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Cricket World Cup 1992: Novelty and upsets as Pakistan reign

Novelty and change marked the 1992 World Cup, staged jointly by Australia and New Zealand. Imran Khan led Pakistan to their maiden World Cup title, South Africa took part for the first time, and a series of fresh ideas were implemented in the format and rules but the new regulations for deciding rain-curtailed matches drew a lot of flak.

Imran Khan
Imran Khan

Novelty and change marked the 1992 World Cup, staged jointly by Australia and New Zealand. Imran Khan led Pakistan to their maiden World Cup title, South Africa took part for the first time, and a series of fresh ideas were implemented in the format and rules but the new regulations for deciding rain-curtailed matches drew a lot of flak.

South Africa, banned from international cricket due to the apartheid policy pursued by its government, were included as the ninth team after being re-admitted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) once the apartheid era ended.

While the World Cup caravan travelled to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time, it was only the second occasion that the competition was co-hosted.

The host of innovations in rules included use of two white balls from the two ends, coloured clothing for players, sightscreens behind the bowler and staging of matches under lights. Instead of the group matches in the previous tournaments, the round-robin format was introduced to decide the four semi-finalists.

The tournament saw some surprising results. Most of the pre-tournament favourites failed to make it even to the semi-finals. Defending champions Australia began with double losses, recovered to win four of their remaining six matches, but narrowly missed qualification. West Indies finished behind Australia on run rate, while a lacklustre India took the seventh spot.

Even eventual winners Pakistan were lucky to reach the knockouts. Bowled out for a pathetic 74 against England, Pakistan were staring at an inevitable defeat when the rain gods smiled at them. England needed to score 64 of 16 overs as per the rain rules, but had managed 24/1 when the match was abandoned as the leaden-eyed skies opened up again and Pakistan got a valuable point which helped them make it to the last four.

New Zealand proved to be the surprise pack. Skipper Martin Crowe led from the front, topping the scoring list with 456 runs to bag the Man-of-the-Series award. They adopted two unconventional strategies.

In batting, opener Mark Greatbatch was deployed as a pinch-hitter to take advantage of having more fielders inside the circle in the initial overs. Veering from the usual practice of utilising fast bowlers with the new ball, skipper Crowe opened the bowling with spinner Dipak Patel. Both the tactics succeeded and the Kiwis marched to the semi-final topping the round robin.

In the first semi-final, Crowe's 91 went in vain as Pakistan rode on young batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq's 37-ball 60 to finish with a four-wicket win.

The well-contested final saw Pakistan post 249/6 as Inzamam and pacer Wasim Akram played cameos after Imran and experienced batsman Javed Miandad laid the foundation with respective half-centuries, forging a century partnership. England lost early wickets, but middle-order batsmen Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb tried to repair the damage with a 72-run fifth wicket stand. But they lost three more wickets within a short time and the match was virtually decided then.

The 39-year-old Imran, playing his final international match, ended England's innings by taking the wicket of Ray Illingworth. Pakistan won by 22 runs, and Imran announced in the post match conference that the team will donate the prize money for building a cancer hospital in the name of his mother Shaukat Khanum. Akram, having scored 33 runs and taken three wickets was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match.

Infographic credits: Asibet.org

For India, it was a disastrous outing. They lost five matches and won two, while one was a no result. Indian team manager Abbas Ali Beg, however, put the blame on the travel and poor facilities.

"The travelling and the long tour hurt. It was really tiring and in some places facilities were not up to the mark," Beg said.

But still there were two positives. One was the win over arch-rivals Pakistan. But it was not without its share of controversies.

Miandad, trying to bring Pakistan out of a precarious position, was riled by constant vociferous appeals from Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More to disturb the batsmen. Miandad came out of the crease and thrice monkey jumped to mimick More's appealing.

Both players should have been held guilty of breaching the ICC code of conduct, but went unscathed. Surprisingly, neither the umpires, David Shepherd and Peter McConnell, nor the match referee Ted Wykes thought of punishing Miandad and More, simply because the language they had used was foreign to them.

Ted Wykes, the match referee, explained: "One of the big problems of the whole incident was that they were speaking not in English."

The other was the World Cup debut of then 18-year-old batting prodigy Sachin Tendulkar. He scored 283 runs, including three half-centuries, and was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match against Pakistan for his unbeaten 54.

But while giving the award to the teenager, former England captain David Gower remarked: "I first thought of giving the award to Miandad or More,or jointly to both, but it had to go to Tendulkar".

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