Players from the champion sides relive their World Cup journeys

'We were called the worst team to have left Australian shores'

1987, part one: Craig McDermott looks back at the first World Cup in the subcontinent, Australia's preparation for the tournament, and what made them a competitive side (00:00)

February 14, 2011


'We were called the worst team to have left Australian shores'

February 14, 2011

Craig McDermott was the top wicket-taker in the 1987 World Cup with 18 wickets
"I trained in steam rooms, I did push-ups, sit-ups and all those sorts of things in the steam room to get working under the humidity" © Getty Images

To play in India for the first time as a World Cup outside of England was a little bit disappointing to me personally, because I really wanted to play a World Cup in England. But to go to the subcontinent was good for us. As a team we had been there the year previous, and had a tied Test in India. Even though dubbed the "worst team in Australia to leave these shores to play the World Cup", we were well prepared because we had been to India the year before. We didn't have the any skeletons in our closet or fears about the conditions, or water, or food, because we spent nine weeks there. So we were pretty well prepared mentally for dealing with the subcontinent as a team, and I think that really showed early doors in the World Cup.

I think we went everywhere thinking that we could win but we let ourselves down on our previous two tours - with New Zealand, and also going to New Zealand previous to that. We really got absolutely flogged, but we were a very young side. But by the time we got to the World Cup, we gelled as a team. Bob Simpson had done a great job in the fielding area, Allan Border struggled through a couple of years of captaining a side that was always playing average cricket but then there were glimmers, with young boys starting to come good. As I said, we gelled as a pretty good team just before going to the World Cup, and we really thought we could win. Couple of warm-up games, and we started to play really well and play good cricket.

We didn't get paid enough [laughs]. I certainly didn't bet on our chances. But probably should have, could have made more money than we were paid.

Me, personally, spent the winter doing a lot of running, a lot of gym work, which I did a lot in those days. My running was during the middle of the day, and lot of people thought I was a bit crazy, I used to run around the streets with a raincoat on to try to bring on the humidity and sweat my backside off to get used to it. So I did silly little things like that, I trained in steam rooms, I did push-ups, sit-ups and all those sorts of things in the steam room to get working under the humidity.

Yes, Bob Simpson did a great job in lifting up our fielding to another level, not only in the slips - we had a very good slip cordon at that stage anyway. But certainly our out-fielding and throwing improved dramatically. We had nightmare sessions: he used to have a little 2.1 pound sledge in the bat, and a baseball net, and a glove, and he would hit you up to 15 to 17 balls in a row, and you would get to every one of them just with your fingerthe tips. I think David Gilbert felt wrath of that in India in 1986; it was the worst I had seen hit. He had a couple of drinks the night before, and Simmo knew and he hit him 17 in a row. Gilbert was very upset.

We played a reasonable amount of one-day cricket by then. I had been playing for a couple of years for Australia. I had done pretty well in one-day cricket. I really liked bowling at the death, I enjoyed the pressure of that. Working on slower bowls, and mucking around with things like that was always good fun at training. I just went about my job and turned up as fit as I possibly could. And we were ready for the food, the conditions, and all that sort of stuff. Just went about trying to get some wickets.

In India you've got very little latitude with your length, and certainly back then cricket was a lot different, one-day cricket. You really had to make sure that your line was right, and particularly the length. You certainly didn't have blokes walking down the wicket at you, and didn't have bats as thick as they are now, and we played with bigger boundaries. So certainly one-day cricket was different, but you didn't have any room for error. The new ball really did not swing as a new ball, it didn't really swing as a new ball does now over there. So as I said, line, length and a mixture of pace really got me my wickets.

I have always enjoyed bowling with the older ball; it's always a challenge whether it is one-day cricket or Test cricket. And on those types of wickets the older ball didn't slide on as much. So the slower balls and the mixture of pace were to be used better once you had the older ball.

Back then we wore whites and our Baggy Greens. It was quite funny, Reliance was one of the largest companies in the world, they were the sponsors for that World Cup, and they took all our shirts off the day we got tot India and said they were going to put the Reliance logo on our Aussie shirts. So we handed our shirts in. We thought they are going to come back with a massive logo. It was as big as your thumbnail. They hand-sowed these things on and you couldn't see them. I don't know why we had them on; I hope they didn't pay too much for the rights.

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