Cricket World Cup has been evolving since its inception in 1975. Eight countries -6 Test playing teams- Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan – West Indies and two Associate teams( Sri Lanka and East Africa) took part in the first edition. The preliminary matches were played in two groups of four teams each. The top two teams from each group then played the knock-out rounds of semi-finals and final. The matches were played as 60 overs per team in traditional white clothing and with red balls. In the second edition in 1979 the same forma was applied but this time, the World Cup saw the introduction of the ICC Trophy competition to select non-Test playing teams for the World Cup, with Sri Lanka and Canada qualifying. West Indies won a second consecutive World Cup tournament, defeating the hosts, England, by 92 runs in the final.
The 1983 event was hosted by England for a third consecutive time. By this time, Sri Lanka had become a Test-playing nation, and Zimbabwe qualified through the ICC Trophy. There were few changes in the playing conditions .A fielding circle was introduced, 30 yards away from the stumps. Four fieldsmen needed to be inside it at all times. The preliminary matches were played in two groups of four teams each, and each country played the others in its group twice. The top two teams in each group qualified for the semi-finals.
Indiarstuned the West Indies by 43 runs to win the cup The fourth edition of the Cup was held in India and Pakistan . Matches were reduced to 50 overs each side Australia won the tournament beating England by 7 runs in the most closely fought final to date in the Eden Gardens stadium in Calcutta. India and Pakistan lost in the semi finals. From this edition, it became a tradition that the tournament was seen hosted by two or more than two nations. The fifth edition of the event was held in Australia and New Zealand in 1992. and for the first time it featured coloured clothing, white cricket balls and black sightscreens with a number of matches being played under floodlights. It was also the first World Cup to include the South Africa national cricket team, which had been allowed to re-join the ICC as a Test-playing nation after the end of apartheid. The format was changed from previous tournaments in that a complete round robin replaced the use of two qualifying groups. The initial draw was released with eight competing countries and 28 round robin matches. In late 1991, South Africa were re-admitted to the ICC and the draw was amended to include them. The revised draw included 36 round robin matches plus the two semi-finals and the final. The rule for calculating the target score for the team batting second in rain-affected matches was also changed. The previous rule simply multiplied the run rate of the team batting first by the number of overs available to the team batting second. This rule was deemed to be too much in favour of the team batting second. In an attempt to rectify this, the target score would now be calculated by the ”highest scoring overs” formula. The 1996 Cricket World Cup was the sixth edition of the tournament and it was the second tournament to be hosted by India and Pakistan, and for the first time by Sri Lanka. India hosted 17 matches at 17 different venues, while Pakistan hosted 14 matches at 6 venues and Sri Lanka hosted 6 matches at 3 venues.
Three teams made their World Cup debuts in this year: the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands and Kenya. Zimbabwe also became the Test playing nation this year. The 1999 mega sports spectacle, the seventh edition of the tournament, was hosted primarily by England, but Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Netherlands also hosted some games. Again 12 teams participated in the event but this time Bangladesh, Kenya and Scotland were the ICC Trophy Qualifiers.
The format of the world cup was as follows: The 12 contestants were divided into 2 groups, in each of which teams played each other in the league stage. The top three from each group advanced to the Super Sixes, a new concept brought about in this World Cup, where each qualifier from group A played with each qualifier from group B. The teams also carried forward their points from games against each qualifier from their group. The top four in the Super Sixes contested the semifinals. The eighth edition (2003) of the tournament was played in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
The tournament featured 14 teams (Test and ODI teams- Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe – and ICC Trophy Qualifiers-Canada, Namibia, Netherlands) and 54 matches, the most in the tournament history up to that time. The tournament followed the same format introduced in the previous World Cup.
In the first round, they were divided into two groups of 7 teams. The top three from each group qualified for the ”Super Six”, carrying forward the results they had achieved against other qualifiers from their group into the Super Six round. The top four
teams in the Super Six round qualified for the semi-finals, and the winners of those matches played the final. The top three teams from each pool qualify for the next stage carrying forward the points already scored against fellow qualifiers, plus one-fourth of the points scored against the teams that failed to qualify.
In the 2007 World Cup in West Indies- a total of 51 matches played, three fewer than at the 2003 event despite two extra teams. To make it big this time, the ICC decided to invited all the six Associated teams, who play ODIs, to compete with the ten Test playing nations. The 16 competing teams (South Africa, Bangladesh, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Kenya, Pakistan, Scotland, India, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Ireland, England, Canada, West Indies, Bermuda) were initially divided into four groups, with the two best-performing teams from each group moving on to a ”Super 8” format.
It led to many inconsequential matches and also the early exit of India and Pakistan saw dip in the fans interests
of popularity of the tournament. To avoid such a situation in subsequent World Cups, the ICC decided to decrease the number of teams to 14 for this year’s World Cup. Australia, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, West Indies, Bangladesh (Hosts), India (Hosts), Pakistan, Sri Lanka (Hosts), Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and Netherlands are the fourteen teams participating in the tournament.
As per ICC regulations, all 10 full members automatically qualify for the World Cup, including Zimbabwe who have given up their Test playing status until the standard of their team improves. The ICC also organised a qualifying tournament in South Africa to
determine which associate teams would participate in 2011 event. Ireland, who had been the best performing Associate nation since the last World Cup, won the tournament, beating Canada in the final. The Netherlands and Kenya also qualified by virtue of finishing third and fourth respectively. The first round of the World Cup will be a round-robin in which the 14 teams are divided into 2 groups of 7 teams each. The 7 teams play each other once with the top 4 from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals. The format ensures that each team gets to play a minimum of 6 matches even if they are ruled out of the tournament
due to early defeats.
If the host nations reached the quarterfinals, they will play their matches in their own countries even if the match was
originally scheduled to be held somewhere else. If two host nations come face to face in the quarterfinals, the
team with the higher seeding in the tournament will be given preference and match will be held in their home ground. The final will be held in Mumbai .
By Harpal Singh Bedi