Hunting for New Zealand 1992
We all have our favourite sport jerseys. New Zealand’s 1992 World Cup one is mine. In 2009, I spent two months in that country and desperately looked for it in almost every store that sold cricket jerseys. In vain. I did get two really good ones – the beige, and the one they won the Champions trophy in. Two years later, in Bangladesh, I hear of the man who made a killing out of selling those shirts in 1992. The said man is now Bangladesh’s bowling coach, Ian Pont.
It has been three interesting days of meeting cricketers with interesting job descriptions, thanks to Ireland being in town, but I was delighted to meet the sales and marketing director of the company that revolutionised cricket merchandising. I hoped this was a tree that that would drop a couple of New Zealand shirts if I as much as threw a stone.
Actually there was nothing revolutionary about it, but during the first World Cup played in colour clothing, Pont’s men were the only ones who thought of selling replica shirts to the fans. And they sold 120,000 in one year.
“After that in 1993, we also did the English domestic season for two years,” Pont says. “Everyone then realised that there was money to be made from selling shirts. It was a new market. I know some administrators thought we were crazy. What they didn’t understand was that fans wanted to wear the cricket shirts, with the names of the countries.”
Pont’s company mainly worked in England, and the presence of Pakistanis there and their team’s success meant those green ones were the hottest properties back then. And not many disagree that the 1992 World Cup had the best format and the best jerseys of all time. Of all time.
“They were not difficult designs,” Pont says. “They were very simple. There was a strip going across, like the rainbow. Each stripe was a colour of the team. Since then, teams design their own shirts. The ’92 ones were iconic. If you see Imran Khan lift the World Cup trophy in that shirt, it’s quite iconic. I am quite happy to be involved with that clothing.”
Pont, though, is a man for vivid colours. He thinks the Zimbabwe shirt in the 1992 World Cup was the best ever. “I quite liked it. When you see that red under lights, it really jumps. The Dutch shirts, the orange, they are really vivid now. I actually think that the Bangladesh shirt is really good. Our playing shirt I really like. I like the Pakistan shirt. English shirt I don’t like much. Very ordinary. India shirt not so keen on. Lots of teams playing in green. Australia have a bit of green, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, South Africa.”
More than the design, though, it is the new super-scientific, shiny fabric that I don’t like about the modern jerseys. I feel reassured that a man from the very industry agrees. “I am not a big fan of the material being used at the moment,” Pont says. “Back in 1992, we worked with a company called ICI. They had a fabric that was poly-cotton mixed, which took the moisture of your body off. Every company does that now, but they use super polyester. And I don’t like super polyester myself. I like the nice poly-cotton mix, which you can print on the outside, and against your skin it’s cotton, and feels soft.”
I am wearing a Ghana football shirt when I am talking to Pont. I bought it off the street in Cape Town for just 15 rand. That, Pont says, has killed the merchandising business. You can’t control these imitations. My counter-point is, you can’t have us pay hundreds of dollars for shirts. Which brings me back to the main point. I quietly slip in the question; if he still has a few of those shirts. He says he has one full set of all nine at home. That, however, is the only set he has. And that will cost a lot if I did wish to buy it. I still don’t have the New Zealand 1992 World Cup shirt. Money, so they say…
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo