It~~s West Indies again in 1979

Published: Monday, February 26, 2007, 20:47 [IST]
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Australian television tycoon Kerry Packer rocked the cricket establishment by luring top players to his World Series Cricket (WSC) in 1977 and the tremors were felt in the 1979 World Cup in England.

Runners-up Australia looked a pale shadow of their former selves as their Packer players were not considered for the tournament. A depleted side, led by Kim Hughes, expectedly failed to qualify for the semi-finals.

The West Indies adopted a practical "let bygones be bygones" approach, including not only their Packer players but also reinstating Clive Lloyd as captain.

The nucleus of the West Indies side remained unchanged as seven players who figured in the 1975 Cup were retained. Added to them were batsman Desmond Haynes and pacemen Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Michael Holding.

The fearsome pace attack, comprising Andy Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft, and an exciting array of stroke-makers in Viv Richards, Lloyd, Collis King and Gordon Greenidge helped the West Indies retain the Cup.

Cricketers still wore whites and the format remained the same as matches were 60-overs-a-side affairs completed on just five dates.

There were a few minor changes, like England replacing Australia as serious challengers to the West Indies and the ICC hosting a tournament for the first time for associate members to pick two qualifers -- Sri Lanka and Canada.

The West Indies, England, Pakistan and New Zealand qualified for the semi-finals. The only surprise was Sri Lanka's victory over India in a group match which was to help them gain Test status in early 1980s.

The semi-finals were keenly contested, with England beating New Zealand by nine runs at Old Trafford and the West Indies prevailing over a fighting Pakistan by 43 runs at the Oval.

The West Indies were in trouble at 99-4 in the final after being put in to bat by England skipper Mike Brearley, but were fortunate to find saviours in Richards and King who put on 139 for the fifth wicket.

King played the innings of his life, smashing 86 off 66 balls with three sixes and 10 fours. Richards hammered three sixes and 11 fours in his 157-ball 138 not out to ensure England chased a stiff 287-run target.

England's tactics left a lot to be desired. They had gone into the final with four front-line bowlers and their part-timers were hammered by King and Richards. Then, they batted as if playing in a Test match.

Openers Geoff Boycott and Brearley put on 129, but consumed more than half of the stipulated overs. The remaining batsmen found it difficult to keep pace with the required run-rate and England lost by 92 runs.

The last eight England wickets fell for 11 runs, with Garner emerging the wrecker-in-chief with 5-38 off 11 overs.

"The fast bowlers on our side were particularly grateful to the England team for their tactics during their innings," Garner was to write later.

"Given 287 to win from 60 overs, Brearley and Boycott started the innings as if they were playing in a five-day Test. I remember Croft telling me that he hoped neither of them would get out."

The West Indies skipper said the victory came at the right time.

"The 1979 World Cup victory was one which I felt meant even more than usual for West Indies cricket," said Lloyd.

"We had all gone through a difficult period and this was the perfect way to signal an end to the problems. West Indies cricket was now back on its feet again."

Lloyd was poised to complete a hat-trick in 1983 before being denied by Kapil's "Devils" from India in one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup.

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