One trophy. Two groups of four teams each. Two associate members of the ICC. The tournament lasted two weeks.
That was the humble beginning of the ICC World Cup in 1975. It was breaking fresh ground as the sport was trying to go global. Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies were the test playing nations. Sri Lanka and East Africa (representing Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) were special invitees.
Teams were to play 60-over matches and wear white clothing, as was the practice during test matches.
As West Indies beat Australia in the final. It was the only World Cup in which no team from the Indian subcontinent reached the semi-final stage.
For the two-week long 1979 World Cup, West Indies were again the overwhelming favourites. East Africa was replaced by Canada while the seven other teams were the same. The two non-test playing countries – Sri Lanka and Canada were in separate groups and each team played three others in their group. England and West Indies clashed in the finals with the Caribbean team beating England comfortably.
Zimbabwe made their World Cup debut and Sri Lanka was given test status and automatically qualified to play the World Cup in 1983. The format for the tournament changed for the first time in 1983 when the four teams in each group were expected to play each other twice. The top two teams from both groups qualified for the semi-finals. All the matches were held during the day. India unexpectedly beat the West Indies to win the trophy.
In 1987, the World Cup was organised in India and Pakistan. Teams were to play 50-over games, and both the groups had four teams competing for a place in the semi-finals. Zimbabwe, again, was the associate member nation to join the other seven teams. The tournament also used a red ball and the players wore white clothing for the last time during World Cup matches. Australia beat England in a closely-contested game to win the trophy for the first time.
Coloured clothing, white ball
When the World Cup travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 1992, there was a sea change in the format and rules for the month-long tournament. The players wore coloured clothing. The bowlers had white balls in their hands. The sightscreen behind the bowlers’ arms was black. Several matches were also played in floodlights. South Africa had now been recognised as a test playing nation too. Pakistan emerged as the champion beating England in the finals.
The 1996 World Cup was hosted jointly by India, Pakistan & Sri Lanka. With South Africa and Zimbabwe as test playing nations, there were nine member countries now. Kenya, Netherlands and UAE joined them to be divided into two groups of six teams each. The top four teams from each group qualified for the knockout stage quarter final before Sri Lanka comfortably beat Australia in the final to win the trophy for the first time. It was a memorable moment for the fans.
The seventh edition of the World Cup returned to England in 1999. In addition to the nine test playing nations Bangladesh, Kenya and Scotland were also among those in the race. That made it 12 teams competing over 42 matches over five weeks. The three associate member nations were new to the World Cup and ready to make their mark. Netherlands and Scotland also hosted a match each. Australia won the trophy for the second time beating Pakistan in a one-sided final.
14 teams competed in 54 matches over six weeks for the ICC World Cup in 2003. It was the highest ever in the number of matches. The teams were divided into two groups and the top three qualified for the Super Sixes. Established teams like England, Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies were knocked out during the group stage and Australia won all their 11 matches to win the trophy for the third time, beating India comfortably.
The 2007 World Cup was held in the Caribbean. The number had teams had now swelled to 16 and 51 matches were played. Six associate nations – Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherland and Scotland – got to play before a global audience. Four groups of four teams each played against each other and two teams advanced into the Super Eight stage. Australia extended their winning streak to 29 matches as they won all the matches and the trophy.
For the third time, in 2011, the World Cup returned to India, Sri Lanka with Bangladesh as co-hosts for the first time. 14 teams were divided into two groups to play against each other. Canada, Ireland, Kenya and Netherland were the ICC Associate members who were part of the World Cup. The top four qualified for quarter finals. A specially-composed anthem in Bengali, Hindi and Sinhalese had fans excited for the matches. India beat Sri Lanka to win the trophy.
Australia and New Zealand hosted the World Cup again in 2015. 14 teams were competing again and ICC Associate Member nations Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and UAE were also part of the World Cup. The teams were divided into two groups and the top four from each group were to qualify for the quarter finals. ICC also decided that if there was a tie between two teams, a super over would be used as a decider. South Africa and India were beaten by New Zealand and Australia respectively for a place in the finals. Australia won the trophy for the fifth time.