Cricket the way it used to be
Building up to next year’s Cricket World Cup, Sky Television is showing highlights from the 1992 tournament, played in Australia and New Zealand.
As TV3 presenter John Campbell might say, it’s been ‘‘fascinating’’.
New Zealand, billed as the young guns that season, were outstanding, winning seven successive matches but falling to Pakistan in unlikely circumstances in the semi-finals.
It’s hard to believe it was 22 years ago.
Watching the coverage through today’s eyes emphasises how much the one- day game has changed.
Few batsmen wore helmets and those who did favoured the open front, which offered the face no protection.
The New Zealand batting order seems comical in hindsight. In the opening match against Australia, with quick runs needed at the end of the innings, Chris Harris went in, followed by Ian Smith, with Chris Cairns, who became a mighty six-hitter, held back and hardly facing a ball.
Balls down the leg side were rarely wided.
Harris and Mark Greatbatch look absurdly young, with full heads of hair, unlike their chrome domes now.
There were very few sixes – in that game against Australia, New
obvious Zealand captain Martin Crowe made an unbeaten century, but hit no sixes.
The boundaries look dangerous. Rather than boundary ropes, there are hoardings, and players often crash into them.
The television coverage is extremely dated. For example, there is no hotspot, and the batsmen’s scoring charts are virtually meaningless because scoring strokes are depicted from both ends. However, the New Zealand commentators, such as John Morrison, Glenn Turner and Richard Hadlee, are much better than their counterparts today.
The crowd seems to invade the pitch at the drop of a hat, to salute not just a victory, but a 50 or a century.
The batting looks inhibited compared to today’s free hitters (bred on Twenty20 cricket), the spin bowling is ordinary and the fielding not as slick as today’s, though Harris was truly outstanding.
Scores were low. New Zealand made 248 against Australia, which Richie Benaud described as ‘‘ wonderful’’ and a ‘‘ terrific performance’’. On a ground as small as Eden Park, such a score would be inadequate today, but was good enough then to win comfortably, even against David Boon, Dean Jones, Allan Border, Mark and Steve Waugh and company.
Crowe was an innovative and clever captain that season.
With 456 runs at an average of 114, he was the player of the tournament. Andrew Jones scored 322 runs, Greatbatch 313 and Ken Rutherford 212. They were so good the lower order was hardly needed.
The New Zealand bowling revolved around spinner Dipak Patel, medium- pacers Harris, Gavin Larsen, Rod Latham and (slightly quicker) Willie Watson. Fast bowlers Danny Morrison and Cairns each played in only five of New Zealand’s nine matches and did not bowl all their allotted overs.
They’ve gone different ways since. Crowe is fighting cancer now, Watson has nothing to do with cricket, and others pop up on the cricket scene from time to time.
The next World Cup is from February 14 till March 29, 2015. If it’s half as good as the 1992 version, cricket fans are in for a treat.
Top form: Martin Crowe batting against Pakistan during the 1992 World Cup.