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Cricket World Cup:
Domination is the Name of the Game

W. G. Grace (1848 - 1915)
W. G. Grace at the Wicket
by Archibald Stuart-Wortley, 1890
Oil on canvas, 1220 x 864 mm
Marylebone Cricket Club

By Adrian Porter

LONDON, 14 May 1999
- One of the favourite jibes about cricket (made by those who don't understand its arcane complexities) is that it's a game played by twenty-two men, divided into two teams, all dressed in white clothes, who can play for as many as five days at a time - often interrupted by rain - and still finish up with a draw at the end of it all.

Traditionalists like myself - still believe that the old style cricket still represents the true art of the game but modern thinking demands fast moving action and a quick result.

So, to please and attract today's spectators, the administrators and professional players devised what is called the "limited overs" or "one-day" game. This guarantees a win - or even an exciting tie - after seven hours' play.

This break with tradition went further by abandoning white shirts and flannels and dressing the players in gaudily coloured uniforms. Thus, "one-day" cricket has become known as the "pyjama game".

It has proved so popular that teams representing virtually every cricket-playing country inthe world compete against each other regularly and the twelve of the best are invited to take part every three years in the summit of one-day cricket - the World Cup.

This year the tournament - the seventh to be played - is being held in England, the cradle of the game. As usual, the team of the host country will open the contest on Friday, May 14th, against the present cup holders, Sri Lanka. This game will take place at the headquarters of cricket, Lords ground in London.

For the following five weeks, the teams will play in a series of qualifying matches at grounds in cautious parts of England and there are games in Edinburgh and also Amsterdam where South Africa will play Kenya. This is both a sop and encouragement to Holland where improving standards of play may lead to a team from there taking part in the next World Cup.

So who's going to win the cup this year? The expert money is on South Africa which has one of the most cohesive teams in the tournament; superb in batting, bowling and fielding.

K. S. Ranjitsinhji (1872 - 1933)
K. S. Ranjitsinhji (1872 - 1933)
George W. Beldam, 1901
Michael Carr-Archer / George Beldam Collection

Closest rivals? Australia and Pakistan with India edging in. There's not much more than national loyalty behind England which has turned in some poor performances elsewhere in the case of horses for courses; with England having some advantage on playing on home pitches.

And talking of pitches (those 22 yard long stretches of grass where the batsmen and bowler come face to face); quite a number of games will depend on the luck that team captains will have in calling "heads" or "tails" correctly when the coin is tossed.

The received wisdom is that the team which wins the toss and decides to bowl in the conditions of a May morning in England will win the game. A this time of the year, the dew can remain on the grass up to noon and this allows the ball to move right or left off the pitch and to bounce awkwardly.

In such difficult conditions for batsmen, many a one-day game has been settled within a couple of hours with wickets toppling quickly while the grass is still wet.

So, for weaker teams like Bangladesh, Kenya and Scotland, the prosepects of remaining in the tournament for more than a couple of weeks are bleak.

Even more established sides like the West Indies, New Zealand and Zimbabwe are facing challenges with some trepidation.

But cricket, like most sports, breeds strong characters and the World Cup teams have more than their fair share of them. Domination is the name of the game. Watch this space to see who dominates whom.

David Gower (b. 1957) cricket batsman
David Gower, England v. India, The Oval, 1990
Patrick Egar

Adrian Porter spent a working lifetime as a foreign correspondent for the BBC and other news organisations in various parts of the world. As a cricket fanatic, he managed to find time to play the game in such unlikely places as Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Singapore and New York. His latest venture was to help establish a cricket team in Strasbourg and looks forward to a team from France playing in the World Cup.

Photos courtesy The Book of British Sporting Heroes, compiled by James Huntingdon-Whiteley, published to accompany the exhibition, British Sporting Heroes, held at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 16 October 1998 to 24 January 1999, and available at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London WC2H 0HE

Read Adrian Porter's weekly articles on the Cricket World Cup

Results of 1st Week: A Commonwealth Row and High Tech Foul Up Cricketing Traditions
Results of 2nd Week: Umpires Upset Bookmakers With Excessive Wide Balls

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