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Captains need to be more thoughtful

By Sir Richard Hadlee
Last updated on: March 12, 2007 10:35 IST
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During my cricketing career I played in three World Cups, the inaugural World Cup in 1975, followed four years later in 1979 and again in 1983, all held in England.

For me, it was always a wonderful occasion having the world's best teams and players grouped together in one location to fight it out and be crowned World Champion.

In today's age of professionalism it is a highly anticipated event.

The first championship of cricket took place in England in 1912 when England, Australia and South Africa contested a series of three Tests. However, poor weather, a strong England team, a weak South Africa and an Australian team missing five key players, meant the tournament was a disaster.

The situation has certainly changed since then and in World Cups today.

One-day 50 over cricket is going through a high, the advent of a Twenty20 World Cup is imminent later in the year, and more teams are playing the game (16 in this tournament) with most teams guaranteed ten or more games.

The rules have changed with a series of power plays, requiring captains to be more thoughtful with tactics. Cricketing skills have advanced with big hitting batsmen clearing the boundary regularly and bowlers having subtler change ups in pace and variations.

The fielding standard is superb with teams being fitter than ever before and team scores are generally a lot higher than in previous years.

Most teams today have large support staff with specialist coaches, wonderful technology, trainers, physiotherapists and mental skills trainers (psychologists). There was none of that in my day. We had to do it all ourselves.

In 1975-1983, World Cup games were contested between eight teams, in two groups of four with matches being 60 overs a side. Bowlers could bowl a maximum of 12 overs. Today it is 50 overs a-team with a maximum of 10 overs per bowler.

The highlight of the 1975 World Cup was when all the teams assembled at Buckingham Palace for the official welcome and met the Queen. We all assembled on the steps going onto the back garden for an official team photo. It was a fantastic scene and feeling to be there with players who were legends of that era.

The first game I played in was New Zealand v East Africa at Edgbaston, Birmingham. As expected it was an easy win, but I had bowled my 12 overs and conceded only 10 runs, a World Cup record at the time for the most economical bowling performance.

Four days later India's Bishen Bedi went on to concede only 6 runs from his 12 overs against the same team to break my record.

World Cup history was made when a team fielded three brothers in the same match. In 1975, my brothers Barry, Dayle and I were part of the team which took on England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, only to be well beaten.

My first encounter with India was when we played at them Old Trafford, Manchester. India batted first and I got off to a good start catching Gavaskar off my brother Dayle for 12 and then I had Engineer LBW for 24 and Gaekwad caught for 37.

India was in serious trouble at 101 for six but Abid Ali (70) got his team to a respectable 230. Glenn Turner's 114 not out steered us to victory by four wickets with plenty of time to spare with Madan Lal conceding 62 runs from 4.5 overs.

In 1979 we played India at Headingley. It was a low scoring match in bowler friendly conditions with India bowled out for 182. I had Sunil Gavaskar dropped twice in the first over but he rode his luck and went on to score 56 until I had him caught by the 'keeper.

I had 2-20 from 10 overs but it could have been better. A sturdy opening partnership of 100 between John Wright (48) and Bruce Edgar (84*) ably supported by Glenn Turner (43*) ensured an easy win by eight wickets with three overs to spare – it was a well-paced innings.

The1983 tournament was India's moment of glory. The West Indies had been predicted to make it three World Cup titles in a row. The format changed and every team played each other twice within their groups, guaranteeing each team at least six games.

One of India's most important games was against Zimbabwe in the second round.  India was in serious trouble at 17-5. Who can forget Kapil Dev's magical 175 not out? It was that performance which kept India alive in the competition.

In a low scoring final, India made a meagre 183. Most people would have predicted an easy West Indian win but India defended magnificently to restrict them to 140.

No batsman scored a fifty and no bowler captured more than three wickets in the final. India were now World champions.

Twenty-four years on, the current Indian team will certainly be feeling under enormous pressure, with the high expectations of a passionate cricket-loving nation expecting them to return victorious.

(For the record – I played in 13 matches; took 22 wickets at 19.13 with an economy rate of 2.88 and a best bowling performance of 5/25 v Sri Lanka, although certainly could have done better with the bat!)

-- GE Features

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Sir Richard Hadlee