The History of World Cup Cricket is a nifty souvenir for cricket fans, tracing the tournament’s highlights from the inaugural edition in England in 1975 to the controversy-ridden precursor of the current edition in West Indies four years ago. Author James Alter’s style is breezy and quick, with a few nice anecdotes and a couple of lesser-known facts thrown in to keep the interest going. Each edition of the World Cup begins with a brief overview, written in a spare yet informative journalistic style (the author was a cricket journalist till recently), before going on to a few highlights of the key matches, a first-person account by a cricketer or a cricket official involved in that tournament, and a summary of the results.
The overviews offer some interesting facts—the first World Cup delivery was bowled by India’s Madan Lal to the Mumbai-born English opener John Jameson; organizers collected £188,598 (around R1.4 crore now) in ticket money in 1975, which almost doubled to £359,700 in 1979, but it’s the first-person accounts that add value to what is otherwise not very different from a compilation of Wikipedia entries.
English umpire Dickie Bird, who officiated in the 1975, 1979 and 1983 finals, writes a hilarious account of the 1975 final, where he arrived at the Lord’s grounds at 7.30 in the morning, and drove back home at 10pm in the night. Bird describes the chaotic crowd invasions towards the end of the match, where spectators spilled on to the grounds twice thinking the match was over, with comic dexterity. “Again they poured onto the field like a mad mob and we all had to find cover,” Bird writes, describing the second invasion. “I was swatting people away and somebody even nicked my hat!”
Former Australian cricketer Geoff Marsh recalls an advertising banner in Mumbai that said “To lose patience is to lose the battle”. It became the “rallying charge” for the Australian team during their victorious 1987 campaign.
Former Australian opener Matthew Hayden says the best gift he got for his unbeaten 66-ball century in the 2007 World Cup (the fastest in the tournament’s history) was an honorary citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis, the Caribbean island-state where he played the innings.
The lovely full-page pictures that accompany the text, especially the rarer ones from 1975-87, also make this book an attractive acquisition for a cricket fan.