The triumphant South African team with the inaugural ICC Mini World Cup    Getty Images
The triumphant South African team with the inaugural ICC Mini World Cup Getty Images

November 1, 1998. West Indies kept the final of the first ICC Mini World Cup (later Champions Trophy) alive till 75 overs before Hansie Cronje and his men prevailed. The tournament, an ICC brainchild, turned out to be a grand success and spawned the possibilities of numerous others. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back.

It had started as an experiment by Jagmohan Dalmiya. The aim was to raise funds for development of cricket. There was nothing wrong with that. There was nothing wrong with the decision of letting a non-Test-playing nation to host it, either: if there was revenue to be earned, why not allow the boards that needed to be promoted the most?

The curious bit was the venue. They were torn between two venues. One of them had to be Sharjah Cricket Ground. Even at that point, Sharjah had hosted way more ODIs (132) than any other venue in the world (SCG and MCG, with 96 each, came next), so the choice was somewhat automatic.

The other choice was not that obvious: they chose Florida. One may think they wanted them at Lauderhill, where international matches would later be hosted, but no: Wisden reports suggest that ICC chose of all places Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando (yes, Disney World).

They later decided on Dhaka. It was the best possible option, since Bangladesh, though not a Test side at that point, had more than her share of enthusiastic fans. They were yet to play a World Cup, though they had already qualified for the next edition in 1999 thanks to a thriller of a final in the Qualifier.

The nine Test-playing nations were supposed to play in a knockout format. New Zealand and Zimbabwe would play the only pre-quarter-final, and the rest would follow. Including Bangladesh might have drawn more people, but ICC thought otherwise.

The eight matches were scheduled over nine days. While that may sound stressful, it was really not a problem, for no side had to play more than thrice (four times, had one of New Zealand or Zimbabwe made it). The only oddity seemed to be the fact that the second semi-final and final were scheduled on consecutive days making it unfair for one side. The late-October weather in Dhaka is also typically pleasant.

But the packed schedule also meant that there would be no reserve day. What if it rained? ICC decided to address it by relaxing the rules: instead of the 25-over-per-innings cut-off for a completed match (it is 20 currently), they decided to go with 10.

But even that was not foolproof. What if a match was rained out completely? What about ties?

ICC decided to introduce the bowl-out, a concept they would later implement in T20 cricket. As in football, five bowlers from each side would have a go at the stumps

But even then, all was not well. Bangladesh were hit by one of the worst floods in her history that year, covering over three-quarters of the nation, killing over a thousand people, and resulting in a financial loss amounting to BDT 142 billion.

The floods lasted until late September. There were even talks of shifting the entire event to nearby Calcutta (which would have killed the purpose of the tournament), but to their credit, Bangladesh rose to the challenge. The tournament went ahead as planned.

Wills sponsored the tournament. It was almost symbolic because Wills were the first to introduce cigarette cards. Wills cricket cigarette cards continue to remain collectables.

The arrangements were excellent despite the crisis. Because all the players were billeted in one (excellent) hotel, there was an Olympic village atmosphere that was to be sadly absent from the following year s World Cup, reported Wisden.

The first round

As if to set the tone of the tournament (ICC Knockout; ICC Mini World Cup; or Wills International Cup), New Zealand and Zimbabwe started off with a thriller. Alistair Campbell won the toss and scored a hundred at the top; Andy Flower waltzed away to an 80-ball 77; Zimbabwe finished on 258 for 7, and New Zealand were 32 for 2 in the 11th over.

However, a trend was set in the Zimbabwe innings one that would continue throughout the rest of the tournament. On a slow and low pitch, Chris Harris, Alex Tait (medium-pacer), Daniel Vettori, and Nathan Astle bowled 35 overs between them, taking 3 for 153.

It was an uphill task from there, what with Paul Strang and Andy Whittall sneaking in with tight spells, taking 2 for 74 from 18 overs between them. Campbell even got 4 cheap overs out of Murray Goodwin. He might have misread the pitch, for he had gone in with three fast bowlers.

However, Craig McMillan played a cameo; and Fleming (96) and Adam Parore (52) steadied the ship with a 126-run stand.

Then Zimbabwe struck back, removing both. New Zealand needed 43 from 20 balls when Parore fell. All seemed lost at that stage.

But Zimbabwe still had to contend with Harris, who went after Neil Johnson, taking 18 off the 48th over. The 49th went for 10. They needed another 12. That came down to 3 from 1 after an edged four by Tait, a no-ball, and a lot of panics.

And Harris calmly sealed things with a cover-driven four.

There is, however, a postscript. Harris was the obvious choice or the Man of the Match for his all-round show, but it went to Fleming. According to Wisden, Ravi Shastri, making the award of behalf of all the TV commentators, was allegedly unable to read the scrawled note.

The second round

The quarter-finals turned out to be dreary affairs. The pattern of slow bowlers continued. In their first match, South Africa opened the bowling with debutant Alan Dawson and Pat Symcox. Their only bowler with some pace was Jacques Kallis who was essentially on the side as a batsman. The trio was supported by Hansie Cronje, Mike Rindel (both batsmen who bowled), Nicky Boje, and Derek Crookes. True, there was no Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock (a last-minute withdrawal), or Lance Klusener, but they did leave out Makhaya Ntini and Steve Elworthy.

England had sent a side of limited-over specialists. They, too, loaded their side with slow bowlers Ian Austin, Mark Ealham, and Ashley Giles, with Graeme Hick and captain Adam Hollioake for support. Peter Martin was the only bowler with some pace.

England got 281 for 7 after being reduced to 95 for 5. This was made possible by Neil Fairbrother (56) an Abahani Limited professional and Hollioake himself (83*), while Jack Russell played a cameo down the order. South Africa won by 6 wickets with 20 balls in hand: Daryll Cullinan (69) and Rindel (41) added 113 in 116 balls for the opening stand before Cronje (67 in 56 balls) and Rhodes (61*) sealed things.

There were two postscripts to this. The first was Russell s immediate retirement from international cricket. The second was more curious: Hollioake had left the field midway during the South African innings. He was probably not at his best after the innings, for he had asked for sunscreen lotion after sunset. I felt like I smoked ten joints, he later told the management.

He actually had five Mars bars, three bowls of noodles and a pile of naan bread before he was stopped by the physiotherapist. It was too late, for his diet over the next 18 hours amounted to 20 middle-sized bottles of water and at least a dozen glucose drinks.

New Zealand folded for 188 in the second quarter-final. They had no answer to Sri Lanka s slow brigade of Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Upul Chandana.

They came at Sri Lanka hard: Simon Doull got Jayasuriya first ball and Marvan Atapattu in his next over, while Geoff Allott got Aravinda de Silva, and Sri Lanka were left reeling at 5 for 3 after 20 balls. But Romesh Kaluwitharana played uncharacteristically sedate innings as Arjuna Ranatunga took control. Ranatunga (90*) saw Sri Lanka through in the 42nd over.

India turned up for the third quarter-final disguised as Sachin Tendulkar. He first smashed a 128-ball 141 before being stranded halfway down the crease. India, 8 for 2 at one stage (including a 3-ball duck for Mohammad Azharuddin, who became the first to play 300 ODIs this day), reached 307 for 8. Rahul Dravid chipped in with 42. Ajay Jadeja smashed a 65-ball 71. Australia s mysterious three-fast-bowler (plus Steve Waugh) strategy backfired.

Adam Gilchrist got Australia off to a 51-ball stand of 51. Ricky Ponting helped Mark Waugh (74) add another 94. Steve Waugh promoted Brendon Julian to hit out, which he did, with a 16-ball 20. But once Tendulkar came in to bowl his mixed bag, Australia crumbled to 263. Tendulkar finished with 4 for 38, becoming only the third cricketer to do the 100 run-4 wicket double in an ODI.

This was 1998, after all, when Tendulkar could do no wrong especially against Australia.

Pakistan, in their first match, went in with a moustachioed Azhar Mahmood partnering Wasim Akram. West Indies responded with Nixon McLean and Mervyn Dillon. The others, on both sides, were either medium-pacers of various speed or spinners.

West Indies opened with Philo Wallace, whose immense power nullified the impact of the sluggish pitch. Wallace beefed his way to a 58-ball 79; Shivnarine Chanderpaul got 49, and West Indies put up 289 for 9. They would have got more, had Wasim not dented them with a triple-blow.

This tournament would remain the sole high of Wallace s ODI career. Often batting bareheaded, he would slam 221 runs at 73.67 at a strike rate of 108. The rest of his career would amount to 480 runs at 16 at a strike rate of 51.

Pakistan got 259 for 9 despite ten men reaching double-figures. They crumbled against, of all people, Keith Arthurton, who took 4 for 31 from his 10 overs. Carl Hooper did reasonably well, and Dillon and McLean made up for the ordinary show from the other slow bowlers.

The semi-finals

Rain intervened for the first time in the tournament, curtailing the match to a 39-over-a-side affair. Perhaps buoyed by that, South Africa drafted in Elworthy for Dawson, which turned out to be a good move. Sri Lanka, of course, did nothing of the sorts: a spin brigade on slow pitches had, after all, won them a World Cup not too long back.

Of course, that did not prevent the 45,000-strong Bangabandhu Stadium from getting packed to the hilt. There was, after all, no shortage of enthusiasm for cricket in Bangladesh.

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The plea did not fall on deaf ears. Bangladesh played their first Test in just over two years of the final Getty Images

The groundsmen did a tremendous job to ensure a 39-over contest. Cronje shuffled his batting order, sending Boje at three; it worked, Boje smashed a 23-ball 28. And when Boje fell, he promoted Mark Boucher at four; it did not work, Boucher fell for a golden duck, and Nuwan Zoysa had two in two. Cullinan did not last either, and at 57 for 3 things looked tight for South Africa.

Kallis walked out at this stage and calmly launched into the slow bowlers. He singled out Murali for special treatment. Their paths would cross many times later, but on this occasion, Murali finished with 1 for 48 from 6 overs.

Cronje kept Kallis company, and though Rhodes fell the first ball, Symcox and Dale Benkenstein scored quick runs. South Africa piled up an enormous 240 for 7 in their allotted 39 overs, of which Kallis scored an emphatic 113 not out in 100 balls, with 5 fours and 5 sixes.

More rain fell, and Sri Lanka s target was readjusted to 224 from 34 overs. Elworthy, drafted in for the match, got 3 quick wickets. Chaminda Vaas promotion worked for a while before Rhodes did a Rhodes, and Sri Lanka kept losing wickets amidst a drizzle and crashed to 132.

India went in with high hopes from Tendulkar, who perished cheaply, and Azhar failed again; Dillon took both wickets. The onus fell on Sourav Ganguly and Robin Singh heroes of the famous chase in the Independence Cup final on the same ground earlier that year. Ganguly got 83 and Robin a 63-ball 73, and India reached a respectable 242 for 6.

It seemed an even contest till Javagal Srinath bowled the first ball of the innings. Wallace swung his bat cleanly, and the ball soared over long-off, into the stands. West Indies raced to 27 in the first 2 overs.

India were never really there in the hunt after that. True, Stuart Williams fell cheaply, but Wallace kept hitting; Chanderpaul got a breezy run-a-ball 74; and though Hooper did not last long, West Indies never seemed under pressure. Brian Lara (60*) and Arthurton (40*) sealed the match with 3 overs to spare. Tendulkar bowled superbly for his 2 for 29 from 10 overs, and even Rahul Dravid got a 6-over bowl, but nothing seemed to work.

The final

Two years before the final, South Africa had left out Donald for Symcox to counter Lara. That had backfired for them. Here, once again, they left out the still-raw Ntini; and barring Elworthy, their first six bowlers all bowled slow.

But, as in the quarter-final, Wallace seemed unstoppable. It did not register to him that wickets were falling at the other end. He simply kept bludgeoning them. The innings was not elegant: if anything, it was ruthless and brusque; he showed no mercy, hitting through the line, often in the air, trusting his power even against slow bowlers. He hit them so hard that the fielders were left helpless even if he did not middle them.

West Indies seemed set for 280 to 300 when Wallace fell for a 102-ball 103 with 11 fours and 5 sixes (that is 74 in boundaries). One must remember that this was his second major innings in less than 24 hours. The score read 180 for 4 in the 35th over. Then Kallis happened.

Kallis was introduced as the seventh bowler, almost as an afterthought. He got Arthurton first, then Phil Simmons, then a dangerous-looking Hooper, and with the next ball, Rawl Lewis. Cronje got Ridley Jacobs at the other end, and Kallis finished things off by getting Rion King.

West Indies crashed to 245. They did not even last 50 overs. Kallis, with 5 for 30, finally announced himself in international cricket. He had turned 23 a fortnight back. The tag King Kallis was some time away. However, they would not stop talking about him for the next decade-and-a-half, and beyond.

Of course, the runs had to be got. Cullinan and Rindel got 54 of them before Arthurton ran out the former. Boucher s promotion failed again, but once again Kallis took centrestage, this time with 37 before hitting one back to Simmons. Arthurton then ran out Rindel, and with Rhodes falling cheaply as well, South Africa were down to 137 for 5.

There was, however, nothing to worry about. They batted too deep to panic. After all, Symcox was their No. 10. And the asking rate was under 5.

Cronje took charge of the chase. He ran the singles hard, as did Benkenstein, and the asking rate never rose. Once Benkenstein fell, Crookes walked out and finished things off in a hurry, with 3 overs to spare. Arthurton, the hero of the quarter-final, never got a bowl.

Kallis (164 runs at 82, strike rate 95; 8 wickets at 14, economy 5.20) deservingly won the Man of the Tournament award despite Wallace s tremendous show as South Africa lifted their first and till date, only major tournament, though they had won the gold medal for cricket in Commonwealth Games earlier that year.

Brief scores:

West Indies 245 in 49.3 overs (Philo Wallace 103, Carl Hooper 49; Jacques Kallis 5 for 30) lost to South Africa 248 for 6 in 47 overs (Mike Rindel 49, Hansie Cronje 61*) by 4 wickets with 18 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Jacques Kallis.

Man of the Series: Jacques Kallis.

Postscript

Bob Woolmer s methods, often looked upon with suspicion by the cricket fraternity, had finally come good. They had not worked in the World Cup. After winning 5 matches in a row they had been knocked out by the genius of Lara, which resulted in Woolmer s laptop-coach being smirked at by some corners.

South Africa had a tremendous success rate since the World Cup (they had a win-loss ratio of 3.46 over this period; Sri Lanka had an exact 2, while nobody else has more than 1.2). Despite that, they had somehow acquired an unenviable track record of losing big matches. The c-word (that rhymes with jokers ) had not yet been making rounds, but it would not be long.

Woolmer and Cronje showed here a well-oiled machine can perform even without a few cogs even if those cogs were as significant as Donald, Pollock, and Klusener, men who would go on to perform superbly in the World Cup the year after. South Africa s triumph was proof that method was as important to a side as the man.

The tournament was a major success, yielding 10 million. However, there was no doubt that the event was an example of how cricket-mad Bangladesh were, and to what lengths they went to make the tournament successful.

Rarely in the history of cricket has a tournament been followed so intensively by a country that did not even participate. For once even Wisden let go of its famous reluctance to go lavish in praise: The real stars, though, were the population of Bangladesh. In villages without electricity, people huddled around radios listening to the commentary, and kids began playing, Sri Lanka-style, with makeshift kit wherever there was a space.