The 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup is best remembered for two things: the emergence of Imran Khan-led Pakistan as world conquerors and the introduction of coloured clothing on the cricketing world’s biggest stage.
But the ‘Benson and Hedges World Cup’ also started a trend which has so far lasted over two decades and six different editions of the World Cup.
Beginning 1992, every World Cup final has witnessed an Asian team in action.
In 1992 Pakistan took on England at the MCG, in 1996 Sri Lanka’s claimed their first World Cup title by defeating Australia in the final held at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
Australia then won three consecutive world titles, starting in 1999, under the leadership of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. During those days the Aussies were an unstoppable lot comprising an ably balanced squad with Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Michael Bevan, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.
As the ICC World Cup travelled across three continents between 1999 and 2007, two things remained constant. The first one was obviously the Aussies’ winning streak, the second was Asian opposition in the final.
At Lord’s in 1999, Australia registered a convincing eight-wicket victory over Pakistan. India were defeated by 125 runs in the final at Wanderers in Johannesburg in 2003, and Sri Lanka lost in 2007 by 35 runs, enabling Australia to grab the first World Cup held in the West Indies.
These victories will forever remind us of the greatness of the Australian players of that era. Their legacy stands as strong as those who brought pride to the Caribbean by bagging the two inaugural World Cup trophies in 1975 and 1979.
What went unnoticed amidst these triumphs was the manner in which the Asians continued to challenge Australian hegemony despite the three continental giants failing to even put forth a fierce contest in the finals.
But when the World Cup came to the Indian sub-continent in 2011, it was truly Asia’s time. The final, held at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, not only led to the fulfilment of the boyhood dream of cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar but for the first time ever, the cricket world saw an All-Asian final – India versus Sri Lanka!
The previous six World Cups are testimony to the fact that cricket has become an Asian sport, so it does not come as a surprise that an Asian team knocked out the very pioneers of the ‘gentleman’s game’.
By defeating England in the crucial World Cup tie at Adelaide, Bangladesh proved that cricket has truly emerged as an egalitarian sport. A game which is viewed by many as a colonial legacy of the imperial times is being dominated not by the colonialists but by the colonies – Australia included.
Three Asian teams have already booked their place in the quarter-finals, but what remains to be seen is whether another Asian team will make the final.
More importantly, will an Asian squad lift the trophy as India did four years? Will Australia register a record-breaking fifth title, or will the Kiwis or Proteas get a shot at their first?
(This article was originally published in The Roar.)