The ICC, dominated by England and Australia, was unambitious. They simply tried to replicate the inaugural tournament of eight teams playing three qualifiers each in two groups, and only 15 games in all. If there had been three strong teams in 1975, there were only two on this occasion because Australia did not select cricketers who had played for Kerry Packer’s World Series. Which left England and West Indies to contest the final. It was a close match, until Viv Richards was joined by Collis King and they took the game away from England’s four-man attack. Chasing 286, England’s opening pair of Michael Brearley and Geoff Boycott occupied 38 of the 60 overs, leaving no daylight for Graham Gooch, Derek Randall, David Gower and Wayne Larkins to accelerate.
Strange things were happening in cricket at this period. Kenya, for example, defeated Sri Lanka in a qualifying game when, so Wisden said, “Sri Lanka almost sleepwalked to defeat.” As a result Kenya went through to the Super Sixes then the semi-finals. England, meanwhile, conscientiously refused to play in Harare because they had been led to expect that spectators would be beaten up; while Australia got stronger and stronger even though Shane Warne had failed a drugs test. Their final against India was over almost as soon as it began. Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn rattled up 359 for two which, even allowing for Johannesburg’s altitude, was far ahead of its time and India.