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Cricket World Cup History

Origins

The precise origins of cricket, and even of its name, remain unclear. Some manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries show diagrams of early forms of cricket. The Royal Wardrobe accounts for 1299-1300 report that 6 was paid out for the 15-year old Prince Edward to play creag and other games, though there is no evidence that this creag was a form of cricket. Certainly little was heard of the game for the next 300 years. Nor is there any record of any commercial interest in the game from innkeepers or other entrepreneurs. Cricket, if it was played at all, was not of sufficient popularity or disruptive enough to be subject to a specific prohibition, although some club and ball games were banned in England. For example, a statute of King Edward IV in 14778 (17 Edw. IV. c. 3) made the playing of Hands in and hands out illegal because it interfered with the compulsory practice of archery.

In 1598 there was a dispute over a school's ownership of a plot of land in which a 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friend had played "creckett" at the site fifty years earlier. This is generally considered to be the first mention of cricket in the English language - the school was the Royal Grammar School, Guildford. In the same year John Florio, in his Italian-English dictionary defined the verb sgillare as "to make a noise as a cricket, to play cricket-a-wicket, and be merry".

The game was mostly a child's game. The first reference to it being played as an adult sport was in 1611, when two men were prosecuted for playing cricket instead of going to church. There are other mentions of cricket prosecutions in the years that followed, as cricket slowly emerged from just being played by children to being played by adults for money. In 1646 an organised game for a bet of a dozen candles gave rise to a lawsuit.

After the English Civil War, which ended in 1648, the new Puritan government clamped down on unlawful assemblies, in particular the more raucous sports such as football. Also, laws meant there needed to be a stricter observance of the Sabbath than there previously was. As the Sabbath was the only time the lower classes had, cricket's popularity waned. However, it did flourish in the public fee-paying school such as Winchester and St Paul's.

Cricket gained in popularity as a betting game, with the only problems arising as a result of gaming laws that declared made bets greater than 100, and later 10 illegal. In 1748, a London magistrate accepted that cricket is a "manly game" that was not bad in itself, but condemned its "ill use" by betting above the 10 legal limit. All the law did, however, was to force the bets to be for "eleven pairs of gloves" or "eleven velvet caps". These sound innocuous enough, but in reality would be very valuable items.

First-class cricket is said to have started in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

One-day matches and the World Cup

The first one-day international match took place in Melbourne in 1971, as a time-filler after a Test match had been abandoned because of heavy rain on the opening days. It was tried simply as an experiment and to give the players some exercise, but turned out to be immensely popular. One-day internationals have since grown to become the most popular form of the game.

One-day internationals proved so popular so quickly that the International Cricket Council organised the first Cricket World Cup in 1975, pitting all the Test nations against one another in a series of one-day games, hosted in England. The West Indies beat Australia in a thrilling final that cemented the popularity of the short form of cricket and led to World Cups being held every four years.

World Series Cricket

The cricket world underwent a major upheaval in the years 1977-1979, precipitated by a single man, Kerry Packer. The conditions of poor player working conditions and remuneration were ripe for Packer to sign some of the best players in the world to a privately run cricket league, outside the structure of international cricket.

World Series Cricket hired some of the banned South African players and allowed them to show off their skills in an international forum, against other world-class players. Both rebel test matches (known as 'Supertests') and one-day international matches were played. Barry Richards performed particularly impressively, and cricket fans began to realise just what they were missing out on with South Africa banned from officially sanctioned cricket.

By 1979, the schism in world cricket had been removed and the "rebel" players were allowed back into the establishment of international cricket, though the Supertests and one-day matches have never been granted official status. The fallout of World Series Cricket included the introduction of significantly higher player salaries, as well as bringing the innovations of coloured uniforms and night games into the mainstream.

The 1970s and 1980s

In the late 1970s and 1980s the West Indies were universally feared and respected thanks to a fine combination of terrifying fast bowlers (such as Michael Holding, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Malcolm Marshall) and powerful batsmen (such as Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Gordon Greenidge). Although there was no official test championship at the time, they were widely regarded as being 'world champions' and famously 'blackwashed' England by beating them 5-0 in two five match series.

New test nations

On February 17, 1982, Sri Lanka played England in its first Test at P. Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo, in Sri Lanka. On October 18, 1992, Zimbabwe played its first Test match against India at the Harare Sports Club, Harare, Zimbabwe. Bangladesh played India in its first Test on 10 November 2000.

Twenty-first century

In June 2001 the ICC introduced a 'test championship table', and in October 2002 a 'one-day international championship table'. Australia has topped both these tables since they were published, apart from January to May 2003 when it was topped by South Africa, but this was only because South Africa had gained maximum points from playing the weakest two nations, whereas Australia had not played them.

Cricket remains a major world sport and is the most popular spectator sport in the Indian subcontinent, which gives the Asian cricketing nations a lot of political clout in the ICC. The ICC has expanded its Development Program with the goal of producing more national teams capable of competing at Test level. Development efforts are focused on African and Asian nations, and the United States. In 2004, the ICC Intercontinental Cup brought first class cricket to 12 nations, mostly for the first time.


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