One’s cricketing senses detected something in the wind approximately eighteen months or so from the present day. The occasional tweet from a certain author hinted at a particular subject matter that he may well have been writing about, especially as certain names, players and matches were referenced. Soon confirmation that this writing was for a book and one became all but certain that a much hoped for subject matter was indeed the basis for this book: the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
As highlighted in a previous blog piece https://yahooovercowcorner.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/rubicon/ the fifth Cricket World Cup is very much this blogger’s favourite and one that engenders much reminiscing and fondness. Now someone had taken the time and effort to compile and account and the prospect of this tome provoked much excitement and anticipation. Not only would the book provide the opportunity for some personal reminiscing regarding the tournament but would also add some flesh to the bones of one’s memory due to one’s personal recollections being compromised by the limitations and understanding of an twelve year old boy’s mind.
Thus, one waited with the clichéd baited breath for Jonathan Northall’s tome Ruling the World to be released so that the joys of the fifth World Cup could be relived. Of course, the danger with such tomes is that the text becomes little more than a chronological tale of the matches, a sort of glorified encyclopaedia, but Ruling the World includes a wealth of information and tidbits that provide plenty of flesh to the bones of wins and losses. Indeed, a couple of such nuggets are proffered in the introductory chapters as Northall highlights that the ICC initially rejected South Africa’s inclusion in the competition whilst the continued presence of said country after the final group game was dependent on a referendum for reform in South Africa returning a positive result.
On the playing front the early chapters offer similar vignettes such as Zimbabwe’s Andy Waller striking a six out of the confines of the bijoux Pukekura Park into a nearby duck pond, an aerobics troupe and a group of dancing Indian players at Mackay entertaining the crowd whilst a helicopter was employed in an attempt to dry the wet outfield. Equally intriguing was Sky Sports scrabbling around for a production crew for the England match against Sri Lanka in Ballarat as Channel Nine were not covering the match.
Northall also includes interesting insights both from supporters and comparative targets in rain effected matches re-calculated by using the Duckworth-Lewis and DLS methods. The latter proved particularly fascinating in demonstrating the skewed nature of the MPO method used at the time whilst the former offered different perspectives to the matches; Jason Stewart’s eloquent description of Martin Crowe walking to the crease a personal favourite.
Published in an era when scoring at a run a ball is viewed as pedestrian, the reader has to temporarily re-wire the brain to fully appreciate the lower scoring rates and winning totals that were effective almost thirty years previous. Another aspect of cricket from a bygone era was the small amount of kit afforded to each player; little more than a couple of shirts, trousers, sleeveless sweaters, pads, cap and helmet.
Naturally many of the tournament’s old favourites are covered with aplomb; famous moments such as Martin Crowe using spin to open the bowling and medium pace to great effect, the famous kits, Jonty Rhodes’ diving run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ian Botham’s four wickets in seven deliveries against Australia and matches at upstate venues such as Ballarat, Albury and Berri in Australia, New Plymouth in New Zealand.
In many respects, the tournament very much represented a time of change and that sense arguably extended to the personnel themselves as it would prove the last World Cup for a litany of greats including Allan Border, Graham Gooch, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Martin Crowe. The winds of change were evident in new tactics such as pinch-hitting, employed to great effect by New Zealand with Mark Greatbatch although the left-hander was only promoted to the role after an injury to John Wright.
Almost inevitably, the intriguing gems become a little rarer once the reader reaches the familiarity of the knock-out stages; the brilliant riposte from Inzamam, the rain farce in Sydney and the triumph of Pakistan’s cornered tigers arguably the most famous acts of the whole tournament. However, Northall includes an interesting epilogue to the text at large courtesy of information of the competition’s official report.
Almost thirty years on from the tournament itself the publishing of Jonathan Northall’s account was met with much joy and anticipation within certain sections of social media. Undoubtedly there remains much fondness and nostalgia regarding the fifth World Cup to the point where one ponders whether any other edition before or after the event in the Antipodes has achieved such levels of popularity.