Another Cricket World Cup extravaganza just folded up. The final between New Zealand and England would go into the annals as the greatest game ever played. And what a game it was! The 12th edition of Cricket World Cup saw the top-10 nations trying to beat the opponents in a round-robin league. While this edition was one of the most evenly-matched, what with all teams having undergone a transformation insofar as their campaigners and strategies were concerned, there were quite a few associate nations that allegedly received a raw deal owing to financial considerations outweighing the game development aspect for the apex body governing cricket, International Cricket Council.
1983 Edition: A flash in the pan
Be that as it may, last year's line up had a notable omission: Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean cricket team made its World Cup debut in 1983 under Duncan Fletcher, who would later go on to become the England team coach. The African country's finest moment came when it defeated a strong Australian line-up in the league stage. Riding on captain Fletcher's sublime 69 not out, Zimbabwe went on to post a competitive 239/8 in 60 overs. Yes, games then spanned 60 overs an innings. Things changed from 1987, when the World Cup landed in the subcontinent. Captain Fletcher showed he was no pushover with the ball either by claiming 4/42 to break the back of the Australian chase, leaving it stranded for 13 runs.
More was to come at a later stage. It so transpired that the upbeat Zimbabwe began believing it was no upstart but belonged to the world stage. An ample demonstration was made on June 18. However, given the strike of cameramen, there is no visual record of their exploits. Such was their on-field charisma that they left a strong batting line-up gasping at 9-4, later 17-5, to 77-6 and 78-7. Cricketing glory was within their grasp and they nearly clutched on to it. However, the opposition captain had other plans. He hit, what is considered one of the finest cricketing innings, to score 175 not out off 138 balls, including what was then the fastest World Cup century, to take his team to a competitive 266-8. The batsman was Kapil Dev. India registered a 31 run victory, but not before some scary moments after being given a run for their money. India went on to win the World Cup, but the spirited Zimbabwe had made a mark.
1987: The cult classic
Cut to 1987. While West Indies was still a power to reckon with, not many were willing to discount the possibility of others taking away the laurels, much like the 2019 edition, the 1987 campaign too was open for all. Australia defeating India in a cliffhanger by only one run set the tone for the season. However, one of the best matches was played between New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Much like Kapil's 1983 show, Zimbabwe embarked on a 243 run chase, riding on Dave Houghton's skills. Reeling at 104-7, Houghton was joined by Iain Butchart, with the duo adding 117 for the eight wicket.
After putting up a brave fight on a debilitating Hyderabad wicket, Houghton nicked one to the keeper to depart with the scoreboard reading 221, but not before lighting up the stands with a majestic 142 that included six sixes. Butchart took Zimbabwe to a sniffing distance of victory, but was run out following a mix-up. The last wicket too fell to a misjudged call and Zimbabwe fell short by three runs. Zimbabwe lost all the matches to be knocked out, but again, they gave the spectators some thrilling moments on the field.
The colours of glory
1992 World Cup heralded many changes. Colour dresses, white ball and day-night matches. While everyone knows that Pakistan came out of nowhere to lift the cup under their charismatic captain Imran Khan. There were gems littered throughout the campaign. A case in point is again Zimbabwe. The African nation had a World Cup debutante: Andy Flower. He scored 115 not out in his first innings to lift his team to 312-4. While they had the match under their grasp for much of the duration, an Arjuna Ranatunga blitzkrieg turned the tide, and Sri Lanka went on to become the first nation to effect a 300+ chase. It was one match the Zimbabweans never forgot. The debutante went on to become the most prolific batsman from the nation and also was instrumental in bagging Test honours for the team. This was the World Cup where the Kiwis and Lankans formulated the first 15-over onslaught, and as they say... The rest is history.
However, we are not done with the 1992 edition. In another round robin, Zimbabwe had a face off with the English team. Sound and strong on paper, there was no way the tiny and fledgling African nation could pose a hurdle to the eventual runners-up. In what is regarded as one of the finest battles of attrition. Zimbabwe cried, howled and limped their way to a paltry 134 all out in 46 over. Top scorer was Dave Houghton with a painstaking 29. All seemed lost for the Zimbabweans, but a tall and chubby fast bowler, who in his part-time was a chicken farmer, had other ideas. In a spell that was in no way less than what Wahab Riaz perpetrated on Shane Watson, Eddo Brandes snared 4-25 in 10 overs. Despite a typical Alec Stewart rescue and resistance operation, England fell short by 9 runs. That the match spanned till 50th over of the run chase, speaks volumes about how tough scoring was. Talk about giant killers!
Flash in the pan
The 1996 World Cup had no moment for Zimbabwe worth writing home about. Apart from a victory against minnows Kenya, who incidentally upset West Indies, there was no moment that depicted their potential or ability. The campaign started poorly and fizzled out.