The 1987 World Cup in India and Pakistan
Australia win tight tournament
World Cup No. 4
Format As in 1983 but, due to the shorter daylight hours on the subcontinent, games were 50 overs per innings, not 60. There was an attempt to cheer up disappointed crowds by staging a third-place play-off between Pakistan and India, but the star players demanded too much cash.
Innovations The first World Cup to be held away from England was also the first to feature neutral umpires.
Early running India beat Australia to the top of Group A on superior run-rate, despite losing to them by one run in the closest match of the tournament. Zimbabwe didn't disgrace themselves, but still lost every match and gave New Zealand (without the unavailable Hadlee) their only victory. In Group B Pakistan cruised through, but England (without the uninterested Gower and Botham) only qualified after a bit of a scramble. West Indies failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time, despite their 191-run annihilation of Sri Lanka.
The semis The hometown script started to go wrong. On a dodgy Bombay pitch, Gooch spent most of his time down on one knee as he and Gatting swept up 117 in 19 overs. The resulting 254 was too much even for India's talented batting line-up. Meanwhile Border's boys, fired up by Zaheer Abbas calling them a bunch of club cricketers, outplayed glamorous Pakistan at Lahore. Despite a searching spell from Imran (3 for 36), Australia eventually reached 267 as Steve Waugh hit 18 from the final over. In reply Pakistan were in the mire at 38 for 3. Imran and Miandad hinted at revival but, after their departure, Pakistan just didn't have the firepower. Australia did, amd McDermott finished with 5 for 54, the best figures of the tournament.
The final We didn't know it at the time, but this was the start of Australia's march to world domination. They won the toss and, as most teams had done throughout the tournament, chose to bat first. In the days before pinch-hitters, Marsh and Boon's 52 in the first ten overs constituted a flyer, and the runs kept flowing as Boon top-scored with 75. But with Gatting in command, their 253 seemed very gettable, until the captain felt the need to reverse-sweep Border's first ball; it took the top edge, bounced off his shoulder, and was snapped up by Greg Dyer behind the stumps. England were struggling from then, and though Lamb shepherded the tail well and DeFreitas biffed the ball around, 17 from Craig McDermott's final over was practically impossible.
Last hurrah Gavaskar, having hit his first and only ODI ton against NZ, and averaged 50 in the tournament, made his last international appearance. Fittingly, it was at Bombay, his home ground. Imran announced the first of his many retirements - but went on to win in 1992. Viv Richards, playing in his fourth World Cup, bid an apt adieu with a tournament-record 181 against Sri Lanka.
First hurrah Sidhu and Moody made their ODI debuts in the same match: Sidhu finished the tournament averaging 55, Moody just 5. Phil Simmons made a couple of fifties and a sparkling 89 against Sri Lanka. Tim May and Andrew Jones rather dribbled onto the international scene.
Not to be forgotten Courtney Walsh, normally the most reliable of death bowlers, had a terrible time. Allan Lamb and Co. took 30 off his last two overs as England scraped a two-wicket win, then Pakistan's last-wicket pair needed 14 from one over to sneak home. Qadir hit a straight six, before Walsh sportingly opted to warn Salim Jaffer for backing up too far, rather than just run him out. When West Indies lost, he received a carpet from a grateful Karachi firm, and a carpeting from the media.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack report
If the rest of the Reliance Cup, as it was officially known and seldom called, could not quite live up to such a start, the experiment of an oriental World Cup was still acknowledged to have been a great success. The semi-finals in Lahore and Bombay held the sub-continent by the ears and eyes, even if they did not produce the results desired by the tens of millions who were following the matches on radio and television. The arrangements for the final, at Eden Gardens in Calcutta, were praised to the full by the winning Australian captain, and rightly.
Any drawbacks resulted from the geographical enormity of the two host countries and the determination of the Indo-Pakistan Joint Management Committee to spread the games around as many as 21 venues. It was the equivalent of staging a tournament in Europe, barring only the Soviet Union, without quite the same facility of transport and telecommunications. Fewer centres would have meant less travelling, a shorter and more compact competition – it took six weeks against less than a month for the 1983 World Cup – and increased enjoyment all round. For successive matches, the Sri Lankans were shunted from Peshawar, in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, to Kanpur in central India, back to Faisalabad, then across the border again to Pune: two-day journeys every time, with hours spent in transit lounges at airports waiting for flights.
Nevertheless, in circumstances which were perhaps more arduous than they need have been, the organisers did excellently. In return, the weather was kind to them. To all intents, only one match was affected by rain, when Australia and New Zealand were reduced to 30 overs each in Indore. (Happily, the rule that a match could not be carried over to its second day was never exposed in its absurdity.) Otherwise the matches were of 50 overs per side, and on good pitches totals similar to those in previous 60-over World Cups were raised. Viv Richards, and West Indies as a team, set up new records against Sri Lanka for World Cup innings.
If the umpiring was not of the very highest standard, its neutrality served to minimise grievances. Poor neutral umpiring, however, can never be a substitute for good umpiring, whether by home or neutral officials. The standard of scoring, it has to be recorded, was inadequate in many centres, done as it was by local scorers unfamiliar with visiting players, while the telegraph boards were not always kept up to date.
One especial virtue in staging the World Cup in India and Pakistan was that spin had a full part to play, whereas previous competitions in England had been dominated by repetitive seamers. Not one over of spin was risked in the 1975 final. Australia were untypical in that they usually allotted only ten overs to spin; the majority of teams fielded two spinners and benefited on the slow batting pitches that prevailed. In the qualifying rounds, seven of the nine most economical bowlers were spinners. That said, the leading wicket-takers were both fast bowlers, Craig McDermott equalling the World Cup record of eighteen and Imran Khan capturing seventeen in one match less.
Batsmen were not troubled by dew when batting first, as some had feared, but by the strain of batting second. Out of 27 matches, nineteen were won by the side batting first. The received wisdom had been to bowl first in one-day internationals and to determine the target. Now every side wanted to bat first, then watch the opposition – fatigued by three and a half hours’ fielding in the heat – make mistakes and panic as the run-rate climbed to 7 and 8 an over. The side batting first played the ball according to its merits; the side batting second seemed to play it according to the run-rate required.
In this context, Australia were fortunate to bat first in five of their six qualifying games, and to be able to do so again in their semi-final and final, on pitches which lost what bounce they had. This luck aside, they were still the team most deserving of victory: they appeared to put the most into the tournament – the sweat was dripping from the peaks of the batsmen’s caps when they warmed up in Madras – and they gained their first success of note since 1984. England, the runners-up, arrived with a specialist in tropical diseases and a microwave oven but with only three batsmen capable of scoring at a run a ball. They won whenever their bowlers were able to make up for the deficiencies in their batting.
Co-hosts India and Pakistan, as holders and favourites, had been expected to meet in the final but never met at all, not even in a hastily conceived third-place play-off match which fell through owing to the exorbitant demands of some players. Indeed, it was perhaps as well that their paths never crossed, for there were reports of communal conflict in India after the semi-final results. Pakistan blew hot too soon, winning their first five qualifying games, largely on the basis of some overwhelming bowling from Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir, only for their luck to turn in the semi-final.
In a sense, India handicapped themselves by playing in the weaker qualifying group, much as England had in 1979. In both cases the hosts qualified without having the weak links in their bowling exposed. India’s batting was collectively the most brilliant in the tournament but not always the most effective. The demands of their crowds for spectacular hitting, and enticing awards from a sponsor for every four and six they hit, cannot have been beneficial influences; likewise a never settled dispute which the senior Indian players had with their Board over insignia.
West Indies, in transition, missed their fast bowlers of experience. It is not inconceivable that Malcolm Marshall could have won the World Cup for them had he played. New Zealand, too, were in transition in the absence of Richard Hadlee. Sri Lanka, in the field, were utterly defensive, and confronted by mountainous totals their talented batsmen were crushed.
Like the Sri Lankans, the Zimbabweans returned home without a victory, but they gained many friends by their fielding – giving themselves as professionals never quite could – and many sympathisers by their naïve mistakes and run-outs. For sheer heroism, the innings of the World Cup was David Houghton’s 142 against New Zealand.
The Australians had the same keen, uncynical spirit as the Zimbabweans. They worked and worked as a team; and every follower of the game had to be pleased in some measure when, at the end of the Australians’ victory lap around Eden Gardens, Allan Border was raised on the shoulders of his team-mates and the gold Reliance Cup placed in his hands.