temperamental off-shoots.

It seemed to bring a feeling that there was something dishonest about any new tactics; just as Greg Chappell's order to his brother Trevor to bowl a grubber at the end of a New Zealand innings did later.

East Africa could manage only 128 for eight in their 60 overs after New Zealand had made 309 for five, Andy Roberts and Deryck Murray had a ninth wicket stand of 37 as West Indies beat Pakistan by one wicket with two balls left, Australia beat Sri Lanka by only 52 runs despite scoring 328, and Tony Greig bowled out New Zealand for 186 after England had made 266.

By now England were the favourites on their own pitches and with a longer experience of the one-day county game than any other country could match although when West Indies beat Australia at the Oval in match No. 9 it was clear that they presented a big challenge.

The first semi-final between England and Australia at Headingley produced the most sensational spell of bowling from the left-arm swinger Gary Gilmour who took six for 14 in his 12 overs.

Typical Headingley! The ball moved every which way, the England batsmen could not lay a bat on the ball — wides were nothing like as severely dealt with in those days — and Gilmour was at the peak of his career.

West Indies won the second semi-final against Pakistan by five wickets and Clive Lloyd's lazy hitting gave them 291 in the final so that they beat Australia by 17 runs after the tail-enders took Australia much closer than their early batting suggested.

Four years later the pattern was totally different. Canada and Sri Lanka were the teams from beyond the Test boundary but West Indies, hardened by defeat in Australia in 1975-6, had turned from a team of Fancy Dans to a side determined such humiliation would never come their way again.

Imagine: Gordon Greenidge, Des Haynes, Viv Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Clive Lloyd, Collis King, Deryck Murray, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Colin Croft. Isn't it just the greatest combination you can imagine? Who cares that Lloyd could say: "We tried spinners but they never won a match."

They were The Invincibles whatever the Australians say about the 1948 side in England.

In June 1979 they beat India by nine wickets, New Zealand by 32 runs and Pakistan by 43 runs — Javed Miandad was out lbw to Croft for nought and that did not happen very often — to reach the final against England.

England were a tasty side too: Brearley, Boycott, Derek Randall, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Ian Botham, Wayne Larkins, Phil Edmonds, Chris Old, Bob Taylor and Mike Hendrick.

Not too surprisingly, Boycott and Brearley got bogged down as they chased 286 — the Richards 138 not out and Collis King 86 — and at 183 for two wickets fell rapidly until, with nine overs to spare, they were all out 194.

The first two trophies had gone to the right team and even as Clive Lloyd led his men round Lord's to show the trophy to the frantic supporters in the home of cricket — to the horror of the old brigade — there was no reason to think it was not only their second win but, 23 years later, their most recent.

We will see what happened when they defended their World Cup trophy another four years on next week.

By that time the dinosaurs had disappeared but the crowd behaviour was shocking, the results were a surprise and the final was sensational.